“It’s not fair!” My daughter hollered from her bedroom. “Why does he get some and I don’t?”
“Cuz sometimes some people get and some people don’t get.” I immediately responded.
“But that’s not fair.” She said.
“Fair? I asked astonished. “Life’s not fair Sweetie!”
“Then I get something else!” She exclaimed.
“Since he got that, I get something else!”
“You think you get something just because someone else got something?” I asked her politely. “That’s not the way the world works. You don’t always get something just because someone else got something.”
“But that’s not fair!”
“You want to know what isn’t fair?” I began to rant. “How about a thirteen-year-old named Richard, orphaned in Uganda, having to raise his two younger brothers by himself because his mom and dad died from a deadly disease? No running water; no electricity; no beds to sleep in; no mom or dad to love him or read him a story; no food for days. Now that’s not fair.”
My child just gawped blankly at my face and said, “But if he gets that, then I get something too. If not, it’s just not fair.”
I immediately threw my hands up in despair as we came around full circle.
If I stop for a moment and meditate on my true desires, I too fall victim to the philosophy that life should be fair. Perhaps we all believe this to some degree. One of the most common assaults on monotheism is the following: If God is good, then why do bad things happen? Even more so, why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people? That just isn’t fair! God should make things fair, right?
This isn’t a new concept. King Solomon declared this same complaint before the Lord, “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 8:14).
It’s interesting. After sorting through everything in the world that was meaningless and unfair, King Solomon came to one solution—one philosophical approach to this unfair world:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
When reading Genesis, you come across several men and women who followed this philosophical approach. One man, in particular, caught my attention.
When Abraham was really old, he said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac” (Genesis 24:1-4).
We don’t know much about this “senior servant.” He was most likely Eliezer of Damascus, the one who was to inherit Abraham’s wealth and property if Isaac hadn’t come along (Genesis 15:2-4). When Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, most would expect this man to have contempt for Isaac, the promised child who took his inheritance right out from under him. This servant may have been one of the two servants who traveled with Abraham to the region of Moriah in order to sacrifice Isaac on the mountain. One can imagine Eliezer’s disappointment when Isaac returned with his father from the very altar upon which he was to be sacrificed. Now, Abraham was asking him swear to the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth to go find this spoiled brat a wife.
“What about my wife?”
“Why does Isaac get this and that and I don’t get anything?”
“It’s not fair!”
That’s how I would have responded to Abraham’s request. That’s because I’m a spoiled brat. Eliezer was not. Eliezer is the kind of servant leader I want to emulate. He pledged to find Isaac a wife, he expectantly prayed that God would send the right woman for his master Isaac, and he praised God when his prayers were answered. Eliezer humbly accepted his role as a servant leader and understood that life’s purpose—and his duty to all humankind—was to honor and obey God, period.
According to the Midrash, Eliezer was rewarded by Hashem [God] and allowed to enter Paradise alive, in the company of such people as Enoch and Elijah.
Where the Midrash is a collection of commentaries from ancient Rabbinic literature, and isn’t scripture, I hope this commentary on Eliezer is correct…because that would be fair. Honestly, however, to the honor of Eliezer he didn’t care about fair. He understood what it meant to be a servant and what it meant to honor God. Fair wasn’t a word in his vocabulary.
Right before Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem, two of his disciples—James and John—asked Jesus to let one of them sit at his right and the other at his left when the kingdom was established on earth.
When the other ten disciples heard about this they ran up to Jesus and said, “If James and John get to sit with you, then we get something too. Otherwise, it’s just not fair.”
So Jesus called all twelve of his spoiled little brats together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:35-45).
Life’s not fair and Jesus called every one of his disciples—including you and me—to accept that fact and serve the world humbly and honorably while fearing God and keeping his commandments. Eliezer did just that…without any promise of reward or recognition. True servant leadership is to accept the unfairness of the world, and when we do, the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth will welcome us into his family as his beloved son or daughter…and that’s the kind of “fair” I’m willing to accept.