It’s Not Fair
“It’s not fair.” That is the first phrase that came out of my younger son’s mouth this morning. I hear it a lot. Frankly, it is true. Life is often not fair. I felt that same cry coming from my soul as I read this week about Rebekah and Jacob’s deceit of Isaac and Esau in Genesis 27. I wondered what else was behind this story of a family so divided that a mother and son would go to such lengths to deceive and steal the blessing from the husband/father that was supposed to belong to another family member.
Something in this passage brought me to tears. I cried for the messiness of life, for the messiness of the world, for the conflict in human families, for the conflict around the world. All because of perceptions so many have of not having what others have and attempts to take things into their own hands, often by force and even violence. Life isn’t fair.
I was very conscious of how uncomfortable I felt with this story. I wondered how a blessing could be valid when it was so deceitfully stolen from another. It’s not fair! Jacob doesn’t deserve the blessing, and that unsettles me. But then it occurred to me that Esau didn’t deserve the blessing either. Being the oldest son doesn’t make him a worthy recipient either.
This story disturbs me because people get what they don’t deserve. In many ways it offends my sense of justice. The story hits me emotionally because it taps into the myriad of circumstances in my life and the lives of others that remind me that life really isn’t fair. And then it hit me. This story isn’t about life being messy or unfair. It is the story of God and how he ushers in his kingdom. He doesn’t do it according the world’s standards. He doesn’t do it through human knowledge or achievement. He does it by grace. He accomplishes for us what we cannot accomplish for ourselves.
Jacob doesn’t deserve the blessing. He is a broken person in need of healing and a sinner in need of redemption. Something in me wants to control, wants to earn, wants to achieve, wants to deserve what I get. But I don’t. I can thank God life is not always fair. The gospel of Jesus Christ is scandalous because it is a gospel of grace. There is nothing I can do to earn it; all I can do is receive the grace God extends to me—not just once and for all but every moment of every day for all of my life and into eternity.
This passage was a source of conviction to my sense of fairness, but it has led me to a deeper awareness of who God is and who I am. It is unsettling to realize how big God is and how very small I am. But it is also reassuring to know that I am loved and God is control in ways I never can be. There is an invitation in this story to lay down my willful posture of human striving to willingly receive his love and grace. I can cooperate with God rather than try to control what he is doing in me, my family, my work, my community, and his world. That’s a different way of living life. It’s not my natural human inclination to live that way, but I am learning.