What Is Biblical Fairness?
To oppose fairness is like opposing goodness itself, many Americans say. Money is made, contracts are negotiated and government legislation is approved, while suing the “fairness argument”. Teachers complain that it’s not fair for some children to live in the poor side of town, while others live in the rich side of town. Others site equal pay for equal work as fair. The federal government has created new laws that require employers to pay a minimum wage due to their views of fairness. However, closer examination of man’s ideas of fairness reveals a deceptive, destructive attack on the biblical views of justice and mercy.
The word “fairness” is a good word with a right usage; but our society has distorted the true meaning of fairness and is effectively communicating false ideas through a trusted word. That is why I have put quotations around the word “fairness” throughout this article.
True fairness must be based on biblical justice; however, fairness legislation in America has quietly replaced laws of justice, and the tragic results of this change have been more astonishing than anyone could have imagined. For example, in five states children may now sue their parents for allowing them to be born. (1) In another state, the Attorney General has determined that a doctor could be sued for bungling a murder. (2)
The fairness doctrine has crept into books and counseling on marriage and divorce. An unprecedented flood of broken marriages and families has resulted as “every man does what is right (fair) in his own eyes”. (Judges 21-25)
A person who emphasizes fairness will eventually tend to curse God, saying that he is not fair as men evaluate fairness. However, one who concentrates on justice will praise and glorify God because he is perfectly just and merciful. And in the end, we will see that God is totally fair.
But, there is a note of great hope to be sounded in this article. I believe that God is raising-up legislators, pastors and other leaders who are reaffirming God’s biblical truths and are proposing to stand for this truth no matter what the cost. They are discovering the hidden dangers of fairness and are exalting the changeless principles of God’s justice and the richness of God’s mercy to their rightful position.
The Consequences of Focusing on “Fairness”
In Job 1: 13-2:10, we can see a classic illustration of the contrast between biblical justice and “fairness”. And in these verses, we learn that Job was a just man. However, his wife appeared to be more concerned about “fairness” than justice.
One day a messenger came to Job that all of his oxen and donkeys had been stolen and all of those attending them were killed. Soon afterwards, another runner told Job that a fire had burned up all of his 7,000 sheep and that all of the shepherds died also. Then a third messenger explained to Job how a band of robbers had stolen all of Job’s 3,000 camels and killed all those that were protecting them.
In addition to all of these calamities, another report came to Job saying that all seven of his sons and three daughters were killed when a tornado destroyed the house in which they were celebrating.
In the face of all of these misfortunes, Job was able to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1: 21). Job’s wife, however, was focused on “fairness”. Her reaction was, “Dost thou still retain thou integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Job responded to her from a position of God’s justice, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive ‘good’ at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil? In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).
In effect, Job understood that God did not owe him or his wife anything, but rather that he was already the recipient of God’s underserved mercy and grace.
Defining Justice, Mercy and “Fairness”
The application of biblical principles that is totally consistent with God’s holy character.
- The principles of justice are universal and are not optional.
- Justice reveals the true nature of God and the rebellious nature of mankind.
- Justice requires full payment for every violation of God’s law.
Provision that God has made in that his son has paid the full price for mankind’s violation of his holy laws.
Mercy is withholding from us the punishment of our transgressions.
Mercy is given to those who affirm God’s righteous standards and confess their failure to achieve them.
The application of justice to situations not covered by the law.
Equity always follows justice. Therefore, principles of justice must be understood before equity can be determined. For this reason, I believe the Bible lists equity after justice, such as in Colossians:
Equity is applying biblical principles to a specific situation.
Lowering biblical standards to the level that they can be achieved with human will and abilities.
“Fairness” is based on mankind’s changing value system and timetable. It is the product of human comparisons.
"Fairness" is looking at a situation from the viewpoint of each person, rather from the viewpoint of biblical wisdom.
The Conflicts Between Justice and Mercy vs. “Fairness”
Justice is based on the universal, unchangeable principles of God Word, the Bible.
EXAMPLE: God alone is the giver of life, No individual has the right to destroy it at his or her own whim. (Exodus 20:13)
“Fairness” is based on the variable customs of a society and the changing will of the majority.
"Fairness" laws now give mothers the right to decide whether or not they want their unborn children to live.
Justice establishes guilt when God’s standards are violated.
EXAMPLE: God states that everyone must be responsible for his or her own thoughts, words and actions (Matthew 5:21-23).
"Fairness" tries to remove guilt by lowering the standards.
EXAMPLE: A judge in Wisconsin excused a high school boy for raping a girl on the basis that the boy had been subjected to sensual stimuli in our society and was only doing what was natural.
Justice causes us to confess our failures and plead for mercy.
EXAMPLE: A convicted murderer may be pardoned. (1 John 1:9-10).
"Fairness" causes us to justify our failures so that we don’t think that we need mercy.
EXAMPLE: “Fairness laws do not convict a murderer who successfully argues “temporary insanity”
Justice is based on protecting eternal values, while “fairness” is based on protecting temporal values. (Ecclesiastes 5:4)
Justice is emphasizes personal responsibility, while “fairness” emphasizes personal rights. (Matthew 5:27-32)
Justice is impartial and objective, while “fairness” is partial and subjective, being based on arbitrary and emotional considerations. (Exodus 23:2-3)
Justice results in the swift prosecution of criminals, while “fairness” results in the slow prosecution of criminals. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
EXAMPLE: “Fairness” laws allow convicted criminals to evade the consequences of their actions by concentrating too heaven on the procedural maneuvers of the accused even if the accused is clearly guilty. This results in frivolous technicalities and continuous appeals at the taxpayers’ expense.
Justice holds the individual guilty for an offense, while laws based on “fairness” hold society guilty for an individual’s offense.
EXAMPLE: The “fairness” penal code of our day is based upon the philosophy that the criminal needs to be rehabilitated at the taxpayers’ expense, rather than making restitution for the crime. A legislator in Colorado has determined that in his state it would cost the taxpayers less to send every prisoner to Harvard than to incarcerate them!
1) Curlender v. Bioscience Laboratories, 106 Cal. App. 3d 811 (1980).
2) In Wilmington, Delaware in 1979 two babies survived lethal saline injections that the doctor guaranteed would kill the inborn fetus. The Attorney General determined that the doctor can now be sued for malpractice for not fulfilling his promise to the parents.