“Who said life is fair?”
That’s a common retort when someone complains about the unfairness of life. It’s common because it’s true. Many times, life isn’t fair. And that’s what Solomon touches on here.
The fastest person doesn’t always win the race (just ask Usain Bolt in the 2011 World Championships), the strongest person doesn’t always win a fight (think about the Patriots of 2007 who went undefeated until the championship game when they suffered a brutal loss because of one of the most improbable catches in NFL history), and the smartest or most talented people in the world don’t always succeed.
And Solomon gives the reason,
Time and chance happen to them all. (11)
Or to use a cleaned up version of a vulgar expression, “Stuff happens.” You just never know, Solomon says, when something bad will happen to you.
He then gives another example of the unfairness of life, not based on chance, but on people’s character. “Imagine a city,” Solomon says. “It’s under siege, and it’s in deep trouble. Fortunately, a poor, but wise man figures out a way to save the city. But instead of being heaped with honors by his fellow citizens, instead of having a holiday named after him, everyone ignores him thereafter. And even though he has more wisdom to share that would make their lives better, no one ever listens to him. One would expect people to appreciate him. But they don’t. Let’s face it. Sometimes life isn’t fair.” (13-16)
How do we deal with life when it’s not fair? When due to time or chance, or due to the flawed character of the people in this world, we don’t get what we deserve?
We have three choices. First, we can get resentful and bitter. Or we can live in resignation, and say, “That’s the way things are.” Or we do what Jesus did.
Think about Jesus for a minute. If there was someone who could’ve cried out, “It’s not fair,” it would’ve been Jesus. He never did anything wrong. He cared for people. He placed them above himself. He sacrificed his time for people. Even in times when he was tired and wanted to be alone, if people came to him, he still ministered to their needs. And yet, he was betrayed, he was forsaken, and ultimately, he was crucified.
But Jesus didn’t get resentful. He didn’t get bitter. He didn’t resign himself to the fact that life wasn’t fair. Rather, he placed his life in his Father’s hand. He continued to do his Father’s will and sought his approval. And because those were his priorities, nothing could take his joy away. He continued to care for people and love them to the point that he died for them.
Life isn’t fair. We’re in a broken world that’s filled with broken people. We can’t control that. But we can control our response. Don’t seek for fairness in this life. You won’t find it. Instead, do what Jesus did. Put your life in the Father’s hand. Continue to do his will, and seek his approval. And if you do, you will find joy and meaning in an unfair world.