Is God Fair?
Dr. Jim Denison
Some children wrote questions for God, including these: “Dear God: Instead of letting people die and making new ones, why don’t you just keep the ones you have? Johnny.”
“Dear God: I read the Bible. What does ‘beget’ mean? Nobody will tell me. Allison.”
“Dear God: Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident? Norma.”
“Dear God: Did you really mean, ‘do unto others as they do unto you’? Because if you did, then I’m going to fix my brother. Love, Darla.”
We have many questions for God. But none is more pressing than ours today: is God fair? How can God be fair when a fifteen-year-old kills two innocent high school students and wounds eleven more? How can God be fair when an American submarine crew makes a mistake and kills nine Japanese fishermen? How can God be fair and allow so much that is not fair?
If God were only fair, this would be a better world, we say. Let’s see if that’s true.
Consider these facts
Let’s begin with the facts of our text. First, God speaks to us: “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks” (v. 25a).
More than 300 times in Scripture, God speaks to his people.
Mother Teresa said that at the beginning of her spiritual life she spent 90% of her time talking to God, and 10% listening to him. At the end of her life it was the reverse.
He spoke from Sinai in giving the Ten Commandments: “At that time his voice shook the earth” (v. 26).
He has spoken in his word: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (Hebrews 1:1).
And now he speaks most fully in his Son: “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2). God is not an apathetic deity, removed from our lives and fears and problems. God speaks to us, every day.
Second, we must obey what he says (v. 25b).
The Jews at Sinai refused to obey what God said to them, and so died wandering in the wilderness far from their Promised Land (cf. Hebrews 3:16-19). The author says, “they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth” (v. 25a).
Now Jesus speaks to us, and we must listen: “how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” (v. 25b).
Have you ever refused to obey God? Refused to obey his word? His Spirit’s urging in your life? His will for you?
Third, God will judge our obedience.
Verse 26 is clear: “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.'” This is a quote from Haggai 2:6-7, the promised judgment of God.
He will do this to separate that which can be “shaken” from that which cannot (v. 27).
We will each stand before God in this judgment: “If any man builds on this foundation [Christ] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
God will judge our obedience to his word and will.
Last, we must approach God with reverent gratitude.
But despite our failures and sins, “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (v. 28). This is by God’s grace. So we must be “thankful,” the NIV says. The Greek says: “let us live in this grace,” or “let us be grateful.”
We are to come to God in reverent gratitude because of what he has done for us, and because of who he is: “Our God is a consuming fire.” This quote from Deuteronomy 4:24 evokes the purity of God, his power, his justice and judgment, his awe and righteousness.
And so, because of his grace and because of his purity and power, we must approach God with reverent gratitude.
Friedrich Schleiermacher, the most famous theologian of his day, defined religion as a “feeling of absolute dependence.” While religion is certainly more than a feeling, it is at least this.
Remember Isaiah before God: “Woe is me! I am ruined!” (Isaih 6:5). Remember Jeremiah before God: “Ah, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child” (Jeremiah 1:.6). Remember Peter’s response to seeing Jesus’ miraculous power: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Remember John’s response to the risen Lord: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).
If his best friend on earth, and his leading disciple, and two of his greatest prophets had to come to God in reverence, awe, and humility, what of us? When did you last come to him in this way? Not flippantly, or easily, but in deep awe and reverent worship?
If God were fair in judgment
Now, in light of these facts, let’s address our question. Is God fair? Well, if God were fair, what would happen to us when we stand before him in judgment one day?
Scripture is clear: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). What would happen to you and me then, if God is truly fair?
Let’s think about that question for a moment.