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It's not fair

To reflect that God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

by Helen Hinxman

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To reflect that God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

Preparation and materials

  • None required.


  1. ‘It’s not fair!’ How often have you said that, to your parents, your teachers or your friends? At dinner when someone has got more potatoes than you, or less cabbage? While playing football and the other team have more players? When you’ve waited half an hour for a bus and there’s not enough room for you when it finally comes?

  2. Here are some examples of real news stories. How fair do you think each situation was for the people involved?

    Following the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in Alaska, the average cost of saving a seal was £40,000. At a special ceremony, two of the most expensively saved animals were released back into the wild, accompanied by cheers and applause from onlookers. A minute later they were both eaten by a killer whale.

    In 1992, Frank Perkins of Los Angeles made an attempt on the world flagpole-sitting record. By the time he came down, eight hours short of the 400-day record, his sponsor had gone bust, his girlfriend had left him and his phone and electricity had been cut off.

    A woman came home to find her husband in the kitchen, shaking frantically with what looked like a wire running from his waist towards the electric kettle. Intending to jolt him away from the deadly current she whacked him with a handy plank of wood, breaking his arm in two places. A shame, as he had merely been listening to his Walkman.

    In Germany, two animal rights protesters were protesting at the cruelty of sending pigs to a slaughterhouse. Suddenly the pigs, all two thousand of them, escaped through a broken fence and stampeded, trampling the two hapless protesters to death.

    Iraqi terrorist, Khay Rahnajet, didn't pay enough postage on a letter bomb. It came back with ‘return to sender’ stamped on it. You've guessed it; he opened it and died as a result.

  3. Fairness sees a situation from the viewpoint of each person involved and not just from our own. It tries to find the best, most just, level-headed solution, even if it hurts us. It does not seek to please one person over another, nor does it seek more than is needed. Above all fairness is not insisting on our rights being more important than someone else’s!

    Unfairness, injustice and bias are the opposites. They cause us to act with prejudice towards others in our thinking and actions.

  4. Jesus told a story about some labourers working in a vineyard. Read Matthew 20.1-16.

  5. Certainly the workers in the vineyard would have had a case to put before the National Union of Vineyard Workers when they complained about their treatment at the end of the day. Those who came last were paid as much as those who had done the most work and endured the heat of the day.

    Mind you, they had agreed on their side of the bargain when they started; their complaint was not that they had been underpaid, but that those who started work at the eleventh hour received exactly the same amount for one hour’s work as they had been paid for a full ten or twelve hours.

  6. Jesus is telling us that God offers eternal life to us all, regardless of our situation. To many people, just like the labourers, this seems unfair. When we are small children we first need to be taught simple fairnesses like ‘taking turns’, ‘sharing sweets’, ‘no queue-jumping’ and ‘playing fair’. But we must all progress beyond these simple rules; otherwise we remain nothing more than small children. Real fairness is more complicated and difficult to understand than this.

  7. Take the example of the referee in a football match. He knows the rules, but on top of them, every minute of the game he also has to apply what’s called the Advantage Rule, if the game is to be satisfactory. For instance, if one player handles the ball, the other team will expect to be awarded a free kick. But suppose that in handling the ball the offending player accidentally diverts it into his own goal (yes, such things do happen, even among professionals). The experienced referee won’t stop the game for the ‘hands’ offence, but will reckon that as it resulted in a goal to their opponents, that is more than enough recompense for the offence.

    See what is happening? If the referee followed the no-hands rule to the letter – whistle, stop game, free kick – it would be less fair than ignoring the offence and allowing the other side their goal. To argue, as some people might, that the referee is being unfair, is to misunderstand the nature of the game. It’s about scoring goals, not how many free kicks are awarded. In this instance the referee applies a higher rule – the Advantage Rule – in the interest of greater fairness.

  8. You and I then shouldn’t be too surprised if from time to time God, the Almighty, All-Wise Referee, appears to allow an element of unfairness to enter our lives. Before accusing him of unfairness, we need to be certain that what he allows to happen is not, in fact, for the ultimate benefit of the creation of which we are all a part.

Time for reflection


Open our eyes to your purpose for us.

Give us the wisdom to see that short-term injustice

sometimes leads to long-term benefits.

Let us trust in your wisdom

rather than in our own.



'O Jesus, I have promised' (Mission Praise, 172)

Publication date: February 2005   (Vol.7 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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