When God is Unfair
Romans 9:14,20 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
I have never liked this passage. It rubs me the wrong way and paints a picture of God that I do not particularly like. In the passage, Paul reminded his listeners that God is in control (I do not mind that part) and that I am not (this is where I start to bristle). He insisted that God’s choices are always just, even when they seem radically unfair to me. Paul said it is God’s pleasure to show mercy to some and not to others. This irritates me. Is God unfair? Does God deal some people a worse hand than others? God, it is not fair to play favorites.
As I was struggling with this passage yesterday, I did what I often do. I asked for help with it. A group of those who have struggled with addiction happened to be the perfect place for such a discussion. The men I spoke with last night knew what it was like to feel as though they had been cursed. Whether or not one believes in addiction as a disease, it an inescapable reality that some people are just dealt a worse hand in life. Everyone is born with his or her own defects, but some people just seem cursed from birth.
Though most of those in the discussion identified with the feeling that they had more destructive defects than their peers, none of them blamed God or sought to use it as an excuse for their behavior. They did worry that God may have it in for them, but none felt that their addiction relieved them of liability. They all felt that though they struggle with a predisposition to addiction, they are still responsible to follow God and pursue recovery. To my surprise, they did not question God.
One of the guys reminded the group of Job, who demanded God answer for his suffering. God did not bother explaining the cosmic purpose of Job’s misery, He just asked Job who he was to question God. Dress for action like a man. I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth (Job 38:3,4)?
Here is the reality then. God does not require my approval and He does not owe me an explanation. I may insist that He is indebted to me, but this does not make it so. I am the pot and he is the potter. He makes what He wills, independent of my opinion. God is not required to meet my sense of justice and there is nothing in the universe that can require him to answer me. He is God and I am not.
This then, is our proper response and attitude towards God. We are the clay and He is the artist. He is in control and we are not. We may not like it or find it fair, but we do not get to use our predisposed defects as an excuse for destructive behavior. Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will (v. 19)? Paul insisted that though God made us, we are still responsible for our own actions. We may not be responsible for the hand we were dealt but only we are responsible for how we play it.