I have kids counting each others’ goldfish crackers. And while I might try to tell you that this is a wonderful way to teach math, or a great rainy day occupation, I am afraid that the goldfish cracker counting is the result of a sickness of the heart. They are busy counting each other’s goldfish crackers to make sure that the piles were distributed equally and that life is fair. If the piles are not completely equal, they will be quick to let me know.
This sin sickness resides in my own heart, and it should not surprise me that it also resides in my children’s hearts. This is not just an American 21st century problem. At the beginning of time, Cain killed his brother Abel because he felt that it was “not fair” that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s sacrifice (Gen. 4:1-16). God thought envy an important enough issue to forbid it in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:17). King Saul harbored a foolish, deadly hatred of David because he was jealous of David’s popularity (1 Samuel 18:7-9). The elder son was so busy assessing whether all was “fair” between him and his prodigal brother, that he lost the blessing of a relationship with his father (Luke 15:11-31). Jesus Christ Himself was killed because of the envy of the religious leaders of His time (Matthew 27:15-18). And, though murder is a far cry from counting goldfish, the heart attitude that causes my kids to count the goldfish will result in resentment, envy, covetousness, and a heart of anger and murder if left unchecked. Lest you think I am exaggerating, let me ask you: Has goldfish cracker counting ever resulted in peace and brotherly love in your house?
I am so frustrated when my kids come whining to me, “It’s not faaaiiirr! She got to sit in that seat last time.” In my sinfulness, I want to respond in like measure: “It’s not faaaiiirrr that I have to put up with you sinful children and your childish, immature attitudes.” Surprisingly, this may not be the best way to handle the situation. Before I correct my kids, I need to stop and ask myself some hard questions:
Am I busy comparing myself to others around me to make sure that I am not being cheated out of something that somebody else is receiving? Am I spending time wishing I was thin like her, or comparing my business or ministry success to his? Do I feel that it is unfair that I have to struggle with this particular health problem while other people don’t? My kids pick up on my sinful attitudes by osmosis and may be mimicking me!
As we travel down the road of unhealthy comparisons, we will start to accuse God of not being fair. And, truly, God is not fair! If we look at this from a sinful, human standpoint, we see lots of unfairness in God: She was born beautiful, I was not – Unfair! He has a magnetic personality and has quickly risen to be successful, while I labor away with little results – Unfair! Michigan is getting lots of rain and California is getting none – Unfair! God allows some children to be born into extreme poverty or abusive homes while others get wonderful families and trips to Disneyland – Unfair! And why do these things seem so unfair to us? Because we are so sure that our hard work, lovely personalities, and righteousness make us deserve at least as much as our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances have. God owes it to us to give us good lives, doesn’t He?
God has a different perspective, though. God sees our good works and lovely personalities as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We are all sinners who have rejected God. We deserve nothing but hell. God owes us nothing but judgment. Yet, in His infinite love and mercy, God placed the punishment that we deserve on His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, so that we might enjoy the blessings that Jesus deserves in heaven. Have you ever heard of anything so unfair? Praise God that He is an unfair God! He does not give us the punishment that we all deserve. God not only saved us from our sins, but He also generously lavishes gifts on us that we do not deserve – rain, sunshine, beauty, love, joy, food to eat, clothes to wear. However, He does not lavish these gifts equally on every person. Are we envious because God is generous to our neighbor? (Matthew 20:1-16)
I asked my eight year old daughter why she would count the goldfish. She said that she wanted to make sure that I loved her as much as her siblings. So, here is one last question: Am I measuring God’s love by what He has given me or withheld from me, comparing myself to others and what they have? This is an immature attitude. Throughout the Bible we see people who were faithful to God and loved by God, suffering through this life, far from having everything they wanted. God knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows what we need and don’t need and He is merciful and loving in not giving to us more than we can handle. I do not give my children all of the candy they can eat, even though they may want it and I may be able to afford it, because it would not be healthy for them. This “depriving” my children of their desires comes from my love and concern for my children. When God does not give us what we want, it does not mean that God loves us any less than someone else, even if God has given them what we desire. If we were wealthy, beautiful, had perfect families, excellent health, respect from all who knew us, and life was otherwise a breeze, would we really feel our need for a Savior? Would we turn to God and trust in Him? Or would we live our lives without God and then regret it for all eternity? How much better if unfulfilled desires in this life turns us to God for salvation! (Romans 8:18).
For more on how God might use our weaknesses to bring us to Himself, see the post Accusations from the Bearded Dragon.