It’s amazing what you can find when you start researching one little word like “fair.” We know it to be a noun and an adjective – with differing meanings, so it’s necessary to put it in context so that you know whether you’re talking about going to a carnival or watching the weather. I went to Merriam-Webster, the most trusted etymological source in my youth, just on a whim, and found 10 examples before I even moved to the nouns or added an “ly” to make it an adverb.
Why this interest? Well, I was just looking for a deeper understanding of why Jesus thought paying people for one hour of work when some others had worked all day was, in a word, fair. (MT 20:1-16) In the end, it really wasn’t a question of fairness at all. The key question of Jesus that put it all in perspective was: Are you envious because I am generous?
It is our small mind that keeps us trapped in the need for everything to be the same for everyone. Families go to court when they don’t see a “fair” distribution of their parent’s wealth – never mind the financial situations of the parties involved!. Children fight over who got the biggest piece of pie at dinner whether or not they can even manage to finish it because the meal was so big. “Fair’s fair,” we say, which – if we’re not careful – can morph into “All’s fair in love and war.”
I know that I’m most likely preaching to the choir here. The people who read these posts probably understand the generosity of God and are less attached to “things” and the examples I have given above. But even for those of us who profess to be “on our way to the kingdom” there is often that niggling little voice inside that catches us off-guard when we are not noticed for praise the way our brother is, or given the attention or recognition that our sister gets.
Today might be a day to look for instances of the generosity of God in our own life and the lives of others and give thanks for what we see, regardless of the beneficiary of this grace. May this practice lead us to the central truth of it all: that everything good and pure and generous and profitable springs from love and that letting go into love is the fairest of gifts we can know in this life.