I imagine that when you read or hear the words "4-Letter 'F' Word" there is a very specific word that comes to your mind. It's distasteful and offensive. And I bet the idea of hearing it leave the lips of your sweet little one(s) makes your stomach turn. Well, we aren't talking about that "F" word, but we are talking about a word that is near its equal in our home. Not in the vulgarity of the word itself, but more in the concept that the word represents. That is the part that is truly destructive. We are talking about the word "fair".
"Mommy, that's not fair!"
"Why does Johnny get one, Daddy, and I don't? It's not fair!"
I can almost hear the collective sigh as every parent joins together in one big 'ole "Amen!". But there is more to this than just the annoyance of hearing our sweet littles protest time and time again. The issue is not one of parental frustration, but of child destruction. That may sound overdramatic, but the idea of a fair society is one that is already wreaking havoc on our culture. And while there are great consequences to our children's future roles in society, there is an even greater consequence to our children's eternal roles if we allow them to fight for fairness and believe that it is their "right".
The Greatest Unfairness
When my children are heard uttering those infamous words, "It's not fair!", they are often met with the question, "What is the most unfair thing that has ever happened?" The answer is simple. The death of our Savior. Jesus Christ was born in the form of a man and then humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8) Our perfect and sinless Savior bore the shame that was meant for us... and for our children. The truth is that, if we lived in a world that was "fair", all of humanity would be destined for hell. There would be no chance of being reconciled to a perfect Creator!
Any time that I have a moment to remind my children that they, like mommy and daddy, are sinners who are in desperate need of a Savior, I do my best to seize that moment. One of our greatest jobs as Christian parents is that of teaching our children WHY they need Jesus. It is not simply enough to teach them that they need Him. We will do them a great disservice if we never explain to them that our sin has earned us hell and, without a Savior, we are all destined to spend eternity there. We want our children to see that they need to repent (turn from doing whatever pleases them to doing what pleases God) and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection in order to receive the entirely UNfair gift of salvation that is offered to us!
A Christian Parent's Job is NOT to Create Fairness
My job is not to maintain my child's happiness. My job is not to protect them from any and all pain. My job is not to entertain them. And my job is NOT to create a "fair" environment for them to grow up in. When my children begin to protest about fairness, I gently remind them of this.
As we strive to be good and godly parents, God calls us to care for our children, provide for their needs, and train them according to what scripture says. This will not include preaching fairness, but rather the very opposite. As we saw above, Christ's life was the very contradiction of fairness. And if we read from the beginning of chapter 2 in Philippians we will see that Paul is spurring us on to have the same mindset that Christ had. That means that, not only are we not called to create a life of "fairness" for our children, but we are actually called to train our children to desire a life that is "unfair". While "fairness" calls out for our own rights and looks only to our own interests, God calls us all to a life of self sacrifice. A life where we place others before ourselves and look towards the interests of others rather than our own. So when one sibling gets to go to breakfast with daddy and the other one doesn't, rather than explain to them why "they will get their turn, too", let us spur them on to take joy in the happiness of their sibling who is getting a special time with daddy.
Christ's Response to "Fairness"
Part of our study of God's Word with our children includes studying the character of Christ, Himself. So when it comes to fairness, we would be remiss if we did not look to how Jesus handled the issue. And we have a great example of this in the gospel of John. In chapter 21 we see Jesus' gracious restoration of Peter after his denial of Christ (John 18). As He and Peter are walking, Peter looks back to see John behind them and he asks Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" (v. 21b) Now, while Peter and John would have had a great love for one another, they also had a bit of a competitive spirit towards each other. This reminds me of my own children. A fierce love for one another, while also rarely missing an opportunity to "outdo" the other. So, what did Jesus say?
"Jesus said to him, 'If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!'" (John 21:22)
Jesus doesn't tell Peter what He has planned for John. Peter should not be concerning himself with John. He should be spending his energy focusing on his own obedience. And so should our children! When our kids ask why one sibling gets something that they don't, I do not answer them. I remind them that their responsibility is their own behavior, not that of their siblings. We want to train our children to keep their eyes on their own life and how it relates to God and His Word, rather than train them to continually compare themselves horizontally to those around them. A horizontal comparison does not show us our need for a Savior. That comes only from comparing ourselves vertically to a perfect God!
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