Death and Fairness

January 21st, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 11: 19 (NLT)

19 Godly people find life;
      evil people find death.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

There is a natural, human perception of equity concerning what happens to people in life.  We assume that those who do good and have pure intentions should receive the best situations that life has to offer.  On the flip side, criminals and those who live to destroy others should be destroyed themselves.  It’s just fairness.

We are born with this sense of fairness.  Prove it, eh?  Okay, just consider a two-year-old who witnesses their older sibling receive an ice cream cone from their parent.  If you don’t think that people have an innate desire for fairness and equity, then you’ve completely missed the point of the ensuing tantrum that you would most definitely witness.  It’s just not fair!

Because of these perceptions, our culture and history is riddled with the sense of tragedy when the good die young or tragically.  Consider the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the man who gently and stubbornly clung to the idea that our nation should remain one union.  He was gunned down just days after the Civil War was over and his death sent shock waves through an already beaten and war-torn nation. Historically, the death of Lincoln was seemingly an event that set back our nation, especially the South, for another hundred years concerning the issues of civil rights and racial equality.  It was senseless.  Tragic.  Unnecessary.  Unfair.

John F. Kennedy.  Martin Luther King.  Or maybe the death isn’t of a famous person.  Grandparents.  Friends.  Family.  I can’t even begin to fathom the grief and sense of loss over some of the situations that people have faced in this world.  Their loss is magnified because we have a sense of fairness that says that good people should live long, good lives and children should outlive their parents.

Trust me, I am not disputing these ideas.  I think that God creatively placed this sense of right and wrong within us; hence the reason that death seems so cruel and unfair when it comes to those whom we deem unworthy of such misfortune.

But there’s life . . . and then there’s life.  And there’s death . . . and then there’s death.

Eternity is the paradigm of our faith.  The assurance that life doesn’t conclude when our bodies do is essential to the tenets of what we believe.  Likewise, eternity is the only explanation and the only context of life that can bring comfort when things seem so obviously unfair.

This passage seems simple, but upon further inspection can offer multiple truths.  “Godly people find life; evil people find death.”  In human terms, we would take this to mean that godly people don’t die while evil people do.  Easy, right?  In fact, this is exactly what we believe not in our minds, but in our hearts.  Why else are we not only surprised when people die, but outraged at the unfairness of it all?  Truth be told, those whom we admire and love don’t seem deserving of death to us.

But everyone dies.  Therefore, the idea that physical death is punishment for evil is a little illogical.  Good people die everyday and evil people live to be a hundred years old.  Sure, it happens.

It would make more sense to evaluate this truth in the light of an eternal perspective.  “Godly people find life” doesn’t mean that they live forever on earth.  It means that life . . . real life . . . exists outside of the breath in our lungs.  Life can be retained even when the body is dead and gone.  Real life doesn’t just mean living in the state we are in.  It means knowing the Creator of life.  Understanding His heart and touching the world with His grace.  Feeding those who are hungry and loving those who are despised.  Yeah, those who are godly will most certainly die, but they will also most certainly find life . . . not just in heaven, but also here on earth.

Dying, as much as I dislike and hope that its coming is far away from myself and my family, isn’t unfair.  Why?  Because real life is eternal anyway . . . and not eternal as we often think of it.  Eternity doesn’t begin when we die.  Eternity has been going on the whole time; eternity is happening right now.  

That changes our perception of fairness because each day is a gift from God and whether we meet Him tonight or at age one-hundred, we can already be living in His eternal life.  We can’t fall behind and life can’t be “cut short” when life has no end.  What is cut short and is most painful is our temporary time together on earth; and that is definitely worth mourning; but our mourning isn’t without hope.

Sure, life outside of this body will no doubt be different; but God won’t be.  His life, if we accept it, can already be found.  I humbly pray that those of you who mourn will find comfort in knowing that God isn’t angry with you or trying to punish you with death.  I don’t claim to understand His plan and I certainly mourn with you in your struggle; but I also pray that we will find peace in His eternal timeclock.

It keeps perfect time and is always fair.



~ by johndriver on January 21, 2009.

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