Fairness in the church

Fairness and equality are things we hear a lot about these days. They are nice to talk about but extremely hard to achieve.

The best approach I have heard of is that we should seek to give everyone the same opportunities but that it’s not realistic to expect everyone will achieve the same outcomes. If everyone is given the same opportunity then it is up to each person to make the most of the opportunities they are given.

When there is talk of fairness and equality I always like to talk about how we always are tempted to compare ourselves with others. Studies have been shown that a person can be perfectly happy with what they have in life and have all that they need but then if they hear about someone who has more than they do they become unhappy. They are no longer satisfied with what they have because they know that others have more than they do.

In 2 Corinthians 8:13-14 the Apostle Paul talks about fairness in the church. The churches who receive help from other churches should then be ready to help those who helped them. It’s only fair.

“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness [14] your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.”

In the early days of the church the believers even practiced a form of communism.

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common…34] There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold [35] and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:33, 34-35)

This sounds good and generous but it did not last. None of the other congregations mentioned in the New Testament practiced this level of sharing.

And as with all things in the New Testament, the striving for fairness was voluntary. Earlier in 2 Corinthians 8 Paul describes how the church in Macedonia, “Gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord.” (2 Corinthians 8:3)

Jesus talked a lot about the unfairness of this world. But he never urged his followers to try to eradicate unfairness. His approach was much more in the land of, “Here is how to find grace in the midst of the world’s unfairness.”

Paul talks about fairness among the church in the context of the most unfair thing in all of human history, the time when Jesus became poor to make us rich.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Jesus the holy, sinless Son of God gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross so that we sinners could be set free from all our sins. Because of Jesus we sinners do not have to pay for our sins. Jesus already did. How unfair is that?

The idea that we somehow still have to pay for our sins completely undermines the full payment that Jesus already made for all our sins on the cross.

In Philippians 2:5–8 Paul describes Jesus’ poverty this way:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Because of what Jesus did we are rich. We have God’s unlimited mercy and love. The forgiveness we have in Christ can never run out or expire. It is ours eternally and it is given to everyone equally.

We may be lacking in physical things. We may face loneliness, insults and health problems.  We may suffer the loss of loved ones and other losses in life. But no matter how poor we may be in the things of this world, in Christ we are rich in the the blessings of heaven.

Paul mentions another great unfairness at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 8:9  We know about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he made us rich by his poverty. Not everyone knows this and that’s not fair. That is why we are called to share this good news with others so they too may be rich in heavenly blessings.

I have been given the riches of eternal life in heaven through the poverty of my beloved Savior, Jesus. Why would I be jealous of anyone else for any reason? Would you like to be rich too?

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