Mercy or fairness – you can’t have both

Posted on · Posted in Parenting, Worldview

One of the significant areas of conflict in life is the battle that emerges from wanting to have things God’s way AND my way. One example is desiring God’s mercy while we expect, and even demand, to be treated with fairness. Desiring fairness is a black hole that leads to anger, frustration, disappointment, and struggles in relationships.

Where would you and I be if God treated us fairly? Does God ever have a reason to be fair with you? In pride, I want to say yes. I don’t deserve unfair treatment. But such thinking is stupid. In light of what God has given for me and how I act in return for his mercy, any demand for fairness is indeed stupid. To expect fairness is to live like a fool, to live has if there were no God.

You see this in your children. If a sibling seems to have more fun, more time with a toy kids become outraged. “It’s not fair!” Whether I want to admit or not, I often act the same way.

Mercy and fairness – they are not compatible.

I often find that children’s behavior is so much like my own. We can easily spot sin in children and totally miss it in our own lives. Ruth Younts, in Get Wisdom!, defines mercy this way:

Mercy is showing kindness to who are weak, sinful, and needy, because Christ loved me first when I was his enemy.

Understood biblically, there is no one who is not weak, sinful and needy. We are all equally in need of mercy from God and from each other. Stop complaining about a lack of fairness, cry out to God for mercy. This will bless you and your children!

Here is the prayer Ruth suggests for teaching your kids to pray for mercy. It also fits where I need to be and the needs of my heart.

Prayer for mercy.
Father, thank you for being merciful to me all the time, when I never deserve it. I want to be merciful, too, but often I care more about fairness than mercy. Help me to be quick to forgive or overlook an offense. Help me to have compassion for those in need. In Jesus’ name, Amen

From Get Wisdom! by Ruth Younts

Get Wisdom


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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.