Inequity, Injustice?

This blog entry is a communication between myself and a dear friend reproduced with permission.

From my dear friend:

Your blog from today.  Luke 12:27 – 30.  Makes perfect sense for me in my little world where I truly don’t worry about anything, but what about those little kids in Haiti trapped under fucking rubble.  How is he providing for them right now?  I always hear Christians say ‘something good will come out of this’ or ‘God must have a purpose in this that we don’t know yet’.  Sure God has a purpose in some innocent little child getting crushed by a building – he must.

My response:

First, I would challenge you in your assumption that your world is “safe” and that your children are not threatened in any way. Then I would ask what an assumption like that is based from…the belief that YOU have your life under control? That is like a sailor thinking that because the wind is in his sails and his boat is moving the direction he had planned that HE is in control of the wind! If you do not see your safety as a gift from the hand of God then you are believing the lie that you are the god of your own world. And worse that you are doing a good job of it.

OK, lets assume that you didn’t mean to communicate that to me. Then the question you really meant to ask was, “Why has God blessed my family with comfort, wealth, and future when the people of Haiti have received poverty, lack of opportunity, oppression and now environmental calamity? Why such inequity?”

Well, of course this is a question that could/has/should be asked any time of our lives, but made more presssing as we struggle to deal with the scenes of tragedy from the earthquake in Haiti. Quick pat answers (ie:’something good will come out of this’ or ‘God must have a purpose in this that we don’t know yet’.)  only serve to make us more angry at what we may perceive as injustice. When answering questions of the unknown we must start with what we know.

1. I DON’T AND CAN’T UNDERSTAND When you approach an honest question that looks like the answer might accuse God of injustice you must come with the humble attitude of a child to his father. Our wisdom is foolishness compared to God’s mind. We cannot assume that we KNOW what is right and wrong, fair or injust. Take one of your children and ask them to understand fully the complexities of your job. Then ask them to pass judgement on the decisions you made today. They would make poor judges. So are we before God when we presume to understand His work. When you can count the stars in the universe and remember all their names and hold them in place, then you may be getting somewhere close to His wisdom (no, not nearly).

2. MY PRIORITIES ARE NOT GOD’S PRIORITIES Now that you have humbled yourself and come to God with an aching heart (and not an accusing finger) you can ask Him the real questions and pour the pain in your heart at His feet. In Luke 12 we see clearly one of God’s priorities,

4″I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies[a]? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid”

Is death the worse thing that could happen? Have you heard the people rescued from the rubble cursing God? No, time after time they give God thanks. Personally, I heard one rescued woman speaking to a CNN reporter say, “I just kept calling out on the name of Jesus and He gave me strength to hold on.”

Who should we fear … “him who has power to throw you into hell.” Who is the only one who has the power to condemn people to hell? NOT Satan, it is God. So we are told to fear God in one sentence and the next reminds us that he cares deeply for even little birds. Then those strong words: Dont be afraid. Instruction to fear him and then don’t be afraid. In other words, The most powerful one, the one who will write the last chapter is looking upon you with eyes of love.

The earthquake, the sheets of concrete, the dehydration cannot send these people to hell. No, the one who is the judge of their soul has squeezed himself between those slabs to speak words of comfort to them as he leads them home where their inheritance will make our wealth look like the meager contents of a child’s piggie bank. Their body is trapped but their souls are free. He knows the difference. We are often confused.

3 WHO IS THE ONE IN  REAL TROUBLE?

Luke 12: 15Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”16And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’18″Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’20″But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21″This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.

This is a truth that I understood when I first visited Africa. Abundance, wealth, ease are not our friends. We are completely unaware that our souls are being raped by affluence. Your children are in far more danger of losing their souls because of the society in which they are growing. The bible warns us of the dangers of riches in many places but we keep on believing that we are safe with our comfort, wealth, and future. But they demand an awful toll, one which withers our capacity to know God.

And you, are you “rich toward God?” Is your heart at full peace with the one who you are to fear? Or does He frighten you?

From my dear friend:

You’re correct that my assumption is not that I am in control of my world nor my children’s and that my lack of understanding comes from circumstance.  Sure God presumably chose to place me on the earth in the circumstances that he did just as he chose the baby in Haiti to be born into the circumstances that he was.  Challenging our societal view of comfort, peace and future doesn’t change your point of view unless you change your point.  Which is the point.  You can’t truly understand inequity unless you relenquish your circumstance.  And sure, my circumstance can change tomorrow here just as easily as it can in Haiti.  I could be diagnosed with cancer in the morning and get smashed to smitherines on the way to work so I get your point about conventional wisdom about what is peace and comfort and future – and how our relationship with God transcends anything temporal.  That being said.  Why is anyone in any rush then to change the circumstance of the people of Hait or anywhere else that is deemed to have been dealt the hand of inequity if those circumstances are inconsequential?  By following the logic of your point, the people of Haiti’s souls are free yet they live in unspeakable horror while our souls ar doomed to hell yet we live in unspeakable wealth. But if circumstance has absolutely nothing to do with our souls, then it has nothing to do with anything meaning the souls of the wealthy could just as easily be free while the souls of the Haitians (I realixe we’re doing an awful lot of generalizing here) could just as easily be damned. So all things being equal, I still don’t see the point of suffering.
Sure, I get the argument that I have a puny brain that can’t comprehend the things of God and his priorities. Clearly God has given you the gift of being able to discern his desire for these people. He is the one after all who created my puny brain so I’m stuck with trying to figure it out (with his help of course) with what I’ve got.

My response:
Our circumstances certainly DO matter. From each circumstance we have opportunity to grow, to give, to see. Being rich we have the opportunity to help those in need or we can choose to be self absorbed. In need we have opportunity to respond with anger or choose faith. How we respond to our circumstance is what makes them important. The answer that brings balance is, “Who is God and Who am I?”  When we get those two questions answered the other questions are answered by default.
And then we can add to that…this relationship with our God is a life of FAITH first and foremost. Faith to believe what he says about himself and yet see what seems to be discrepancy. To wait to understand. To continue doing what is right even when it doesn’t make sense. Faith my friend.
Behold the mercy of our King,
Who takes from death its bitter sting,
And by his blood, and often ours,
Brings triumph out of hostile pow’rs,
And paints, with crimson, earth and soul
Until the bloody work is whole.
What we have lost God will restore –
That, and himself, forevermore,
When he is finished with his art:
The quiet worship of our heart.
When God creates a humble hush,
And makes Leviathan his brush,
It won’t be long before the rod
Becomes the tender kiss of God.

from The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God, by John Piper
used by permission

Download the whole poem in PDF format or to your audio player (read by John Piper) at

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/OnlineBooks/ByTitle/2441_The_Misery_of_Job_and_the_Mercy_of_God/

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