That’s Not Fair! They mistreated me. I am misunderstood. I get overlooked. Other people have more money, opportunities, better looks, the “right” color of skin, more talent, more intelligence…
Our society is full of people who whine and cry about the unfairness of life. I don’t deny that injustice, prejudice, mistreatment, and so on, exists. With the omnipresence of media, we hear about it more, but much of it gets over-exposure too.
Do we really want to be treated with fairness? I hear you say, “Yes!” But think about it for a moment. What do we really deserve? Have we had to pay restitution for everything we have done wrong in this life? If you are a Christian or know the Bible, you know that it says that the wages or the price for sin, any…A-N-Y…sin is…Death.
We either don’t believe that or we ignore it.
What should we do when we are on the wrong end of unfairness then? Fight a little harder? Scream a little louder? Just lay down and quit?
That’s what many do. However, some people seem to manage, even thrive in the midst of unfairness. How do they do that? What’s in their DNA that helps them succeed in spite of injustice?
Let me tell you a story of a man who lived unfairness well that for some will be familiar.
Joseph was the eleventh of 12 sons born to Jacob. When Joseph was about 17, it became obvious to his older brothers that their father loved Joseph more than any of them.
The reason Jacob loved Joseph more is because Jacob loved his mother, Rachel. You see 10 of the brothers were born of Jacob’s other wife, Leah, who was Rachel’s sister and their two maidservants. I know, a little confusing, especially for our day. Talk about a soap opera.
Being the favorite son of the father would alone be enough to cause sibling tension, but one day Joseph added to the ire of his brothers by telling them about a dream he had. In the dream, all of Joseph’s brothers and the rest of the family bowed down and worshipped him.
That really made them mad, so they conceived a plan to get rid of Joseph! Some wanted to kill him, but one of his older brothers, Judah, suggested that they sell Joseph into slavery and tell their father that a wild animal had killed him. So, they basically kidnapped Joseph far from home. Stripped him of his clothes, including a beautiful robe his father had given him and threw him into a pit. As they sat around eating and discussing what to do with their brother, a caravan passed by. Perfect timing. They sold him to the caravan, then went home to tell their father the lie.
Did Joseph really deserve that?
The caravan sold Joseph to one of the highest officials in Egypt—Potiphar. Egypt was the super-power of that day.
Even though things weren’t going so well for Joseph, God was with him and helped him be successful at all that he did.
As Potiphar recognized this, he put Joseph in charge of his whole household.
Now Joseph was apparently quite handsome, and Potiphar’s wife noticed him. She made several advances to no avail until one day as she grabbed at him, he dropped his staff and left his robe behind. All she needed to frame him, which she did. Potiphar believed her lies and threw Joseph into prison.
Talk about injustice!
Joseph found himself in a foreign land betrayed by family and thrown into prison with no justice system. However, soon the jailer began giving Joseph responsibilities within the prison and put Joseph in charge of a section of prisoners.
One day, the royal wine taster and baker got on the wrong side of the king who threw them both into prison. The two prisoners soon began having dreams that troubled them. God so happened to give Joseph the gift of interpreting dreams, so he told them what the dreams meant. Both the wine taster and the baker were soon reinstated to the royal court. The baker, sadly, would face a brutal ending while the wine taster would enjoy success.
All Joseph requested in return for the interpretation of the dreams was for them to remember that he was exiled in prison.
Well the baker didn’t have the chance to remember, and the wine taster, well, he forgot. For two years he didn’t remember Joseph until one day he heard the king talking about a dream he kept having. You can guess who interpreted the king’s dream!
If you want to see how the story ends, pick up in Genesis 41. It’s good reading!
What can be worse than being forgotten?
Here is my take. Life is unfair. Sooner or later either by your own doing or not, life will give you a hard punch. The question is how will you handle it? If we expect “fair” treatment, I promise you we will always find what is wrong with whatever or whoever is causing the mistreatment.
But we can learn from Joseph about how to live life well even when it’s unfair.
Here are a 3 things that I take away:
- God is faithful. Another 50 cent word is sovereign. It rains on the just and the unjust. For some this nature of God is comforting. For others it causes indignation. But what I think sustained Joseph was that he believed in a God who was never changing, unmovable, always in control. That provides a foundation or a backstop if you will.
- God is with us. All throughout the story, when Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely accused, even forgotten in prison, it says that God was with him. God remembered him. I find that interesting. Even though life was severely unfair for this man, God didn’t forget him. He knew him. He thought of him. When we rest in the fact that we are not alone in our whatever unfair position we find ourselves, we find hope.
- God helps us succeed. Unfair treatment doesn’t equate to failure. In fact, it just might provide opportunity. We can choose to focus on the unfairness or we can look to see what opportunity to succeed God has for us.
What are some other things we can learn from Joseph or others who unfairness well?