Have you ever been cranky about unfair treatment and injustices that happen in life? Have you ever complained to God about life not being fair? Maybe you’ve experienced one or some of these scenarios:
- Someone got something that you deserved.
- You were overlooked in a situation that was important to you.
- Someone treated you with disdain.
- You were ridiculed for something over which you had no control.
- You got a raw deal even though you didn’t do anything wrong.
There are lots of opportunities in life that revolve around the fairness concern and there are plenty of situations in the Bible that speak to this issue. One such scenario is the whole tension between Hannah and Peninnah that’s discussed in 1 Samuel 1. These women were married to the same man, Elkanah, and they had very different experiences. To begin with, Peninnah had several children. At this time in history, having children positioned her to have value. In contrast, Hannah was barren and that was a huge detractor for her importance, even though this was unfair.
In 1 Samuel 1:5, we read a unique twist to the conventional perspective on a women’s value at this time, “but to Hannah he [Elkanah, her husband] would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had closed her womb.” When I think about this verse, it seems unfair in a few ways. It’s unfair that:
- Elkanah loved Hannah, but there’s no mention of his love for Peninnah, his other wife.
- Peninnah had kids but Hannah was barren.
- God closed Hannah’s womb, even though bearing children was essential for a women to have value.
- Elkanah gave Hannah double the gifts that he gave to Peninnah and her kids.
In just an immediate consideration of this one verse, there is a lot of unfairness. I bring this to your attention because I suspect that you’ve had more than your share of unfair treatment. It’s possible that you’ve had unfair treatment that’s been negative and it’s also possible that you’ve had unfair treatment that’s been positive. When I think about it, there have been plenty of times when I didn’t get what I deserved on both the negative and positive sides.
So, what do we do with unfairness? For starters, it’s important to keep in mind, no matter what happens, that life isn’t fair. When we expect life to be fair, we set ourselves up to be disappointed, angry and hurt. Additionally, it can be helpful to think about fairness over a span of time and not just a snapshot experience. For example, Elkanah’s wife, Peninnah, had several children and initially, Hannah had only one son with a supernatural birth. Over time, Hannah’s son, Samuel, came to be one of the most significant leaders in the founding years of the nation of Israel. And Hannah was his mom.
We all go through life with varying experiences related to receiving unfair treatment. So rather than getting stuck in the suffocating sinkhole of unfairness, let’s recognize that “fair” should be more of a marathon consideration instead of a short sprint experience. Additionally, it can be helpful to keep our focus on God rather than situations and transactions to keep ourselves from drowning in the sinkhole of unfairness. Let’s remember that we were never born with the iron clad guarantee of living a fair life!