Fair or Foul


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 54; 146, 2 Kings 5:19-27, 1 Corinthians 5:1-8, Matthew 5:27-37

Do you ever second-guess God?

Gehazi, the servant of the prophet Elishah, was not happy when Elijah accepted no gifts or payment for curing Naaman of leprosy.  “My master has let that Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not accepting from him what he offered. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.” Gehazi followed Naaman and pretended his master had asked for a tenant of silver and two sets of clothes to give to visiting prophets. A grateful Naaman threw in an extra talent and two servants. Gehazi hid away his loot, but Elishah knew what had happened. The displeased prophet declared Gehazi and his descendants would carry forever the leprosy that had afflicted Naaman.

We can become disgruntled when we think someone has gotten off too lightly. When success comes to someone who hasn’t paid the same dues we have, when punishment for wrongdoing is not as severe as we’d like, or when it feels like someone has “jumped line” and gotten something we “deserved” more, we may resent them, disparage them, or even try to sabotage them. Like Gehazi, we don’t always like the way our master shows mercy, and also like Gehazi we often think it’s our job to even the score when God has dropped the ball. Fair is fair, right?

Except Christ never teaches us to insist on fairness for ourselves, and certainly not to exact it at the expense of someone else. How God works in another person’s life is not the benchmark to which we should compare how God works in our lives. After all, some people have it worse than we do too, and we never seem to think fairness might involve moving downward toward those we believe have it worse instead of upward toward those we think have it better.

Mercy, by definition, is not fair. But if we claim to follow Christ, we must believe mercy is just – not only the mercy offered to us, but also the mercy offered to others, even mercy we would not ourselves bestow. When we accept that Christ has already redeemed us through the ultimate act of mercy, it becomes something we seek more to share than to acquire.

Comfort: You have been offered the ultimate mercy.

Challenge: When in doubt, ask.

Prayer: O divine master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console. Amen.

Discussion: How do you react to being treated unfairly?

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