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[Unfairness] Happens

• Greg Boyd

Sometimes life appears to be completely random and arbitrary, especially when it comes to fairness. It can be bad things happening to good people or good things happening to bad people. In this sermon, Greg shows us that even though crap isn’t a part of God’s perfect plan doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a perfect plan for crap.

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Imagine a small family living in 6th century Palestine. Things were going reasonably well for this family. They worked hard, earned a decent living, and were generally happy with their life. However, things suddenly started to change. There were repeated bandit attacks, the local economy began to falter, and the weather wasn’t cooperating and was creating poor conditions for farming. Worst yet, a group of collectors took their little boy and sold him into slavery in order to pay the family’s debt.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the known world, there was a man named Daniel that was stuck in a different country because his people had been taken into slavery. He prays for awhile that God would speak to him. Eventually, God sends an angel, but it takes that angel 21 days to reach him because the angel was detained.

The first part of this story is fiction (as far as we know); however, Daniel’s story is recorded in the book of Daniel. We know from psalm 82 that angels have particular jobs in this world, just like humans have jobs. Some of these jobs include warfare against the forces of darkness in this world. It’s not entirely out of the question that when the angel visited Daniel, he had to leave his current post of guarding the town with the small family. Of course, the chain of events are never that simple, but we can use this story to illustrate that bad things can happen to good people, and it’s not God’s will that it would happen that way.

Life, and fairness, seems to be arbitrary and random in this world. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. Some people like to say that it’s God’s will or that it is all about the humans interacting with each other. It seems that the explanations either blame God or blame people, and neither explanation fits scripture. When it comes to unfairness, we may just have to accept that this world isn’t fair. There is no easy explanation for this, because the conditions and reasons for something happening can be complicated and messy.
It’s like throwing multiple stones into a still pond. When you throw the first stone, there are ripples that flow from where the stone hit the water. It’s easy to see its effect on the pond. However, if you throw a second stone, its ripples begin to interact with the first stone’s ripples, and it becomes more difficult to distinguish the effects of the two different stones. Throw a few more stones in, and the face of the water looks chaotic at best. Meanwhile, the poor fish in the pond are praying to their fish god for refuge from the storm.

There are many, many factors that have led to our current world. Some people want to say that unfairness is because of God’s will or because someone didn’t pray hard enough. When in reality, it’s much more complicated than that. The one thing we do know is that it is God’s heart and character to love his creation and work the best for them. But what do we do while living in this world and how do we deal with the unfairness that we see?

The first thing that we should do in this unfair world is to avoid the “unfairness trap.” It is a good thing to fight unfairness in this world, whether it’s racism, sexism, or any other type of unfairness in this world. However, sometimes we get stuck in a trap of wanting others to fix the unfairness in this world, whether it’s God, politicians, or loved ones. And we also need to be careful to know that this world will continue to be unfair, because if we don’t remember that, we’ll quickly get burned out and disillusioned by all of the crap that happens in this world.

The second thing we should do is cultivate the habit of blessing and praying for others. If we focus on ourselves and only pray for ourselves, we will quickly get stuck in the same problems and become miserable. However, if we pray for others, we can begin to see our troubles in the big picture of this world. It might not seem so unfair when our lives are compared to tsunami or earthquake victims. Just be careful to not completely cover up how you feel, as God does care about your problems too.

The third thing we should do is give thanks for every blessing. We can be quickly deceived into thinking that we’re “owed” stuff. Whether it’s a comfortable future or some other entitlement, we can easily focus on what we should get vs. what we are getting. However, God wants us to develop a mindset that we’re thankful for every blessing, no matter how small, and not a mindset of being thankful for things that haven’t come yet. We just might blame God if they don’t come.

Finally, trust that God is with us on the inside when dealing with unfairness crap. Even though we can’t feel God when we’re struggling, we know that God is right there with us and is working good into our situation. We trust that God can turn our crap into something good. We understand that just because crap isn’t part of God’s perfect plan doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a perfect plan for crap. God brings a purpose to the crap in our lives, and he won’t let us go to waste.

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Topics: Blessings, God's Will, Justice

Sermon Series: [Crap] Happens

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Focus Scripture:

  • Daniel 10:12-13

    Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.

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10 thoughts on “[Unfairness] Happens

  1. Lilly says:

    This was such a good message and what I needed right now. As a musician / artist I tend toward moodiness and melancholy, though I also love to laugh. I probably thinkest too much. My theme song as a child was the one about “go out the garden eat worms,” if any remember that. 🙂

    Getting a grip on the unchanging and sovereign God that is near without attributing to Him the darkness of life caused from free choices in a war zone is freeing and something to constantly be reminded of. It is the plug that keeps sensitive artistic types, and really anyone, from going down the drain! Keep ’em coming!

  2. kevin says:

    Following the card analogy, my best play would be to fold my bad hand! Oh that it were possible to just trade them in for five new cards!

  3. Kevin Sandidge says:

    “What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?”

    I have one that needs attention please.

    Greg’s use of the story in Daniel to give weight to the problem of evil has me perplexed. My first concern is this; Nowhere else in the entire bible are angels refered to as Princes. Also, Daniel saw all this in a vision so it did not actually happen. The vision came simply to give an answer to the question Daniel had about his revealation of a future war. His answer came in this vision and any and all references to kings or princes preventing or resisting are simply vision metaphors. I’m not convinced we should be using this text to explain how angelic beings operate. Greg may be breaking his own interpretation guidelines with this as he’s often said of parables; “find the point of the parable; the rest of it is just props”.

    Incidentally, the war of which Daniel forsaw in his revelation was the one surrounding the fall of the Jewish age in 70 A.D.

    In all Christ-like sincerity,

    Brother Kevin

  4. Mattijs says:

    Hello Kevin,

    You asked for attention so here it is: I get from the sermon that Greg used this story to illustrate that the spiritual world can have a genuine impact on the fysical world. That was the point and the rest is indeed mostly props.
    The point was not to illustrate how angelic beings operate or how that effect exactly works.
    That effect in this case was that the prayer was directly answered by God but the answer was given with a delay of 21 days.
    Whether this had an actual impact on the hypothetical family is (I think Greg said this) indeed hypothetical. It did however have an actual impact on Daniel’s life.

    i don’t share your idea idea that because Daniel saw this in a vision it didn’t actuallly happen. The text indicates that the answer about the delay of 21 days referred to: the delay of 21 days. In that sense it had no direct reference to the coming war that Daniel wanted more insight into. It’s almost as if ther angel wanted to make an excuse to Daniel for arriving late. He indicated to Daniel there the reason for the delay had nothing to do with Daniel or God, but the reason lay in the spiritual realm.

    Incidently, if the spiritual world can have a real impact on an Old Testament prophet it follows that the spiritual world can have a real effect on the live of every believer in ways we can’t know unless God shines his light on it and He reveales it to us. In many cases we don’t know why..
    Remember Job: when we read the story we are told the reason, but nothing in the text indicates that Job was ever told the reason for his troubles.

    I hope this helps. From a dutch brother.

  5. Greg Boyd says:

    Thanks for the feedback Kevin. Thanks also to Mattijs for the excellent response. It doesn’t seem to me that calling Daniel’s encounter a “vision” implies it didn’t happen and/or that we can’t draw inferences about the spiritual realm from it. And while its true that angels are not elsewhere in the OT referred to as “princes” (though they are in the New, see e.g. Jn 12:32; 14:31; 16:11; I Cor. 2:8) I don’t think this implies that the princes of Persia and Greece weren’t angels. After all, Michael is also called a “prince” in this passage, and everyone grants that HE was an angel. In any event, I appreciate the feedback. Blessings!

  6. John J Sandt says:

    What a wonderful teaching ministry, I can only imagine how great the rest of the WH Church minitries are.

    Regarding Greg’s answer to the question of Old Testament accounts of God ordering the slaughter of men, women, and children….The nephilim, “giants” (offspring of fallen angels) of Noah’s time and afterwards is a great help in explaining why God would order or Himself orchestrate the destruction of “these people.” I and many believe that they were an unredeemable race, not able to repent or be made righteous. E.W. Bullinger has an interesting appendix in his Companion Bible concerning the nephilim. It helps explain that why God appears to be mean and nasty, he really had no other choices.

    Admittedly it’s a subject that’s rough to handle in a few minutes during a Q & A, but perhaps worth consideration for the 500 page book in progress Greg refered to.

    Thanks to all at Woodland Hills for your work in sharing the gospel and feeding the church at large (the body of Christ).

  7. Kevin Sandidge says:

    Thanks Mattijs, Greg for responding to this and i am in full agreement that the movements in the spiritual realm do indeed play a huge part in what comes to pass for us here in the natural, I just like to be clear on the text i use to prove my beliefs. Still, i am not so clear but i won’t beat a dead horse and you all have challenged me to dig further.
    thanks again!

  8. Kevin Sandidge says:


    I’d like to believe that angels once mated with humans but after reading Mark 12:18-25, i’m no longer convinced this is the case. the verses you get this from don’t say ‘angels’, it says the ‘sons of god’. As i argued with Greg that angels are not referred to as princes(my argument slightly revised), they are most certainly not known as ‘sons of god’. Read Heb.1:1-14. Furthermore John, those sons of god were in all likelihood alien beings from another planet. :~)

  9. Mike Blackwood says:

    I keep trying to play this video online and it gets stuck at about the 9-11 minute mark. The timer keeps running but no sound or video. Frustrating I really want to watch this one.

  10. Jim LePage says:

    Hey Mike – Sorry you’re having trouble watching the video. I just tried it and it played fine for me, even past the 09:11 mark. Based on the other comments here it seems to have worked for other folks too. You could try downloading the video files to your computer first and then watching them that way. You can download those files from this page:

    http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon/unfairness-happens (on the right under “Sermon Downloads”)

    Hope that helps!

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