* Was God fair to people of Sodom?
God gave the men of Sodom a fair test. He was not ignorant of the city’s wicked practices, but in his fairness and patience he gave the people of Sodom one last chance to repent. God is still waiting, giving people the opportunity to turn to him (2 Peter 3:91). Those who are wise will turn to him before his patience wears out. (NLT)
Genesis 18:21 – “. . . I am going down to see whether or not these reports are true. Then I will know.”
* Was God being unfair to the people of Sodom? Did he really plan to destroy the innocent with the guilty? On the contrary, God’s fairness stood out. (1) He agreed to spare the entire city if only 10 innocent people lived there. (2) He showed great mercy toward Lot, apparently the only man in the city who had any kind of relationship with him (and even that was questionable). (3) He showed great patience toward Lot, almost forcing him to leave Sodom before it was destroyed. Remember God’s patience when you are tempted to think he is unfair. Even the most godly people deserve his justice. We should be glad God doesn’t direct his justice toward us as he did toward Sodom. (NLT)
Genesis 18:25 – Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the innocent with the guilty. Why, you would be treating the innocent and the guilty exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”
* Those in Christian service should be paid fairly
What is the point of this Old Testament regulation? Oxen were often used to tread out the grain on a threshing floor. The animal was attached by poles to a large millstone. As it walked around the millstone, its hooves trampled the grain, separating the kernels from the chaff. At the same time, the millstone ground the grain into flour. To muzzle the ox would prevent it from eating while it was working. Paul used this illustration in the New Testament to argue that people productive in Christian work should not be denied its benefits—they should receive financial support (1 Corinthians 9:9-123; 1 Timothy 5:17-184). The fact that a person is in Christian ministry doesn’t mean he or she should be unfairly paid. There is also a broader application: Don’t be stingy with those who work for you. (NLT)
Deuteronomy 25:4 – “Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain. . .”
* Fairness ignored by King Jeroboam II
Jeroboam II had no devotion to God, yet under his warlike policies and skillful administration, Israel enjoyed more national power and material prosperity than at any time since the days of Solomon. The prophets Amos and Hosea, however, tell us what was really happening within the kingdom (Hosea 13:4-87; Amos 6:11-148). Jeroboam’s administration ignored policies of justice and fairness. As a result, the rich became richer, and the poor, poorer. The people became self-centered, relying more on their power, security, and possessions than on God. The poor were so oppressed that it was hard for them to believe God noticed their plight. Material prosperity is not always an indication of God’s blessing. It can also be a result of self-centeredness. If you are experiencing prosperity, remember that God holds us accountable for how we attain success and how we use our wealth. Everything we have really belongs to him. We must use God’s gifts with his interests in mind. (NLT)
2 Kings 14:28 – The rest of the events in the reign of Jeroboam II and all his deeds, including the extent of his power, his wars, and how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah, are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel.
* Fairness in business transactions
Whether we buy or sell, make a product or offer a service, we know what is fair and honest and what is unfair and dishonest. Sometimes we feel pressure to be dishonest in order to advance ourselves or gain more profit. But if we want to obey God, there is no middle ground: God demands honesty in every business transaction. No amount of rationalizing can justify a dishonest business practice. Honesty and fairness are not always easy, but they are what God demands. Ask him for discernment and courage to be consistently honest and fair. (NLT)
Proverbs 16:11 – The Lord demands fairness in every business deal; he sets the standard.
* Life isn’t always fair
It isn’t difficult to think of cases where the fastest and the strongest don’t win, the wise are poor, and the skillful are unrewarded with wealth or honor. Some people see such examples and call life unfair, and they are right. The world is finite, and sin has twisted life, making it what God did not intend. Solomon is trying to reduce our expectations. The book of Proverbs emphasizes how life would go if everyone acted fairly; Ecclesiastes explains what usually happens in our sinful and imperfect world. We must keep our perspective. Don’t let the inequities of life keep you from earnest, dedicated work. We serve God, not people (see Colossians 3:238). (NLT)
Ecclesiastes 9:10-11 – Whatever you do, do well. For when you go the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.
I have observed something else in this world of ours. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise are often poor, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being at the right place at the right time.
* Fairness in judging others
God will judge with fairness and truth. How we long for fair treatment from others, but do we give it? We hate those who base their judgments on appearance, false evidence, or hearsay, but are we quick to judge others using those standards? Only Christ can be the perfectly fair judge. Only as he governs our hearts can we learn to be as fair in our treatment of others as we expect others to be toward us. (NLT)
Isaiah 11:3-5 – He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will never judge by appearance, false evidence, or hearsay. He will defend the poor and the exploited. He will rule against the wicked and destroy them with the breath of his mouth. He will be clothed with fairness and truth.
* Fairness a condition for a relationship with God
These sinners realized that they could not live in the presence of the holy God, for he is like a fire that consumes evil. Only those who walk uprightly and speak what is right can live with God. Isaiah gives examples of how to demonstrate our righteousness and uprightness. We can reject gain from extortion and bribes, refuse to listen to plots of wrong actions, and shut our eyes to evil. If we are fair and honest in our relationships, we will dwell with God, and he will supply our needs. (NLT)
Isaiah 33:14-16 – The sinners in Jerusalem shake with fear. “Which one of us,” they cry, “can live here in the presence of this all-consuming fire?” The ones who can live here are those who are honest and fair, who reject making a profit by fraud, who stay far away from bribes, who refuse to listen to those who plot murder, who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong. These are the ones who will dwell on high. The rocks of the mountains will be their fortress of safety. Food will be supplied to them, and they will have water in abundance.
1 God may have seemed slow to these believers as they faced persecution every day and longed to be delivered. But God is not slow; he just is not on our timetable (Psalm 90:42). Jesus is waiting so that more sinners will repent and turn to him. We must not sit and wait for Christ to return, but we should realize that time is short and we have important work to do. Be ready to meet Christ any time, even today; yet plan your course of service as though he may not return for many years. (NLT)
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.
2 Moses reminds us that a thousand years are like a day to the Lord. God is not limited by time. It’s easy to get discouraged when years pass and the world doesn’t get better. We sometimes wonder if God is able to see the future. But don’t assume that God has our limitations. God is completely unrestricted by time. Because he is eternal, we can depend on him. (NLT)
Psalm 90:4 – For you, a thousand years are as yesterday! They are like a few hours!
3 Jesus said that workers deserve their wages. Paul echoes this thought and urges the church to be sure to pay their Christian workers. We have the responsibility to care for our pastors, teachers, and other spiritual leaders. It is our duty to see that those who serve us in the ministry are fairly and adequately compensated. (NLT)
1 Corinthians 9:9-12 – Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals? Don’t we have the right to bring a Christian wife along with us as the other disciples and the Lord’s brothers and Peter do? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves? What soldier has to pay his own expenses? And have you ever heard of a farmer who harvests his crop and doesn’t have the right to eat some of it? What shepherd takes care of a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? And this isn’t merely human opinion. Doesn’t God’s law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain.” Do you suppose God was thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he also speaking to us? Of course he was. Just as farm workers who plow fields and thresh the grain expect a share of the harvest, Christian workers should be paid by those they serve.
We have planted good spiritual seed among you. Is it too much to ask, in return, for mere food and clothing? If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? Yet we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ.
4 Faithful church leaders should be supported and appreciated. Too often they are targets for criticism because the congregation has unrealistic expectations. How do you treat your church leaders? Do you enjoy finding fault, or do you show your appreciation? Do they receive enough financial support to allow them to live without worry and to provide for the needs of their families? Jesus and Paul emphasized the importance of supporting those who lead and teach us (see Galatians 6:65 and Luke 10:76). (NLT)
1 Timothy 5:17-18 – Elders who do their work well should be paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not keep an ox from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place [Jesus said], “Those who work deserve their pay!”
5 Paul says that students should take care of the material needs of their teachers. It is easy to receive the benefit of good Bible teaching and then to take our spiritual leaders for granted, ignoring their financial and physical needs. We should care for our teachers, not grudging or reluctantly, but with a generous spirit, showing honor and appreciation for all they have done. (NLT)
Galatians 6:6 – Those who are taught the word of God should help their teachers by paying them.
6 Jesus told his disciples to accept hospitality graciously because their work entitled them to it. Ministers of the Good News deserve to be supported, and it is our responsibility to make sure they have what they need. There are several ways to encourage those who serve God in his church: (1) See that they have an adequate salary; (2) see that they are supported emotionally—plan special times to express appreciation for something they have done; (3) lift their spirits with special surprises from time to time. Our ministers deserve to know we are giving to them cheerfully and generously. (NLT)
Luke 10:7 – [Jesus said] “When you enter a town, don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide you. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.”
7 When abundant possessions made Israel feel self-sufficient, it turned its back on God and forgot him. Self-sufficiency is as destructive today as it was in Hosea’s time. Do you see your constant need of God’s presence and help? Learn to rely on God, both in good times and bad. If you are traveling along a smooth and easy path right now, beware of forgetting who gave you your good fortune. Don’t depend on your gifts; depend on the Giver. See Deuteronomy 6:10-129 and Deuteronomy 8:7-2010 for God’s warning. (NLT)
Hosea 13:4-8 – “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from your slavery in Egypt. You have no God but me, for there is no other savior. I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. But when you had eaten and were satisfied, then you became proud and forgot me. So now I will attack you like a lion, or like a leopard that lurks along the road. I will rip you to pieces like a bear whose cubs have been taken away. I will tear you apart and devour you like a hungry lion. . .”
8 The people had built luxurious homes to flaunt their achievements. While it is not wrong to live in comfortable houses, we must not let them become sources of inflated pride and self-glorification. God gave our homes to us, and they are to be used for service, not just for show.
Amos gives us a picture of God’s fearful judgment. The people hesitated to speak God’s name, even during a time of grief, for fear that they would attract his attention and be judged also. (NLT)
Amos 6:11-14 – When the Lord gives the command, homes both great and small will be smashed to pieces. Can horses gallop over rocks? Can oxen be used to plow rocks? Stupid even to ask—but that’s how stupid you are when you turn justice into poison and make bitter the sweet fruit of righteousness. And just as stupid is this bragging about your conquest of Lo-debar. You boast, “Didn’t we take Karnaim by our own strength and power?”
“O people of Israel, I am about to bring an enemy nation against you,” says the Lord God Almighty. “It will oppress you bitterly throughout your land—from Lebo-hamath in the north to the Arabah Valley in the south.”
9 Moses warned the people not to forget God when they entered the Promised Land and became prosperous. Prosperity more than poverty, can dull our spiritual vision because it tends to make us self-sufficient and eager to acquire still more of everything—except God. The same thing can happen in our church. Once we become successful in terms of numbers, programs, and buildings, we can easily become self-sufficient and less sensitive to our need for God. This leads us to concentrate on self-preservation rather than thankfulness and service to God. (NLT)
Deuteronomy 6:10-12 – “The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land filled with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. . .”
10 This verse, “When you have eaten your fill, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you,” is traditionally cited as the reason we say grace before or after meals. Its purpose, however, was to warn the Israelites not to forget God when their needs and wants were satisfied. Let your table prayers serve as a constant reminder of the Lord’s goodness to you and your duty to those who are less fortunate.
In times of plenty, we often take credit for our prosperity and become proud that our own hard work and cleverness have made us rich. It is easy to get so busy collecting and managing wealth that we push God right out of our lives. But it is God who gives us everything we have, and it is God who asks us to manage it for him. (NLT)
Deuteronomy 8:7-20 – “. . . For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with springs that gush forth in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley, of grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, olives, and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. When you have eaten your fill, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
“But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and laws. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, that is the time to be careful. Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. He did it so you would never think that it was your own strength and energy that made you wealthy. Always remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you power to become rich, and he does it to fulfill the covenant he made with your ancestors.
“But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed. Just as the Lord has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God. . .”
11 Colossians 3:23 – Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
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