“It’s not fair!”

As the parent of two small children, I hear this a lot. There’s competition for toys, treats, praise, attention. But their cries are like mine:

When I feel I’ve been taken for granted.

When I just can’t catch a break.

When someone jumps in front of me in the queue.

When my best friend falls ill again—after all she’s been through.

I might not say it. But I’ll think it.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair.

It’s not fair.

And underpinning it: I deserve better.

So when Paul says “Whatever is just . . . think about such things” my mind could run in some unhelpful directions. After all, I’ve been up since 5 a.m. A chorus of demands . . . and not one word of thanks. Exhausted, I fall into bed, and the next day it starts again.

The Scriptures say, Think about what is just. But I’m not meant to holler for what’s fair, like an aggrieved child. If I’m holding out for “better,” I need to know that better is coming, but not because I deserve it. If I’m holding out for God to give me my just deserts, I haven’t understood God, or myself, or what justice really means.

If I’m holding out for ‘better,’ I need to know that better is coming, but not because I deserve it.

God’s justice will bring about far more than fairness, or reward. It will bring about a new heavens and a new earth. My world is tiny, but the Scriptures give a cosmic perspective. The wrongs that will be righted are breathtaking, and none of this will happen because of what I’m like but because of what God is like.

In Deuteronomy 32, Moses sings of the Lord:

The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he. (Deut. 32:4)

The Lord is just and all his ways are justice. His whole way of being is a kind of “putting the world to rights.” In his approach to the world, from Genesis 1 onward, he is always “setting things in order.”

The psalmist speaks of justice as the foundation of God’s throne (Ps. 89:14). It’s this throne that Christ—the Divine Messiah—sits on (Ps. 45:6), and he sits there because he loves righteousness and hates wickedness (Ps. 45:7).

For this the Father is thrilled:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isa. 42:1)

In my tiny world I want justice for little concerns; for me, my small circle of friends, and my tribe. Christ brings forth justice for the world. But how do we feel about that?

As sinners, surely asking for justice is like signing our own death warrant. Won’t we all be condemned?

Wonderfully, Isaiah answers the question: Christ “was pierced for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:5), or as Romans 3 puts it, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement . . . so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (NIV). The justice of God is revealed at the cross, where the sins of the world are punished. All our wickedness—all that is damnable—is in fact damned. But the judgment falls on Christ so that he might justify us.

The justice of God is revealed at the cross, where the sins of the world are punished.

In Jesus we can have a new relationship to the Judge. Having passed through condemnation, we enter a new world of “no condemnation,” as we are hidden in Christ (Rom. 8:1). We are not now “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), but children of God. And how does Christ in his justice now treat the “little ones” in his care? Isaiah 42 reminds us that the Judge of the world patiently and gently brings forth justice to the bruised reeds and faintly burning wicks (Isa. 42:2–4). Certainly he will bring angry condemnation for the proud and wicked, but his justice lifts up the lowly even as it brings down the lofty.

And in the end, Christ will succeed in his justice project:

Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isa. 9:7)

Justice will reign and will reign forever because Christ is Lord.

This then is justice—painted on a global and everlasting canvas. Christ took my just deserts and gives me his righteousness. He brings me home to a Father who is committed to making all things new. The unjust, the wicked, and the proud will get their day. And the lowly, the little, and the meek will be raised up—in fact, the whole world will be made right. All things will be upstanding. Creation will be just—as it should. Now that’s something to think about.

Editors’ note: 

This article is part of a series on Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”