If believers demand fairness, maybe our demands are misplaced. That is why knowing His attributes is so crucial. We too often decide He is one way when His Word defines a different way.
When wanting to know about an attribute of God, some people still check His Book to see if it’s really an attribute of His.
Checking the writings in the original languages would be best but not many of you are Greek or Hebrew scholars and I’m sure not. So we must agree that we are using flawed translations but that’s the best most of us can do for now. Still, tools such as concordances are available and we’ll look at underlying Greek and Hebrew words when the situation warrants.
Let’s see how many times the word “fair” is used in the NASB translation and see how often it applies that general attribute to God. We have:
- Leviticus 19:15, You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.
The word is the same as justice, right? Nope. “Fair” is not the same thing as “just” or “justice” as we’ll see in a bit.
But the NASB used “fairly” as a synonym for “justly.” At least it appears that to be the case. But this one does require that we look a little deeper. Why? Because elsewhere in Scripture we learn that “fair” is not the same thing as “just” so when it’s used that way here we should probably peek and see the underlying Hebrew term. Its transliteration is pronounced “sedeq” and means righteousness. This is one of those times when the NASB substituted a word that isn’t fair! Most translations use the word righteousness. God wants our court systems to judge righteously, treating all under the law equally. He doesn’t like perjury (see the ninth commandment; it’s not “don’t lie” but it’s a very specific instance of that concept), He doesn’t like a corrupt justice system. God is righteous and just and He wants our legal system to be the same. (It’s not.) He does not ask that anybody is “fair” here, so we move on to the next instance to see if “fair” is a Godly attribute or not.
- Numbers 24:5: How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel!
This isn’t referring to people or to God but to abodes. So the concept of a person being “fair” isn’t the same thing here possibly? It once again does require a peek at its original Hebrew word. The word (transliterated) is “tobu.” The term means “good, beautiful, lovely.” Consider the phrase, “A fair maiden.” We know that means lovely or beautiful. It makes sense that is exactly the use here too. Jacob’s tents are good and lovely. It’s a statement about the abodes. It’s not even telling Jacob to make them “fair” but is simply a statement of fact. So we’ll move on to the next instance trying to find whether or not “fair” is a Godly attribute.
- Deuteronomy 3:25: ‘Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, …’
We have the same usage as before, fair being the definition of fair that is good or beautiful, sometimes used for people. So we’ll continue. Surely one of these days we’re going to find that God is fair!
- Job 42:15: “In all the land no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters;…”
Obviously the same use as before, for females, not God.
- Psalm 45:2: “You are fairer than the sons of men;…“
Now we might be getting somewhere. We can use this to say God is fair.
Except we can’t. Because Rules #1 and #2 of interpreting any Scripture are: “Who is speaking and who is being spoken to?”
Here, the Psalmist is speaking, it’s not a quote from God. (Yes, all Scripture is inspired by God.) The Psalmist is speaking to the sons of Korah. So the Psalmist isn’t saying this is an attribute of God. Now that doesn’t mean it’s not an attribute of God, it just means we can’t use this verse to assume it is. But it’s not the idea of “fair” we’re talking about anyway! Looking at the Hebrew meaning, this is the same usage of “fair” as we had before only for a man: “handsome, most handsome, most excellent.”
We’ll keep searching for all those times God shows us that fairness is one of His attributes.
- Isaiah 11:4: “And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;…“
We’re back to the first usage we saw above. Fairness in a courtroom. Justice should equally apply to all. A judge has no right to show one convicted criminal grace over another. Here, Isaiah is speaking and he’s actually talking about God. God is just. He does fairly treat all of those saved equally under grace and those unsaved equally under the law. This specific courtroom usage of fairness, used as a synonym for equality, isn’t the concept we mean when we whine, “that’s so unfair!” about our place in life.
- Hosea 10:11: “Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, But I will come over her fair neck with a yoke; I…“
Same term we use for the phrase “fair maiden,” we’ll keep looking.
- Matthew 16:2: “But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’…“
Actually, this is a single Greek word transliterated as “Eudia” that we translate as two words that mean “fair weather” or weather that is calm and clear. These are not the fairs you’re looking for…
- Acts 27:8: “and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which…”
A proper noun. But surely we’re close to find all the places where God says He is fair.
- Colossians 4:1: “Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.”
The same usage of the word above in the Hebrew texts where fairness is used specifically to apply the law to. It is a concept of equality under the law and how masters treat those under them. The underlying pair of Greek words that the NASB translates as fairness is transliterated “ten isoteta” which is also used for equal in other translations.
One interesting note here is that the word fairness is not the same thing as just and is not the same thing as justice! Justice is applied to God many times, He is a Just and Holy God. If fairness were the same as justice then this verse makes no sense. Justice is what someone gets – punishment or reward – based on an equal law applied to all men. In this one sense, God does treat people equally, just as our judges should do under the law. (They don’t.)
Note: A good man and friend, James Cavanaugh, did a word study on Col. 4:1. Do you know what he found? The Greek word translated as “fair” here appears a grand total of three times in the Bible. But the underlying Greek word for “just”? 81 times!
Let’s find all the places now where God is said to be fair.
- James 7:1: “Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?”
James is writing to the brethren, believers, and he says their name is fair, the same usage as “fair maiden.” The Greek word is transliterated as “kalon” and is often translated as “good” and “excellent.” He is speaking of court cases where the heathen blaspheme believers.
So, let’s find them. I bet all of the references to God being Fair are coming up next! Get ready…
- <The Bible ends without fair being mentioned again>
Fair and Balanced
I get so tired of FoxNews touting itself as “fair and balanced.” What a liberal news agency.
You don’t give evil fair and equal time. You should state the truth and shun evil.
You Want Fair? You Can’t Handle Fair!
Do you disagree with Scripture and say that God is fair? If so, then do you think He it’s fair that He lets Satan run around all these thousands of years tempting you to do what you likely would have done anyway?
And really consider this: Do want God to be fair? Let’s consider that for a moment…
If God were as fair and balanced as FoxNews is, He would let Satan have 50% of the space in Heaven and would have let him write 50% of Scripture. That is what “fair and balanced” is all about. It’s all about “equal time.”
If God were fair, you would have been struck dead and sent to hell long before your 10th birthday! (I would have gone sooner than you.)
What God Is
If we take the Word of God seriously and literally, God is not this: fair and just.
He is Just. He is Holy. But fair isn’t an attribute.