The Rebellion of Fairness (Numbers 16:1-3)

Numbers 16:1-3


1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. 2 And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. 3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”


            “It’s just not fair.”  This complaint comes out quite often in our world.  Children who notice one child with a nicer or newer toy than they have declare it not to be fair.  Teens who do not have the freedom of others among their peer groups declare it not to be fair.  Maybe even adults will clamor for fairness if they feel that someone has an advantage over them in some arena.


In Numbers 16, the cry of “It’s not fair” could be heard in the Israelite camp.  A group of disgruntled men come before Moses with the approval of many others, and they declare that it is simply not fair that Moses is acting as the leader and the authority of the people.  If you look at the logic used, Korah declares that all of Israel is equally holy to God, so how dare Moses act as though God has given him anything special.


            Now, in our modern, fairness-worshipping culture, the argument of the rebels in Numbers 16 rings true.  It’s not fair that God would select Moses for a special cause and not someone else who is just as good.  Our culture would say that Moses should only be allowed his special position if he were somehow head and shoulders above the rest in his righteousness and fitness for his task.  But this was not true.  Moses was a murderer who was raised in an Egyptian’s home and lived as an Egyptian until age 40.  Moses was a runaway who lived in the desert for 40 more years, and even married a non-Israelite wife.  Now, by age 80, Moses was a much more faithful follower of God, but if one watches Moses’ life, one will see the feet of clay that mark many of our own lives.


            So, if God chose to use Moses, it was not because of anything particularly special in Moses.  No, if you look at the story of Moses’ life, what it appears is simply that God set Moses apart from birth (perhaps before) for a special calling.  Could God have chosen Korah to follow Moses’ path?  Certainly God could have.  God could have even molded Korah’s heart to be even better than the heart of Moses. 


            Here, however is the point, God did not choose Korah for Moses’ task.  God chose Moses.  God was with Moses.  God anointed Moses.  Moses was the leader.  The question of fairness was irrelevant to God.  God created all the people of the world.  If God wants to choose one for a special task while not allowing others access to that task, that is God’s prerogative.


            It would be good for us to lose our fairness arguments and stop sounding like the rebellious Israelites who followed Korah in his rebellion.  We dare not ask God for fairness, for fairness means we all get exactly the same thing.  If we all get the same thing, we all get hell just like Jesus who suffered the perfect wrath of God on the cross.  You want fair, you go to hell; it’s just that simple.  No, we do not want fairness in salvation, and we ought not clamor for fairness in other avenues of life.  God will do what is right. 


            If, by the way, you feel that this appears to be written by a highly privileged person who wants to protect his privilege with a call to avoid fairness talk, let me say to you two things.  First, I am privileged.  I was born in the US, and so I am part of the wealthiest people in the world.  I’m not at all rich by American standards, but I have more than enough by the standards of the rest of the world.  Yes, I have been granted a safe existence, a lovely wife, and two darling children.  I had access to an education, and God has granted me the joy of serving him in a variety of places and positions.


            I have also been legally blind since birth.  I have a wonderful wife and children into whose eyes I cannot gaze.  I have lacked many of the opportunities that many people around me have received.  I love baseball, but have never been able to play it.  I love football, but have never been able to enjoy it as many have.  I love to read and to study, but cannot utilize so much material.  I love to preach the word of God and minister to the people of God, yet I am limited in my ability to interact visually with others. 


            Is my life fair?  Of course not.  But then, why would I expect it to be.  I have some privilege and some hardship.  So what?  God has made me for himself.  God has designed me for his glory.  God has chosen me to serve him and to know him.  I have earned nothing from God but wrath.  God has chosen to give me grace.  For me to complain that anything is not fair would be for me to call into question the character of the one who is always perfect, always holy, always right.  God is not fair according to sinful human reckoning, but God is holier and higher than our reckoning.  God is good, and his name is worthy of our praise.  His decisions are worthy of our approval.  His commands are worthy of our obedience.

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