Some of my students throughout the years have thought it ‘unfair’ for one of them to receive a particular grade while another was evaluated as doing less of a good job and received a better grade. The complaint is that it was not fair for one to do better that another. I guess all the students want ‘life to fair’. Several things come to mind when pondering this: 1. What does ‘that’s not fair’ mean?? Are they saying everyone should be treated equally?? How does one define ‘fair’? 2. Are they expecting school to be ‘fair’ while life is not fair? What in the world (or in my classes the Bible) tells them that all is fair?
My usual answer to students who say, ‘that’s not fair’ is a flippant ‘life is not fair, get a helmet!’ However, recently when approached by a student concerned about a grade on a project, I decided to ask questions to get at her central concern instead of merely dismissing it and moving to another student’s inquiries. So here is what I remember of the discussion (this is not verbatim):
Student: Why did I get a poor grade when my friend did less work and got a better grade?
Me: I took into account several factors about the project when grading it. Things like estimated time to finish the project, the relevancy to the topic, and the effort put forth.
Student: It took me at least 10 minutes to draw this picture, while it probably took them 3 minutes to find it on a website and print it out. My grade is not fair.
Me: (deciding instead of giving an answer to ask questions and get the student to reconsider their own view on the subject) Define ‘fair’ for me.
Me: What was that??? Define fair for me.
Student: The Bible says God is fair and just, therefore fair is God.
I had a difficult time processing this because I had never heard this definition of God before. So I decided to excuse myself (yes the student did give me a statement I could not discuss further) and attend to the pressing needs of the other students.
Here’s the troubling thing: I think the student was very confused about her definition of ‘fair’ and also confused about God needing to be fair. But I have no answer. This idea of some grade being deemed unfair is something I have pondered for years, but still do not have a satisfactory answer.
Is God fair?? Is there something that requires him to be fair??
I know it was not fair for a holy, perfect, sinless God to die on the a thief’s cross to pay for a ransom of unholy, imperfect, rebellious sinners.
Is God fair?? Is He supposed to be?? I am still pondering it.