Genesis 43:1-15; Psalm 73; 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; Mark 4:35-41
“That’s not fair!” How many times have you heard that phrase? How many times have you uttered it? How many times have you simply thought it? Whether due to a violated sense of entitlement, an advantage gained by someone through unequal means, or a misfortune come our way, we can all identify, and in many cases, personally recall, situations of unfairness. The resultant feelings can lead to jealousy, resentment and anger. These in turn can lead to a rash of usually unproductive, sometimes irrational, and often sinful actions.
In today’s reading from Genesis, one can sense in Jacob’s voice the frustration with the unfairness of the situation. He has already lost one son (Joseph), and another has been jailed in Egypt (Simeon). There is now a famine in the land, and everyone is starving. The only hope of living is to buy food from the Egyptians, who have plenty to spare. However, his sons refuse to go to Egypt without, in his eyes at least, risking the life of yet another son, the youngest, by taking him with them. Thanks to Judah’s pleading, he is convinced not to abandon Simeon in an Egyptian prison.
The writer of today’s psalm, Asaph, describes several unfair situations. The wicked prosper and increase in wealth. They are healthy and strong; they have no struggles and are always carefree. In contrast, he has kept his heart pure but has been plagued all day long. He has washed his hands in innocence but has been punished every morning. He might very well have said, “That’s not fair! Why do those who couldn’t care less about God seem to have it so easy when I’m trying to do what’s right and yet I have all these problems?”
Since the question is a difficult one to answer, it is easy to dwell on wearisome situations. The results are feelings of envy towards those who do evil and of hopelessness and futility in trying to do good. Indeed, Asaph even states, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me.” (Psalm 73.16.) Rather than falling into a mode of despair and self-pity, however, he experiences something else instead. He enters the sanctuary of God.
It is here that he finds (and we can find) true and eternal justice instead of the unfairness of this world. It is here that we find full wisdom instead of ignorance. It is here that we find strength and complete fulfillment so we can declare that “earth has nothing I desire besides you.” It is here that we can say, regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, “it is good to be near God.”
Heavenly Father, when we find ourselves in unfair circumstances, when we find ourselves wallowing in self-pity and wondering why others seem to have it so well, may we remember to enter your sanctuary; confident that you will not let us slip or lose our foothold, but will take us by the hand and guide us, that you will strengthen our heart and will afterward bring us into your glory, through Christ our Lord.