According to several of the national news organizations, the response of many Americans to recent legislative actions was a request that life be fair and that our legislators act with fairness. I thought this was an interesting request since from the time we are old enough to understand why things happen as they do, we hear the phrase, “life isn’t fair.”
“Fair” is subjective. One employee considers an action to be fair while another sees it as unjust. Two mothers sit in a courtroom, both sure their child was treated unfairly, yet only a jury can determine who is right, and even that jury may be swayed by any number of personal experiences. Two children grow up in the same home, yet throughout their lives one or the other is sure they were treated unfairly. How recent has it been that you or I made a judgment or a statement knowing we were biased by our prejudices or our attitude? Since when has humankind been consistently capable of fairness?
Is it fair that 20% of the world’s people consume 80% of the world’s goods, and yet we make little effort to change this? Where is the fairness of a world where the divide between the wealthy and the impoverished grows greater each year, enabled by systems that offer more and more opportunities for the wealthy to grow their wealth? How can it be fair for a child to grow up in a country that has never known peace, and yet their government continues to fight and kill? Who would describe it fair that one place has abundant rain while another suffers through years of drought, and yet little is done to change the conditions that cause it? What kind of fairness is it that one nation lives under a violent dictator while another is a democracy, and yet democratic governments reinforce the hold of the dictator? When has it been fair that some have no voice, suffer persecution and exploitation because others are more powerful and can hold them in bondage simply by physical and cognitive force? We only have to look into our own hearts to discover a lack of fairness, even as we voice our expectations that others should be fair, life should be fair.
The reality is that life isn’t fair, and this reality spills over into business and the economy of poverty. Because of this, fair trade prinicples were implemented some years ago, in recognition that the poorest of the poor, unfairly, have little opportunity to break the cycle that continues from one generation to the next. You may be reading this and thinking, “What’s unfair about that?” Even this is a judgment from one person to another, evident in our response to the poverty we see and read about every day.
But many do believe poverty is difficult to escape unless the business world implements principles that do not exploit, but rather empower those who hope for a better life for their families, their communities, and even the world. This is why many commit to practice fair trade and are willing to abide by fair trade principles to participate in freeing as many individuals, societies, and even nations, from the poverty that keeps them imprisoned to crime and exploitation. Many invest their lives and wealth (wealth of money, health, power, commitment, concern, passion) to live and work among the impoverished, or establish a multitude of opportunities that empower and free people from poverty.
What about you? This is Fair Trade Month. Take time to consider your own commitment to fairness, especially for the poor. Learn about fair trade companies, like WorldCrafts. Several resources are listed below that will inspire you to grow in fairness, to seek fairness, and to live fairly in an unfair world.
So who is the judge of fairness? There is only one judge of fairness, for the standard for fairness is found in the heart of God (Deuteronomy 10:18), and as long as this world is in the hands of people, rather than under the lordship of Christ, life will be unfair. Decisions based on human wisdom apart from God’s cannot have, and do not have, the breadth of understanding needed to insure that our judgment is fair. We seldom are capable of seeing even the short term results, much less the long term impact, of the decisions we make. But when we abide in Christ we have the greatest potential to break out of our limited understanding to see the world, to see each person, through God’s perfect knowledge and love, through His compassion and wisdom, with his righteousness and justice. He is our only hope, our only source, for the fairness our nation and our world longs to see.