Thursday, June 6, 2024

God's Fairness

Do you have a favorite child? Maybe a better question to ask is, did your parents have a favorite child?

Family dynamics can be a little tricky. Sometimes, it's the oldest who is favored because they are supposed to be a little wiser simply by nature of having a few more years under their belt. Sometimes, it's the youngest who is favored because they are the last and everyone knows you'll never have these moments with another child again after this one. Sometimes, a child in the middle is favored, usually out of an overcompensation because middle children are so often forgotten. 

Quite often, when families are trying to make decisions, it is one child over another who gets the privilege of deciding. Whether they roll the dice, draw a piece of paper out of a hat, take first pick, whatever it is, there is one who sets the tone for everything else that is to come, and everyone else is stuck with the fallout, whatever it may be. (Anyone else always want to be the scottie dog in Monopoly, but always somehow end up as the iron?) 

Certainly, you would think that in ancient Israel, this dynamic would have been even more pronounced. In the culture in which these persons lived, there was a certain favoritism toward the oldest, the firstborn, the one who was appointed by natural selection to carry on the family name and take over the father's...everything. We hear so much about the oldest son in the Old Testament that it seems only natural that the world would let the oldest make the choices and the rest of the family deals with it. 

But that's not the way that God works. 

Whenever God is working among His people, the favor doesn't always fall to the eldest, nor does the power to decide. There's a verse in 1 Chronicles 24 that states very clearly how God deals with families: 


The people are casting lots. Specifically, the priests and the Levites are casting lots, trying to assign duties and services in the Temple. Naturally, you would think there would be some kind of hierarchy to this based on birth order and lineage and whatever else you might want to base this one (dark-hairedness or good-lookingness or well-spokenness?), but here they were, casting lots. 

Casting lots was basically rolling dice. It was an activity of chance, although the Israelites believed that God was determining the outcome of the roll. The practice is so far removed from the kind of faith that I have lived in my life that it's hard to really say; I live in a world so clouded by superstition that the understanding of lots gets more than a little muddled. But it was a process of basically rolling stones and seeing what they turn up, then taking that as God's Will and marking it down. 

And in this particular exercise, in this particular story (as in many others), they cast lots for everyone individually. Every single involved person. If you read the list, the Bible tells us that the first lot fell to...and the second lot fell to....all the way to the twenty-fourth lot, which fell to.... And in our brains, you don't have to roll the twenty-fourth lot because, well, if that's the guy left standing unpicked, then that's the guy who is going twenty-fourth. Right?

Not in God's world. In God's world, you still roll those dice because rolling those dice confirms that the twenty-fourth is still chosen by God. Chosen by God to be twenty-fourth, which in God's world is not "last," but simply twenty-fourth. So you cast the lots for him, too, because that's important. 

The chapter wraps up by saying, "The oldest were treated the same as the youngest." The lots were cast for everyone. No one got the authority to choose for someone else. God treats everyone with the same agency, the same calling, the same individual attention and address. God treats them all fairly by giving them each a lot and never resigning them to the leftovers of someone else's. 

I love that about God. 

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