Equality, Fairness, Justice and GOD

In the gospel parable, the workers protest against the owner of the vineyard for his unfairness. But as a story about God and God’s people, the meaning changes. Is the generosity you show and encourage in others similarly impartial?

Are you grateful for the graces and forgiveness God gives you, even when you don’t “deserve” them? Do you resent the mercy shown others because they don’t “deserve” it?

Equality, fairness, justice. We often use these terms interchangeably, but that’s misleading. We may be intended for equality, but we are hardly created from it, nor do we enter into it at birth. Not even in a democracy. Fairness, on the other hand, is sometimes defined as equal opportunity, and at other times, simply as equity. Equity is a concept arising from natural law: It means we are all entitled to what we need and deserve—a far cry from saying we should all get the same treatment. Here’s where human justice steps in.

Our sense of justice is more about equity than equality. We feel confident that people should get what they deserve, what their actions have earned. We do not hold that all people should be treated the same or have rights to the same goods and opportunities.

This may seem like a theoretical discussion, but it isn’t. Imagine what happens when human justice smacks up against divine justice. Divine justice is not based on equity at all. It’s not a tit-for-tat business, a balancing of the scales between behavior and just desserts. Divine justice is mysterious, generous, and freewheeling.

God is delighted to add one and one and one and come up with one.

Prepare the Word and Lloyd Baugh, S.J.