“When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the ‘prosperous life.’ At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.”
—James 1:9-11 (Msg).
An elderly lady looks back over her life in the context of the above passage in James and it stimulates a wry smile over the aspect of her rather age-weathered face—she sits content. In the true knowledge of life she casts a reflective eye over her life, her family, her experience. She sees in truth the implicit equity of the ages, how all things have evened out.
She thinks of grandson number two, the successful and proud doctor who then dealt with bankruptcy and divorce but eventually recovered a better person, and granddaughter number four, who always struggled academically, yet eventually became a nurse and nurtured a sound, loving family. Her sister’s grandchildren also have their own stories of fluctuating fortune, success and failure, bliss and grief. She thinks past everyone she knows. Swings and round-a-bouts... there’s a theme of basic equity in all of her reflections.
Success is relative. Fairness is inherent in life. Life has a way of evening the score. People only seem to get ahead of others. It only seems unfair that some get a golden ride over others who are equally deserving. It’s directly proportionate—in the general sense—to the individual’s diligence, patience and perseverance, and their humility. Not always, just most of the time.
And, I suppose, this is where God comes into the equation. Many people who believe, and also many who don’t believe, see God as the eternal arbiter of life. It’s just that the people who don’t believe don’t like it that they can’t control their destinies absolutely. A pitiable though pathetic resentment (aimed at God and at life) is the result, for we can do nothing about this apart from accept it as a fact of life.
All things, give or take, are equal in this life. God is no respecter of individual persons by way of giving one person a leg up to the detriment of another. He’s created a reasonably level playing field. If it was perfectly level life would become boring.
We must always bear in mind that some start off slowly in life and gather momentum towards its end whilst others shoot out of the blocks, appearing to have all advantage. The appearance, as a truism of the lifespan, is a folly. We must believe in the nature of justice—God’s slow, interminable justice—in life.
It’s truly a very important component of faith.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.