When Favor Feels Unfair

Dan Lovaglia, Camp Pastor, Camp Paradise | August 11, 2023

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

– Luke 15:31-32

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

– Romans 12:15

Everyone wants to be accepted. It’s human nature. Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to compare and compete. It’s all too easy for pride, envy, and jealousy to rule the roost in our relationships. And so, our universal longing for acceptance stands until someone we don’t think is worthy enters the room. 

While we might say or do the right thing in the moment, that doesn’t mean our heart is happy about it. You and I need perspective, guidance, and tools for how to respond when favor feels unfair, and Jesus’ story of the prodigal son is a great place to start.

When the wayward younger son returned, his father eagerly ran to him and welcomed him back with wide-open arms. Then it was time to party. Sadly, his older brother’s heart got stuck. He couldn’t get over his demand for fairness to celebrate forgiveness. That’s when the father graciously stepped in to remind everyone that his favor is universal, free, and abundantly available. Grace doesn’t need to feel fair for us to be grateful.

I love that the father says, “We had to celebrate.” Yes, there was a choice to rejoice, but there’s also divine order at play. The best response to finding anything lost—coins, sheep, or sons—is joy and celebration. If you look closely, there are two lost sons in this story. One left home and returned remorseful; the other stayed home with a hardened heart. Fueled by unconditional love, the father expressed acceptance of both children and modeled a better way forward for us too.

When favor feels unfair, it’s easy for us to express frustration rather than gratitude. Think about the last time you resisted celebrating someone else’s divine blessing or turnaround story. Why do we thank God for being good to us and question His generosity toward others? The good news is that the heavenly Father welcomes us with wide-open arms in whatever state our heart is in. Once we recognize this, we can take steps to love people in our path when favor feels unfair.

Next Steps 

Putting Romans 12:15 into practice is a fantastic way to let God soften your heart toward people. Who is someone the Lord wants you to rejoice with? Who is someone He’s inviting you to mourn with? Allow yourself to let go of fairness so you can celebrate God’s favor toward whomever He wants to welcome home.