Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).
Warren Buffet tells a story, sometimes called The Ovarian Lottery, which speaks to the futility of the expectation of “fairness.” The story goes something like this. Suppose a genie came to you and told you that you can set the rules by which the world will operate for 100 years. You can set the economic rules, the political rules, tax laws, the legal system, the health care system, the educational structure, and every other system and regulation by which the world will operate.
That would be an extraordinary opportunity! But then the genie tells you that there is a catch. There’s always a catch! The genie says that after setting the rules you will cease to exist as the person you are, and you will be born into this world the very next day, but you won’t know if you will be born in Afghanistan, Italy, the United States, Nepal, Sudan or Venezuela. You won’t know whether you’ll be born male or female, intelligent or dimwitted, well-bodied or infirmed. You could be white, black, brown, tall, short, a pygmy, aborigine, Swede, or any combination of all of the above. Your birth family might be rich or they could be poor, Christian or Hindu or Islamic or atheistic. Your father could be a Bedouin herder in North Africa, a fish thrower in Seattle’s Pike’s Market, or a rickshaw driver in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Your mom may be a teenage single-parent, or not. “Now,” says the genie, “set the rules by which life will be fair for all the peoples of the world no matter the situation into which they are born.”
With the above scenario it takes millisecond to understand the impossibility of engineering the conditions by which every human being born into this world will experience an equal measure of fairness. And while many of us were told by our parents “life is not fair,” this reality hasn’t prevented politicians and parents from promising to “make things fair,” nor has it kept the desire for fairness from the mind of most people. Many people with whom we share Christ have a strong desire for fairness, and when they are made to think about it, they are quite bothered by the impossibility of fairness, indeed the massive imbalance of fairness between the peoples of the world.
Here’s the point: unless there is a God who enables things to come out right in the end – in eternity – the best word to describe the lot of individual human beings is “luck,” good or bad, aka the ovarian lottery. There is no system, nor any network of systems, that can make life fair for everyone.
As in the case of man’s desire for justice, his desire for fairness has no possibility of fulfillment in this world. We are left with the reality that life is about winners and losers, the “survival of the fittest,” some win the lottery, most lose, and, in the end, all will lose the battle to maintain vitality and life. Warren Buffet understands that he won the lottery, but if he believes that death will end his existence, and that there is no afterlife, even Warren Buffet must understand that he will lose everything when the great enemy overtakes him.
As we help others discover Jesus, and the power of His resurrection, and the truth that His resurrection is the proof of our coming resurrection to life eternal, the reality of the ovarian lottery is a helpful topic of discussion. The unfairness of a child born into the squalor of Sudan, or the ever-present conflict of Afghanistan, might evoke some anguished thoughts. But if the plight of the Sudanese seems too distant and abstract, there is the deep pain when one you love loses life’s lottery. Imagine the pain one feels who has no hope of salvation and heaven and eternity with God when their child or spouse loses life’s lottery? Despair is inevitable for unbelievers as they journey through life and experience mounting losses.
The truth is, many simply run from such thoughts and try not to think about them. But it is the opportunity of the evangelist to help people confront the reality that life is not fair, and that there is no possibility of fairness in this world. Believers are privileged to help others discover that only in Jesus is there hope for those for whom life has been unfair. The human desires for justice and fairness, and the relative ease of demonstrating that these desires can find no fulfillment in this world, provides the basis for a spiritual conversation in which the believer can help others discover Jesus.
Who do you know that has lost life’s lottery and is troubled by it? Do you have a friend who has given up hope of overcoming this world? You could help them discover Jesus. No one experienced more unfairness than He, and yet He overcame the world, nor for Himself alone, but for all who put their lives in His hands.