[From the archives.]
I love William Goldman’s The Princess Bride.* Most people who know the story know it from the movie. And many of them can toss off lines from it at the drop of a hat:
“As you wish … .”
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
“Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”
“Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world, except for a nice MLT – mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe.”
And everyone’s favorite:
“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangement, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, twue wuv, will fowow you fowevah …”
Life’s not Fair
The point of the movie is pretty clear: true love wins as Wesley rescues Buttercup from the evil prince. But the book has a different point entirely. Goldman doesn’t sugar-coat it and he doesn’t try to hide it behind sappy sentimentality:
“This book says ‘life isn’t fair’ and I’m telling you, one and all, you better believe it.”
“I’m not trying to make this a downer, understand. I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn’t fair.”
Goldman makes sure that by the time you’re done with the book, you’ll be clear on the concept. It’s still funny and witty and adventurous and full of true love and in fact I like the book much better than the movie – which is hard to imagine, since I think the movie is genius – but Goldman drives the point home: life’s not fair.
I’ve come to learn that’s a good thing.
Fairness is Overrated
“The beauty of grace is that it makes life unfair.”
(Relient K, Be My Escape)
Anyone with half a lick of self-awareness knows they’re not perfect. It’s a fact known around the world: we all make mistakes. The Bible says as much too.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23.)
“Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Psalm 143:2.)
“All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:3.)
What is there to cheer about? If life is fair, we are all going to have to answer for our sins. Here, then, is the good part – the Bible doesn’t say as much. Instead, it says things like:
“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10.)
“All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24.)
“We were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:3-5.)
God’s grace makes life unfair; it also makes it better.
That’s not fair! Yay!
Most of us have a healthy sense of justice. At least I know I do, especially when I am the one being wronged. It might be something relatively minor like a friend inadvertently standing me up for a lunch date (it’s happened occasionally), or something more significant like someone trying to take my job away from me and get it for himself (that one happened too, a few years back). Some people also get conscience-stricken when they realize they’ve been the one meting out the injustice; I know I am to blame for many injustices to people in my life, and rightly deserve punishment for it.
But when it comes to our eternal state, whether it will be one where God serves out justice and punishment as deserved or not, here’s a conversation I can imagine happening:
“You’re not being fair!”
“You’re right, I’m not.”
“In fact, you’re being unfair!”
“You’re right, I am.”
“How can I thank you?!”
How do I know this? Because the Bible is clear and unequivocal when it assures us that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1.) I belong to Christ, and because I do I know that I will not face judgment for my sins. It may not be fair, but I’ll take it.
Fairness is overrated anyway.
*Here’s another post I wrote about The Princess Bride, for fans who can’t get enough.