Every parent has heard this complaint in one form or another: “His piece of cake is bigger than mine! It's not fair!” Children have a built-in injustice radar device. They know when something's not right.

In the sports world, unfairness is blatant. The steroid cheaters stain their achievements, damage their sport and disrespect their competitors. Whatever their level—amateur, professional or Olympian—some athletes are ready to sacrifice their integrity for a chance to win.

But there's a far more devastating unfairness at work in the world causing millions to suffer. Children who go to bed hungry. Mothers who give birth to HIV-positive babies. Families whose children die of preventable diseases. People trapped in poverty and vulnerable to exploitation.

What's unfair is this: we don't get to choose where we are born. We simply arrive somewhere, and not all countries are created equal. Some have abundant natural resources and access to clean water, while others lack good land and pray for rain. Some governments create economic opportunities, while others stifle initiatives.

There are “bread countries” and “cake countries.”

The Salvation Army - Salvationist.ca - It's Not Fair! - bread Photo: © iStock.com/Eerik

Bread countries are marked by few choices and limited opportunities. Education—especially for girls—is not a right. Safe water may require a trek that takes most of the day. Health care is meagre; the average spent is less than $20 per person per year. Unless you are connected to the ruling class, employment opportunities depend on self-created initiatives. The idea of a “social safety net” is not part of your vocabulary. You may not have the freedom to choose where you worship. And if you are born poor, with few exceptions, you live and die poor. Tragically, people in bread countries are often robbed of living productive lives.

Cake countries are marked by abundant choices and opportunities. Going to school is the law. You turn on a tap to access safe water and flip a switch for electricity. Health care is easily accessible; the average spent can exceed $3,500 per person per year. Government programs subsidize vocational training. If you are laid off from your job, you qualify for unemployment benefits. Not everyone is employed or employable, but welfare is available. Freedom to worship where and when you want—or not at all—is a given. If you are born at the bottom of the economic scale in cake countries, there are still opportunities to climb the ladder.

It's no wonder people look at disparity in the world and conclude, “It's not fair.” So what's the point?

Seeking justice for others is part of the Christian way. We can't close our eyes to those living in unfair circumstances.

A proper perspective on justice is not inherited, it is acquired. We need to become informed, ponder the complexities, name injustices, think and pray beyond self-interest, advocate for the marginalized, give strategically, collaborate with the like-minded and love our neighbours as ourselves.

At The Salvation Army's International Social Justice Commission, we think about these things and what we can do about them. What do you think Christians should be doing to address inequality?

Dr. James Read and Dr. Don Posterski work for the International Social Justice Commission, The Salvation Army's strategic voice to advocate for human dignity and social justice with the world's poor and oppressed. Visit salvationarmy.org/isjc for more information. Their new book, When Justice Is the Measure, is available at store.salvationarmy.ca, 416-422-6100, orderdesk@can.salvationarmy.org. For an e-book, visit amazon.ca.

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