Life's Not as Fair as We Think It Should Be

Yes, the innocent do perish.

Rendy Novantino


DATA SCIENTISTS WORRY about underfitting, a phenomenon in which a formula predicts outcomes using limited inputs.

As you can imagine, this results in output errors because the underfit model fails to account for a wide enough variety of possibilities.

Underfitting, then, is essentially an oversimplification of a causal relationship based on insufficient data points. One example, spelled out by the AI wizards at DataRobot, is the correlation between sales and advertising:

An underfitted model may suggest that you can always make better sales by spending more on marketing when in fact the model fails to capture a saturation effect (at some point, sales will flatten out no matter how much more you spend on marketing).

So while it's generally true that spending more money on advertising will yield increased sales, at some point marketers will see diminishing returns on investment. The underfit model might suggest a straight line when, in reality, the model should look something more like a logarithmic function, curving upwards until flattening out at a certain point.

In a similar way we see Eliphaz, in the fourth chapter of Job, underfitting one of his proverbs; he attempts to derive a universal truth from a generally true axiom.

Eliphaz asks Job, "Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?" (Job 4:7).

Eliphaz's use of the word remember seems to indicate he was referencing some sort of common knowledge or aphorism that both he and Job had been exposed to.

The innocent don't perish, do they?

Yes. Yes they do.

That Eliphaz had to have known at least one "innocent" person who died means he didn't intend perish to mean death. So what did he mean?

Perish here comes from the Hebrew word transliterated as âbad. Âbad can mean to die, but it also can signify "to go to ruin or to be ruined"[1] as in its first sequential appearance in the Bible[2] in Exodus 10:7:

Then Pharaoh's servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?”

The seventh plague, the plague of hail, destroyed everything left in the fieldman, beast, and plantsuch that when Moses threatened the eighth plague, Pharaoh's servants pleaded with their leader to give in because Egypt was ruined (âbad).

So what Eliphaz is really suggesting here is that upstanding citizens would never see ruin the way Job saw ruin.

Many of us, I think, share this same sentiment today. It's why the Eastern concept of karma has permeated the lexicon of the West. Karma is a sort of cosmic re-balancer, ensuring that fairness always plays out for upright and the unkind alike.

In reality, though, life simply isn't as fair as we think it should be.

So when upright people like Job see âbad, we try to make that data fit our karmic modelassuming the person isn't "innocent"rather than adjusting the model to incorporate the reality of the data.

Because of entropy, original sin, and just plain randomness, the innocent do perish. All the time.

Jesus did.

But examining only the effects of this world would be to fail to consider all of the data. On the other side of death remains a promise of eternal life in which one will never perish. Jesus said it best to Martha after the death of Lazarus, her brother. He said:

"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." 
John 11:25-26

Lazarus was a good guy by all accounts. Martha struggled with the unfairness of his death.

In response Jesus taught that those who believe in him will never perish. Then he brought back Lazarus from the dead as proof of his mastery over the grave.

There's no way Eliphaz could have known about the events that would unfold in 1st century Jerusalem, therefore his view of justice was myopic. Because if there's no justice on earth, what kind of existence do we occupy?

What kind of God could allow a Job to suffer if, indeed, he was innocent?

But when we incorporate eternity into our data, we gain a more complete picture. We see that despite our fallen world, God reigns supreme. And he is always fair even when our primitive models seem to indicate otherwise.

And if you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in my curated, chronological Old Testament reading plan with notes. I've combed through the first portion of the Bible and selected the most critical chapters for your perusal, wrapped up in a 90-day reading plan.

Whether you've read through the OT before or always get stuck at Leviticus, this guide will help you gain a deeper understanding of God's word as a whole.

The guide is free if you want it. It will only cost you your email address, but you can unsubscribe from the list at any time with one click. Just enter your email address below, and I'll send the reading guide your way.



1. James Strong, "âbad," in Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 1.
2. As opposed to chronological, since chronologically, Job likely would appear before Exodus.
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  1. One of my favourite sayings is, “that’s not fair”. But I really do know that life isn’t fair, but it is ok if you have God in it.

  2. And thank you for pointing out the Hebrew meaning of perish. I love it when people do that as it often Makes more sense of the verse.

    1. You're welcome! Sometimes we don't always have equivocal words in English, so some context helps clarify the translators decisions.

  3. Awesome article as usual Andrew! Working for the government 35 years I had a lawyer tell me I didn't have to treat everyone the same, just treat them fairly! Like if someone takes off every Monday on unscheduled leave and another guy takes one Monday off in 20 years...

    1. Great perspective!

      I'm just thankful God offers forgiveness to us when we don't deserve it, otherwise I would be doomed.