Coat Check

Social justice.  The very words conjure up radical emotions towards the inequality of means.  The response by those guided by such vacuous and subjective words is almost always “We have to do something to make things right, to make things fair.” So off they go in the direction of collectivism and socialism seeking fairness.  To them these sociopolitical ideologies offer fairness and a fairness which must be won at any cost. But as the bumper sticker says, “Social Justice is neither.” And, it certainly is not fair.  If it is anything it is manifested envy, pure and simple.

 The story of Fairness and his brothers Envy, Ungrateful and Solipsism is four thousand years old. It is the story of Joseph being given a coat.

 Recapping the Old Testament story from Genesis:  Jacob and Rachel had a son named Joseph. Joseph was the youngest of Jacob’s eleven sons born in the service of Laban. The twelfth son, Benjamin, was born later in Canaan. Joseph’s father Jacob favored Joseph and gave him a special coat as a gift; as a result, he was envied by his brothers, who saw the special coat as an indication that Joseph would assume family leadership. His brothers’ suspicion grew when Joseph told them of his two dreams (Genesis 37:11) in which all the brothers bowed down to him. The envy of the brothers may also have stemmed from the fact that Joseph was the son of Rachel, Jacob’s first love.

The narrative tells that his brothers plotted against Joseph when he was 17, and would have killed him had not the eldest brother Reuben, who, even though had the most to lose if Joseph ascended to a family leadership role, interposed. He persuaded them instead to throw Joseph into a pit and secretly planned to rescue him later. However, while Reuben was absent, the others planned to sell him to a company of Ismaelite merchants. When the passing Midianites arrived, the brothers dragged Joseph up and sold him to the merchants for 20 pieces of silver. The brothers then dipped Joseph’s coat in goat blood and showed it to their father, saying that Joseph had been torn apart by wild beasts…

Popular social psychology suggests that a father figure should give a fair share to his children in order to not hurt the child’s id or ego or self-esteem, what have you. The same thinking would blame the parent for discriminating with his favor. This thinking would continue to say that Jacob was unfair to Joseph’s brothers and that the family was dysfunctional at best. Popular psychology would not hold Joseph’s brothers accountable for their actions.  Popular psychology would blame the father and the dysfunction around the brothers.

 The brother’s, of course, looked at what they didn’t get from their father and became obsessed with Joseph’s position of favor in their father’s eyes. And though each of them knew the largesse of their father for many more years than the youngest sibling Joseph they didn’t regard this of any value.  Instead they collectively chose to obsess about what they viewed as Joseph’s privileged life. Well, you know where that led – to the slavery of Joseph, the loss of fellowship with their brother and the father’s loss of a son – all for the bottom line of greed and envy, the progenitors of social justice and fairness. Their “self-righteous” ends justified their means.  This is moral relativism. 

 The Bible clearly records the brother’s envy and doesn’t paint it over with popular psychology. Sadly, populist social envy or class warfare with its “picking winners and losers” rhetoric (e.g., in terms of wealth, hedge fund manager-bad, Oprah Winfrey-good) has even infiltrated the church with its social gospel sermons.

 What should have happened:  Joseph’s brothers should have rejoiced with their brother over his recent gift.  They should have been happy for him and congratulated him. Instead, they saw what they didn’t have and became ‘coated’ with envy green. This brings me full circle back to the terms “social justice” and “fairness”. Both of these terms are full of themselves and nothing else except to be further defined as “a loss to someone else”.  “Fairness” in the hands of the envious is a deadly business.  And, wolfish human nature doesn’t change under the sheepskin cloak of wishful altruism.

 BTW:  The Hebrew origin of the name Joseph means “God will add” or “May Yahweh add”.

 *****

 Joseph was later able to feed and house his brothers during a seven-year famine.  You will have to read the rest of the story (basically the second half of the book of Genesis) to find out how God used Joseph in spite of the social engineers who sought to rid their lives of unfairness and a brother with it.

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