How many of you remember Robin William’s voice as the Genie in Disney’s animation movie ‘Aladdin? That animation movie was a winner and Robin William stole the show! William’s agreed to do the voice at a cut-rate of $75,000 because he wanted to leave something for his kids and grandkids. Usually he would have been paid millions for his efforts, but his paternal instincts ruled the day and he signed the contract for a fraction of what he would typically charge.
Then the unexpected happened. It was a blockbuster hit, sales rocketed and it made over 500 million! Everyone was shocked, including Williams. In the following weeks, Williams and his agent cried foul. During interviews, William’s explained it was not the money he was angry about, but the perceived unfairness. Notice Williams did not complain till Aladdin became a blockbuster hit, then it was all unfair. 1 Matthew 20:13-15
Chris Voss, a retired high-level negotiator for the FBI, says the most powerful word in Negotiations is ‘fair.’ If you time the ‘fair’ bomb accurately and wisely, it is impressive how it can change the directions of conversations.
Disney pointed out to Robin Williams that he signed the contract and really should not be complaining. Not only was it perfectly legal, but fair. Nevertheless, in an effort to keep William’s happy, they sent him a Picasso painting worth around $1 million. 1
In the last few years I have heard, “That’s not fair!” more times than I can count. More often than not, it comes from one of my 5th-grade boys who have an overgrown competitive gene. We might be playing a game in class or out on the field, and I will adjust to the sides to balance the teams. One boy, in particular, I will call him George, (names have been changed to protect the innocent), would always complain if my attempt to balance the teams was not in his favor. After patiently listening to his grievances, I would, without explanation, begin to adjust the teams further. He was a very bright young man, and after just a couple of adjustments, he recognized the pattern, that his complaints made matters worse. In a few short weeks when I would ask if the teams were ‘fair’ inevitability, I would hear, “They are perfect Mr. Glazier! Don’t change a thing!”
Where do we get the idea of fairness? What about life is supposed to be fair? Is it fair that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes makes $45 million per season 2 and army captains start out at $53,000 a year? 3 Is it fair that the average major league baseball player makes over 4 million a year 4 and the average cal fire firefighter makes $74,000 a year? 5
Is life fair? Not even close. Ecclesiastes 9:11
When we have discussions about Morality and ethics, we often imply things ‘ought’ to be a certain way. And when they’re not, we are all quick to cry foul and point out the unfairness to anyone who will listen.
As much as some might like to think ‘fairness’ is a courtesy of the evolutionary process, it can’t be true. There is nothing fair in the survival of the fittest with the ultimate aim of human flourishing.
Rules come from those in authority, and one of the objectives of rules is to place things in a certain order so reality will operate in a particular fashion. The evolutionary processes don’t care about justice, truth, honor, or equity. Evolution can’t and never will put obligations on our behavior towards others. If anything, evolution tells us to put ourselves before others, be first in line for the goods, and never-ever stand in harm’s way for another. Luke 21:1-4
Christian apologist Frank Turek points out, “Morality and biology are in different categories. You can’t explain an immaterial moral law by a material biological process. Justice is not made of molecules. Furthermore, moral laws are prescriptive and come from authoritative personal agents. Biological processes are descriptive and have no authority to tell you what to do. How could a mutating genetic code have the moral authority to tell you how you ‘ought’ to behave?” 6
One of the illusions of the modern world and culture is, we are in control. Students have become even more susceptible to this belief as technology has been placed at their fingertips. Why bother asking mom or dad when they can just Google it or ask Siri? They have answers to just about anything they can ask. “…kids are tempted to confuse information with knowledge and completely forgo the pursuit of wisdom… having all the answers at their fingertips teaches students that teachers aren’t necessary. Gray hair used to indicate wisdom. Now it identifies someone who is out of touch.” 7
Just Google “where does fairness come from,” and all the top selections will fall under the categories of social justice, evolution, environment, psychology, and economics. Not one will attribute the sense of fairness to God, but rather learned evolutionary behavior or some form of biological advantage. Yet, every one of those counterexamples fails. They don’t realize that without a personal agent, (an authority that guides us in how things ought to be) fairness is simply determined by the desires of who controls the Genie in the bottle. Acts 20:35 Proverbs 17:15
That’s Not Fair by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
- Voss, Chris. “Bend Their Reality.” Never Split The Difference, Penguin Random House, 2016, pgs 122-123
- Haislop, Tadd. “The NFL’s highest-paid players in 2020, from Patrick Mahomes to Jalen Ramsey” Sporting News, sportingnews.com, 9 Sept. 2020, https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/nfl-highest-paid-players-2020-patrick-mahomes/s2560yib2yvwzjdlsfy10ox2
- “United States Army -0-3 Captain.” FederalPay, federalpay.org, N.D., https://www.federalpay.org/military/army/captain
- AP News. “Average MLB salary at $4.17 million, down 4.8% from 2019.” ESPN.com, ESPN, 16 April, 2021, https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/31270164/average-mlb-salary-417-million-48-2019
- Sokanu. “Firefighter salary in California.” Career Explorer, careerexplorer.com, N.D. https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/firefighter/salary/california/
- Turek, Frank. “Morality.” Stealing From God, NavPress, 2014, pgs 100-101
- Stonestreet, John. Kunkle, Brett. “Being Alone Together.” A Practical Guide To Culture, David C Cook, 2017, pgs 124-125