In this teaching we want to address “social justice.” Micah 6:8 tells us, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” We see that God wants us to do justice, but is that the same as “social justice” that we hear about today?
First we must ask ourselves, what is justice, specifically Biblical justice? Well, it is what is right and just and good—righteousness. We find our righteousness through Yeshua our Messiah. John 15:5 tells us this: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”
So then, what is social justice? Social Justice is justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. According to Investopedia, historically and in theory, the idea of social justice is that all people should have equal access to wealth, health, well-being, justice, privileges, and opportunity regardless of their legal, political, economic, or other circumstances. In modern practice, social justice revolves around favoring or punishing different groups of the population, regardless of any given individual’s choices or actions, based on value judgements regarding historical events, current conditions, and group relations. In economic terms, this often means redistribution of wealth, income, and economic opportunities from groups whom social justice advocates consider to be oppressors to those whom they consider to be the oppressed.
You may say, well, this all sounds like something a Christian person should be concerned about. Social justice has been around for at least one hundred years, and yet it has become so politicized in the last fifty years. Social justice is often associated with identity politics, socialism, and communism.
All throughout history we see that people were not equal. We see the elite and the poor, or the master and the slave. What social justice does is it divides and separates. There has been slavery since man has gone out to conquer. Not that we condone slavery or justify it, but in God’s economy He made a way for justice even in slavery, even in poverty, but what man has not done is to follow God’s way.
1 Timothy 6:1-2 tells us the difference between God’s way and man’s. “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.” We see that God wants all people to respect one another and serve one another as unto the Lord.
Ephesians 6:9 not only speaks to the slave, but also to the master: “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.” Even though the status of each of these individuals was not equal, God says they were to act as though they were. Yeshua tells us that we shall always have the poor, but our concern should be spending time with Him. As Matthew 26:11 tells us, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.”
But as believers in the God of creation, are we supposed to treat everyone equal?
Psalm 113 tells us that God makes all things equal: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes, with the princes of his people. He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:15 says this about equality: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”
Even in the Body of Yeshua we are to treat everyone with respect and with love, for love is the perfect bond of unity even though not all the parts of the Body are equal. 1 Corinthians 12:15-26 says, “Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” When we do things God’s way we can rejoice in all things.
So what is the problem? Let’s look at the beginning of “social justice” as a good place to start, and it starts with Pope Leo XIII who was well known for his intellectualism and his attempts to define the position of the Catholic Church with regard to modern thinking. In his famous 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum (The Evil of Equality), Pope Leo outlined the rights of workers to a fair wage, safe working conditions, and the formation of trade unions, while affirming the rights of property and free enterprise, opposing both socialism and capitalism. Leo believed if you don’t want the state to run everything, then what are you going to need? You’re going to need people who are able to cooperate and associate among themselves, to solve problems on their own level by themselves. If you want a playground for your children, you’ve got to cooperate with others in the neighborhood to build it. Leo believed in what we call today “networking.”
But Pope Leo XIII did not mean “social justice” to be equality. On the contrary, Leo held that it’s good that there’s an unequal society. Some people are fitted for different kinds of work, and it’s wonderful to be able to find the work that fits your talents. This had been an argument that the founders of the United States used to justify a commercial system: that it provided more opportunities for a wider range of skills than farming life did, so it allowed a much larger range of talents to mature and to develop as people found different niches for themselves.
So Rerum Novarum addresses the evil of equality. Equality is against nature and against the whole range of human gifts. Human gifts make us necessarily unequal in some sense. Social justice actually takes away human sovereignty and freedom because we no longer are who we are, but rather who we want to be or who others want us to be.
Friedrich Hayek wrote a really powerful little book called The Mirage of Social Justice, in which he picked up on the way the term “social justice” was being used in the first half of the 20th century. He said “social justice” had become a synonym for “progressive,” and progressive in practice means socialist or heading toward socialism. Hayek well understood the Catholic lineage of social justice, how the term had first appeared in Catholic thought, until almost 100 years later it became dominant on the secular Left. Hayek noted the Popes had described social justice as a virtue. Now, a virtue is a habit, a set of skills. Imagine a simple set of skills, such as driving a car. The social habit of association and cooperation for attending to public needs is an important, newly learned habit widely practiced, especially in America. Social justice is learning how to form small bands of brothers who are outside the family who, for certain purposes, volunteer to give time and effort to accomplishing something. If there are a lot of kids who aren’t learning how to read, you volunteer for tutoring. Tocqueville wrote, the first law of democracy is the law of association. If you want to free people, for them not to be swallowed up by the state, you have to develop in them the virtue of cooperation and association. It’s not an easy virtue to learn at first, but it soon becomes a vast social phenomenon. And that’s what, in a word, social justice is—a virtue, a habit that people internalize and learn, a capacity. It’s a capacity that has two sides: first, a capacity to organize with others to accomplish particular ends and, second, ends that are extra-familial. They’re for the good of the neighborhood, or the village, or the town, or the state, or the country, or the world. To send money or clothes or to travel to other parts of the world in order to help out—that’s what social justice is: the new order of the ages, Rerum Novarum. If the state has all the responsibilities, it gains all the power, and how do you stop that?
Wikipedia describes social justice like this: “Social privilege is a special, unearned advantage or entitlement, used to one’s own benefit or to the detriment of others. These groups can be advantaged based on social class, age, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion.” Social justice tells us that it is wrong to be what we are and tells us that one group of people have privilege while another group of people does not. It denies God’s sovereignty, for He is the one who created us and determines who our family will be and what our course in life will be. o if social justice has become political, why do we believers follow such practices and even go as far as to protest for this cause?
Today we hear about the Common Good. This term goes back to Aristotle, but the question we must ask is, who determines what is the common good? Well, in today’s society the common good is decided by the state, the government, those who are considered elites, people who can not relate to the poor at all because they are far from poor.
Maybe we do not see it as political but as the “religious” thing to do. But religiosity and God’s Word are not always the same. God’s Word addresses social issues, so as believers we do not need the government to tell us what is the Common Good.
Let’s take a look at God’s economy. Luke 12:27-31 tells us, “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will He clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” God gave us the Ten Commandments and explains them in Exodus 20-23 and all throughout Scripture. They tell us many things about how we are to treat the poor and treat one another, but they never tell us that everyone should have equal wealth or status. Colossians 3:12-14 says this: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” These virtues of godliness never promote equal wealth or status either.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 tells us, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
When we live in a secular world by its secular ways, that is Secular Humanism. We must do things God’s way, for His glory, for we are His children.
But if you want to learn about justice and equality, then you need not look any further than Yeshua. Yeshua, the Son of God, was born into a poor family. He was born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough. He said later in life that foxes have dens and birds have nests but the Son of God has no place to lay His head. An innocent man was crucified by the lies of others. This world is in no way equal. Life is not equal. So why do we try to make it equal? What we need to do is love one another, but not just by forming coalitions or organizations, but one on one.
1 John 3:16-17 tells us, “This is how we know what love is: Yeshua Messiah laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
1 Timothy 5:3-4 says, “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”
And he continues on in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
If we all take care of our families and those we come in contact with, we can accomplish more in the name of the Lord than any community group or government agency. We read this in the book of Acts about the community of believers in Jerusalem. Acts 4:32-37 tells us, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Yeshua. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”
Many people say, “See, even the Apostles lived by Socialism.” This Scripture represents one community of believers, believers who voluntarily gave of their resources. It was not the government, they were believers in the One True God, and this makes the difference as we will soon see. There would come many communities of believers, and not all of them lived like this, though they were willing to help support other believers. As we continue to look at God’s way, we see as believers we are to be content in our circumstances.
1 Timothy 6:6-10 says this: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
We have two basic commands that Yeshua tells us in Mark 12:30-31, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
But Matthew 6:1-4 tells us this, “Beware of practicing your righteousness (justice) before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
James 1:16-17 says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
God wants us to practice His justice in society, which brings about righteousness and godliness, and to do that we must follow His Word. God works through His Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit through us. His ways are not the world’s ways. His wisdom is not the world’s wisdom. His ways bring Him glory and bring peace and unity to us. The world’s way brings hatred and violence and division. God did not call us to conquer the world. Social Justice is a global endeavour to control lives. God’s justice must start with our own family and then our church family and then our neighborhood. If every believer around the world followed this model, then the world would be a better place for us all and the gospel would be preached one person at a time and everyone would know the name of the Lord. Anything else just does not work.