A Christian View of Social Justice

Social Justice is a word we hear often. From discussions with our neighbors at our local coffee house, to the nightly news, to the political arena, social justice seems to be a common topic of discussion and debate. But what is meant by the term social justice? Is it biblical? Should Christians participate in acts of social justice?

Two Predominate Views of Social Justice

(1) Unconstrained view – This view is based on everyone getting their fair share. As we are all aware, every society has a finite amount of resources to go around. This view holds that everyone should have their fair share of those resources. It is unjust to allow some to hold onto a greater portion of those resources. We should, then, do all we can to see that those resources are shared equally.

(2) Constrained view – This view is based on the fair treatment of all peoples, and it is not concerned with everyone having their fair share of the total resources in a given society. In this view, it’s not unjust for people to hold onto wealth. People are entitled to what they have earned. Instead of putting energy into the redistribution of wealth, we should put our energy into seeing that everyone is treated fairly.

Which View is Biblical?

Let’s look at a few verses on social justice from the Bible:

  • Exodus 21:1-11 provides laws regarding the fair treatment of slaves.
  • In Deuteronomy 15:1-18, especially 7-11 and 13-15, rules are given concerning meeting the needs of the poor.
  • Psalms 72:12-15 and Psalm 103:6-7 tells of God redeeming the oppressed and persecuted from their oppressors, working righteousness and justice for them.
  • Proverbs 31:8-9 tells us to judge righteously and to defend the rights of the poor and needy.

By far these are not all the verses in the Bible on social justice, but they give us an idea of which view the Bible is upholding. I believe that is the second view, the Constrained View.

God’s Word does not command us to redistribute our wealth to neighbors, so that we all have equal access to the total resources of the society in which they live. Differing classes and a distribution of wealth does not constitute injustice [1].

A biblical view of Social Justice holds that we are not to show partiality, not to steal, not to swindle others, not to take advantage of the weak because they are uninformed or unable to stop us. 

Rather than saying we need to redistribute our resources, so that we are all on equal footing, the Bible tells us that we are to care for the oppressed and seek to stop others from oppressing them. We are to speak up for those who are being persecuted. We are to work for laws that stand for the fair treatment of all peoples regardless of race or nationality.

Christians are to Work for Social Justice

If we believe part of God’s mission is to redeem the oppressed and persecuted, to make sure the poor are cared for and the helpless are not taken advantage, and if we believe we are a part of that mission, then we are to do the same. Christians are to work for social justice in their cities.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you agree that the constrained view represents the biblical view of social justice?
  2. How does your church care for the needy, oppressed, and persecuted?


Gilbert and DeYoung, What is the Mission of the Church?, 176, 180-183.

[1] I do not believe the churches actions in Acts are meant to be prescriptive. Rather, I see their actions as being descriptive of what took place in that city.


Thoughts on the Bondage of Sin from the Aquarium

Recently, I went to the Fort Worth Zoo. While I was there, I visited the Great Barrier Reef exhibit, where I watched two small sharks swimming in a tank. Supposedly, these sharks are from the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. They were transplanted from their home to an aquarium in Fort Worth Zoo where they spend their days swimming around and around. They are unable to leave their small aquarium, making it almost like a jail cell to them. They are held in bondage, limited by the glass walls the zoo erected in order to showcase them to the public. Most likely, these sharks do not know that they are encapsulated in a watery prison in Forth Worth, which exists thousands of miles away from their true home in Australia

Much like these sharks, those who have not accepted Christ as their Savior are in bondage, but believe they are free. However, no man apart from God is truly free. Instead, they are mastered and enslaved by sin (Rom. 6:14-15). Only by the saving work of Jesus Christ are we made free (Rom. 6:18).

What are we made free from?

We are free from the mastery of Satan and sin over our lives (1 John 5:19; Rom. 6:18). When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, the bondage of sin is broken (Rom. 6:7). We are no longer mastered by sin (Rom. 6:14). Instead, we are free to make our own choices, choices that we could not make apart from Christ’s redeeming work in our heart, leaving us free to work for God’s glory and not our own glory.


If we do not profess Christ as our Savior, then we are in bondage. We may believe ourselves to be free, but we are not. We are actually driven and forced by an unredeemed heart. This means everything we do is tainted by sin.

It is a popular thing right now to send relief efforts to those in need, which is a good and needed charity, but is done for the wrong reason. Meaning we help the tsunami victims in Japan because we ultimately want to promote ourselves.

Another popular bandwagon that people jump on is social justice. Fighting for equality is an important task. However, without a redeemed heart, true equality will never be realized. In actuality, those working for equality will never see those they helped gain freedom as equals. Instead, they will continue to oppress the oppressed in order to glorify themselves.


Because the natural inclination of the human heart is to promote ourselves. And we cannot change that apart from the saving work of the Gospel. Only in the Gospel are we set free from the bondage of a sinful heart.

So then, only those who are truly redeemed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ are able to work and realize true equality without oppressing the people they helped because they are not seeking to glorify themselves; rather, they are working to glorify God.


As you can see, those who do not have a redeemed heart remain in bondage to sin and are not free, even though they believe themselves to be. Instead of freedom, they are enslaved by the Devil.


There is hope. True freedom comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Look to Him as your Savior, trust that He is the only one who can set you free from the grasp of Satan, and you will be free indeed.