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?

Resources

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.

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Identity: Where do you find yours?

Where do you find your identity? That is a great question to ask yourself. If you are like most Americans you probably find your identity in your career, your family, your success, or your possessions, just to name a few things. But these things will fail you.

In Surprised by Oxford, a past professor offers up this crucial advice concerning identity to Carolyn:

What is important is that my identity doesn’t lie primarily in being a professor, or being a wife, or even in being a mother. Those things will always fall short. Entire careers get swept away at a moment’s notice at the presentation of a pink slip, a vote of the elders, an accusation of a student, a cut in the budget. Marriages face infidelities, for instance, and end up like car wrecks from which people can recover but are never again the same. Children grow up and move far away and forget to write or call – as they should.” She smiled wistfully.

The point is, if you have your identity in any of these things, it’s surefire disappointment. Anything man-made – or woman-made, for that matter – will and does fail you. Having my identity in Christ first and foremost gives me the courage – yes, the courage – to live my life boldly, purposefully, in everything I do, no matter what that is.”

I believe her professor is right. Jesus Christ is the only One who will never fail us. Everything else this world has to offer will, but Jesus will be there forever. So why find your identity in anything else?

Questions for Reflection

  • Where do you find your identity?
  • Do you realize that everything else will ultimately fail you? Agree or disagree?
  • Are you willing to commit to finding your identity in Jesus instead of in the world?

Recommended Reading

Resources

Be an Ambassador

Have you ever thought about your purpose in the world? Have you ever thought about what it means to be an ambassador? I am sure many of you have thought about your purpose in the world, but few of you have probably thought about what it means to be an ambassador, let alone if you are an ambassador.

In my last post, What is My Purpose in the World?, I answered the first question by concluding that,

When we image God to others by our actions and our words, we are taking up God’s mission to reach the nations with His gospel. When we take up God’s mission, then and only then are we accomplishing our purpose in God’s story, which means we have found our purpose in this world.

So we know what gives us purpose, namely, imaging God. It is possible for us to image God by reflecting His character and sharing His gospel because we are redeemable.

Why We are Redeemable

We are redeemable because we have been made in God’s image. Since we are made in His image, we are able to understand His actions in Jesus Christ, as well as we are able to understand His Word, which tells us what His actions in Christ mean.

My last statement brings up an important point. Without God’s Word, the Bible, we would not know the importance of Jesus’ actions. God’s Word is then a crucial aspect to our understanding of God’s plan, and it is what we must share with others. As God’s ambassadors, we are to share His Word with our neighbors and the nations.

We are God’s Ambassadors

An ambassador is someone who delivers a message on another’s behalf in their authority. The United States has ambassadors who travel to other countries to conduct business on its behalf. Just like the US has ambassadors, God has ambassadors. Those who are saved by Jesus Christ, who are professing believers, are God’s ambassadors.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 we read:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We who are reconciled by God through Christ are God’s ambassadors. Our job as His ambassadors is to implore (call someone earnestly) to believe in Jesus Christ, so that they will then be reconciled to God and enjoy the salvation we enjoy.

Looking Forward

In my next post, I will discuss our motivation and how we are empowered for this task. For now, let me give you some questions for reflection.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you see God’s Word as crucial for understanding God’s work in the world?
  2. Do you see yourself as God’s ambassador, or do you believe this is left up to the professionals?
  3. What are some ways you can begin acting as God’s ambassador right where you work, play, and live? (Need some ideas? Read: How to Meet the Unchurched.)

Resources

Bill Clem, Disciple: Finding your identity in Jesus, 11-35.

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