Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Social Justice vs Biblical Justice Part I

I have struggled with the tenets of social justice for a long time. They sound good and right. We should care for the poor and hungry. I try to wrap my mind around the different approaches to caring for these people. In the end, I must come back to Scripture and consider what God has laid out for us.

Take the story of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10) A priest and a Levite chose to walk past a man who had been robbed, beaten and left to die. They even crossed over and passed on the other side.

When the Samaritan came by, however, he had compassion on him. He bound his wounds, placed him on his own beast, took him to an inn and cared for him. When he departed the next day, he paid the innkeeper, asked him to care for the injured man and promised to repay any additional costs.

Now, consider this: If the Samaritan had embraced “social justice,” he would have acted differently. He might have lobbied the government for aid to the injured. He would have argued that the robbers were the real victims due to an unjust economic system. He would have claimed they were oppressed by the capital class.

To bring justice to the oppressed, this Samaritan would have advocated a redistribution of wealth. He would suggest higher taxes on the rich to fund necessary social programs, thereby making society a more equitable place.

If this Samaritan were a social justice advocate, he would probably not pay this man’s medical bills, but would demand that the community, state or the rich should pay them. He would remind us that this is an example of class struggle where we are all victims of an unjust system. Rather than doing something to help the poor man, he demonstrates as a “voice of the voiceless” and works toward social change.

In the end, this is not so much about helping the wounded man as it is about using him - using him to make a case for wealth redistribution.

Biblical justice, on the other hand, does not have the dismantling of class structure as its primary goal. Evil is condemned, but evil occurs at all levels of society. Leviticus 19:15 tells us “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge you neighbor fairly.”

To quote Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson, “Biblical Justice not only means that nobody is to be picked on because he is poor or favored because he is rich, but that (contrary to the doctrine of social justice) nobody is to be picked on because he is rich or favored because he is poor.”

He goes on to state, “The fundamental error of today’s social justice practitioners is their hostility to economic inequality, per se. Social justice theory fails to distinguish between economic disparities that result from unjust deeds and those that are part of the natural order of things. All Christians oppose unjust deeds…But it isn’t necessarily unjust for some people to be richer than others.”

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