The term social justice first came into use in the late 1800s. In a general sense, it refers to the idea that every person, regardless of who they are, should be treated equally by society and given equal opportunity in regards to wealth, activity, and human rights. Over time the concept has transformed and acted as a launching pad for various political and civil rights movements. At times it has been the back drop to groups seeking racial equality under a legal system, and other times it has influenced economic structures such as socialism and communism advocating the redistribution of wealth. Currently, it is the slogan for the social justice warriors with a focus on identity politics. There are many different examples of social justice, so where does the Bible stand?
The Bible has a lot to say about justice and how it impacts society. We know that God is just (Psalm 11:7; 33:5). He has the ultimate authority to judge what is right and wrong and will be the one to carry out judgment on the world (Ecclesiastes 3:17; Hebrews 10:30). He is displeased with wrongdoing and takes action to make things right.
We also know that God sees humans as being of equal worth. God created all humans in His image (Genesis 1:27). Every human has sinned and is equally separated from God apart from Christ (Romans 3:23; 6:23). God offers salvation to all; under the blood of Christ human divisions are irrelevant and believers become one family in Him (Galatians 3:27–29).
Throughout the Bible God chose people not based on their race, gender, or status, but rather because of their faith in Him. Jesus also reached out to people from every walk of life. God desires for everyone to have access to eternal life through Jesus (Galatians 3:28). This is why He made it clear that salvation was not only for the Jews, but the Gentiles also (Romans 2:6–11; Ephesians 2:11–22). Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34–40); James refers to this as the "royal law" (James 2:8). God commanded the Israelites to care for the less fortunate in their society (Deuteronomy 24:17; Micah 6:8). Likewise, believers in Jesus are to care for the poor (Matthew 25:40; James 1:27).
While the Bible supports the idea that all humans are of equal value and that we should care for the needy in our society, it does not support the overall message of social justice. Most forms of social justice advocate the role of the government in enforcing equal opportunity, and equal outcome, through redistribution of wealth and power. The law dictates how people should treat one another and how people should use their wealth purportedly so as to reach economic egalitarianism. There are several problems with this.
To create economic equality, governments tend to take from the rich to give to the poor. There is an underlying belief that the rich have gained their wealth dishonestly. While some wealthy people have amassed money by taking advantage of others, that is not always the case. The Bible speaks against the love of money, but there is nothing inherently evil in wealth. In fact, the Bible gives advice on how to manage money wisely, which can result in increasing wealth. But the Bible is clear that all wealth is ultimately God's. We are to be responsible stewards of the resources with which He has entrusted us. A large part of that stewardship is using finances for godly purposes. However, this is not the same as the government taking money from one to give it to another. Rather, it is an individual submitting his finances to God and using his wealth for godly purposes.
From a practical point of view, redistribution of wealth results in an unsustainable economy. On a smaller scale, we see this in social welfare programs. Welfare can certainly be helpful for some. Unfortunately, it can also make people dependent so that they do not learn how to take care of themselves and move forward. Consider that on a large scale there would be no motivation to work to gain wealth or even to meet basic needs. If the government ensures that everyone will have economic equality, why put in any personal effort? When everyone is dependent on the government, there is a lack of forward progress. Anytime socialism or communism has been attempted on a national scale, it has failed to resolve class distinction. All it does is create a working class / political class distinction instead of a nobility / common man distinction.
The Bible directs its instructions on caring for the poor mostly to individuals. People should help others, but it should be their choice how they want to help. Rather than forced taxation to manufacture equality, helping others should be motivated by love for God and love for others. True justice in society is not relegated to government control, but based on individuals responding to God's design for human relationships.
The biggest issue with the concept of social justice is that the government fueled by the political action of the people will save society. People are deceived if they believe this. Only God can save us. Many social justice warriors say that they deserve these opportunities, and results, and society owes them. This is contrary to the gospel which teaches that we deserve death, but instead because of God's mercy are given the opportunity of eternal life through Jesus Christ. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Jesus did not come with a political agenda to bring equality to people in this world. Instead He came to save us from our sins.
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