Opinion: Social Justice is Not the Same as Biblical Justice
Scripture leaves no room for interpretation that God is a just ruler and desires equality for all humanity. Psalm 11:7 states, “For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.”
As image bearers of the Righteous One, humanity is also hardwired to value justice and fairness. When we are wronged, or when we see examples of injustice, we feel strong emotions of anger, frustration and confusion. We have a craving to see ourselves and others treated fairly and to see society function to ensure that justice is afforded to all, and that is good.
However, because of our sinful nature, our definition and conception of justice is skewed. Furthermore, American culture propagates a version of societal fairness called “social justice,” adding to the confusion of justice we experience. On the surface, it appears that social justice lines up with biblical justice, because the goal of social justice is to ensure that oppressed groups are freed from oppression and that their needs are met.
While this appears to agree with the biblical meaning of justice, a closer examination of the terms will show they are starkly different.
The Bible defines justice in two main ways. The first carries a tone of retribution in which someone who commits sin or wrongdoing is punished for their deeds. The second definition (and the focus for this article) is a “restorative justice, in which those who are unrightfully hurt or wronged are restored and given back what was taken from them.”
It focuses on restoring to individuals what has been unfairly taken from them and helps them as they rise out of their bondage. If an orphan has no family, then biblical justice would seek to give that child a home. If someone was robbed, the focus would be on restoring that individual’s specific needs. This justice does not care about ethnicity, racial background or status in life: if you have a need and seek help, if you are in need of justice, God will provide it.
Our ultimate example of justice is found in the life and person of Jesus, who healed the sick, defended the weak and ultimately paid the price for our sins and freed us from our oppression of sin and death. He turned no one away and showed God’s love to all who would draw near.
Social justice, however, takes a route that directly contrasts the meaning of biblical justice.
The core value of social justice is to redistribute “resources and advantages to the disadvantaged to achieve social and economic equality” for all. But for this to happen, it requires the identification of those who have advantages and resources with those who do not.
This is the first problem with social justice. It pits people groups against each other and instills jealousy in those deemed “oppressed” of those who are “oppressors.” It creates a victim mentality in the oppressed and forces them to look to blame others (oftentimes unjustly) for their plight. While biblical justice unites and uplifts people, social justice tears down certain groups and creates division.
The second problem with social justice is that it surrenders more power to the government, since it appears to be the only one powerful enough to correct these systematic inequalities. Voddie Baucham said that social justice seeks to find out who is to blame for unequal outcomes (academically, economically, politically) and then “there needs to be a redistribution of power and resources in order to address those issues.”
In America, politicians earn votes and approval by catering to the needs of specific groups in order to “lift them out of oppression” particularly minority groups such as Black individuals, women, LGBTQ members, etc. They identify ways in which these groups are “oppressed” and if they are given more control, they can free disadvantaged groups from their chains.
This is communism at its finest: the redistribution of wealth so that all equally share resources. But as Soviet Russia, Fidel Castro-led Cuba and modern-day Venezuela show us, this type of thinking and government only bring destruction and chaos. However, people who don’t have a biblical sense of justice will look for an anti-biblical solution to the problem of injustice, which always leads to problems.
Our world is full of injustice and always will be until Christ comes and restores his kingdom where he rules in justice. Until then, we are commanded to “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with (our) God” (Micah 6:8). But as we walk through life and seek to reflect God’s justice, we must do so in accordance with God’s will, not the destructive ideology of social justice.
John Simmons is the Web Manager. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSimmonsJr7.