Earlier this week Fox News TV host Glenn Beck made some comments about social justice, where he told christians to “run as fast as you can” from their church if it promoted “social justice”. I know that for many, “social justice” is perceived as a code word for liberal theology, or socialist politics. But the Bible actually has much to say about both the Church’s and the government’s role and responsibility on justice in all its forms, including social and economic (I’d rather just call it justice and avoid the baggage we bring to the concept). Consider the old testament city of Sodom. Much is said about Sodom and her sexual sins, but here is what the prophet Ezekiel had to say:

 “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Ezekiel 16:49

Interesting. Not a word from this major prophet about her sexual sins, but instead he names the city’s pride, gluttony, indifference, and apathy and contempt toward the poor and needy as the “sin of Sodom”. And the prophet Daniel, speaking to the government leader of his day, had this to say:

“Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you:break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.” Daniel 4:27

And Jesus:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Matthew 25:35

The truth is, you can’t read the scriptures, First or Second Testaments, without confronting the government’s mandate to show (and execute) justice, and the Church’s call to show mercy and justice. But when we try to gauge the government’s role, how much and what degree of involvement in our lives, things get a little more complicated. Thus the need for theologically sound and biblical teaching from Christian leaders, and not opinions from television hosts and radio pundits. I understand what Beck is after, what he’s trying to do in shedding light on political agendas. We can’t correct injustices by unjustly stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, though I welcome the government’s role in ensuring that the rich do not become so by exploiting others: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people” (Isaiah 10:1, 2). Government has a role to play in regulating and preventing this.  And Jesus himself says that, “A laborer is worthy of his wages”, including the wealthy (and is there a discernible difference between a minimum wage, a just wage, and a living wage?). God is concerned about such things, and scripture attests to it. Nevertheless, more nuanced and biblically informed teaching on the subject of justice; social, economic, or otherwise, is needed if we christians are to think and act “Christ-like” and honor God’s call to “Do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8 

If you care to read more on the subject, check out the post at Out of Ur entitled: How Not to Talk about Justice: http://www.outofur.com/archives/2010/03/how_not_to_talk.html.