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Hi my name is Dean Smith and this is Podcast #2, does the Bible speak of ‘social justice’?
A few years back during a testimony time at the church my wife and I were attending a woman went to the front and said that the church needed to start fighting for social justice. There was a spattering of applause, because it sounded so spiritual.
But the question I am asking in this podcast is it Biblical? “Social justice” is a favourite term of those on the political left, and recently I have seen the phrase starting to creep into Evangelical Churches. So what is social justice?
The Oxford Dictionary defines the concept this way:
Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. “individuality gives way to the struggle for social justice”
There are two parts to this definition: First “Social justice” involves a redistribution of wealth.
Now there is nothing wrong with people having equal opportunities. But for many of those promoting social justice, they are not demanding equal opportunity, they are instead demanding equal outcome.
There a big difference between equal opportunity and equal outcome.
A few years back I was talking to a friend whose husband had an important job at a water treatment plant. He was educated in the sciences and his job was keeping the water safe. He was talking to a union representative at the plant who said the union’s goal was to have a janitor working at the plant earning the same pay as this scientist responsible for keeping the water safe.
The union rep wanted the janitor to have the same outcome or pay as the scientist.
Now the janitor had the same opportunity, he could have spent years in university getting the training to do the job, but he didn’t and here was a radical union representative demanding a janitor have the same outcome, without putting in the same investment in training and education.
But there was a second part to the Oxford definition of social justice that we need to look at as well. That last line reads:
“individuality gives way to the struggle for social justice.”
This means the rights of the group or collective is more important than the rights of an individual.
A person’s individual rights are are set aside in favor of the collective. So if a person’s opinion disagrees with those who control the collective, they are punished, even persecuted. This is nothing more than cultural Marxism pervading our society similar to the political Marxism found in the old Soviet Union or today in Modern China that has recently taken a hard left turn towards Marxism.
We also recently saw an example of this taking place in Canada. The Federal government has a summer student program where they provide financial assistance so business and organizations can provide jobs to students over the summer. Many religious groups use the program to provide funding for camps and vacation Bible programs.
However this year, the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau added a check box that anybody applying for a grant needed to check. That check box said that they support Trudeau’s position on “woman’s rights and woman’s reproductive rights.”
This is code for abortion.
This meant that before a company or group could even apply for a grant they must indicate 100% support of abortion. The grant had nothing to do with abortion. It was a summer student program.
The Trudeau government was trying to control how people think and was not only trying to get people to betray their conscience but punish those who wouldn’t. This is an example of cultural Marxism where everyone has to think the same way in order to receive these benefits and unfortunately it seems to be spilling over into the political realm.
Fortunately Canada is a democracy and can boot out the government, but until that happens individual freedoms and beliefs are punished.
Next I want to take a closer look at the phrase “Social justice,” it is made up of an adjective “social” and the noun “justice.” By definition an adjective is added to a noun to either “modify or describe it.”
Since one of the intents of an adjective is to “modify” or change a noun, it can literally be used to redefine a word. So when you add the adjective “social” to “justice,” you no longer have pure justice, but some form of bizarre hybrid.
Now social justice is applied in many areas, but one of the major thrusts is in the area of money.
In a nutshell “social justice” is an attempt by those primarily on the left to redistribute wealth — taking money from those they perceive to be rich and giving it to the poor. It is a blatant attempt to favor the poor.
So what does the Bible say about this type of social justice?
The Bible speaks often of justice, but nowhere does it speak of “social” justice. Provided a person has gained their money lawfully, the Bible does not have a problem with wealth. It exhorts the rich to be generous to the poor, not under compulsion, but willingly.
The Bible is also very clear that we are not to show favoritism to the rich. There is a natural tendency in human nature to favor the rich and famous, perhaps hoping that some of their wealth will spill on us. James addressed this issue when he criticized churches that gave special seating to the wealthy, while the poor were told to sit on the floor. James say:
2 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” (James 2:1-3 NASV)
James was condemning this practice that was going on in some churches, because God does not show favoritism and neither should the church (Romans 2:11). But curiously, the Bible says that in addition to not favoring the rich, we should not to favor the poor. A verse in Leviticus reads:
15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15 NASV)
This verse was specifically referring to court cases, because It is easy to feel sorry for poor people and make judgements in their favor, even if they are not deserving, because the other person is so rich he wouldn’t miss a few bucks. But in doing so you are actually perverting justice.
In fact, the verse describes favoring the poor in such disputes as injustice.
The left have a curious theory that money will solve everything.
There is a story in the gospels that provides an interesting perspective on this. Jesus was visiting a home and a woman came into the house and began to pour expensive perfume over Christ’s head.
In the story found in the Gospel of Matthew, Judas indignantly stated the perfume could have been sold and given to the poor (Matthew 26:6-13). Even though it was her money, Judas was openly criticizing the woman’s right to do what she wanted with her wealth.
In Judas’s mind the rights of the poor overruled the individual freedoms of this woman.
Jesus asked why Judas was bothering or trying to make this woman feel guilty suggesting she had obviously heard his condemning comment.
But Christ didn’t stop there, He then makes this controversial statement that “the poor will always be with us.”
Was Christ suggesting we will always have an unjust society where the rich take advantage of the poor as Marxists’ claim or was He referring to something else?
Now it is true that some people have a tough lot in life and given a hand up they could turn their life around and be successful. But many times their poverty has nothing to do with a lack of money but rather irresponsible lifestyle choices, a lack of motivation, drug and alcohol addiction, immaturity.
The list is endless.
And no matter how much money these people receive, they will end up back in poverty and I suspect this is what Jesus was referring to.
For evidence you only have to look at the list of multi-million dollar lottery winners who are bankrupt within a few years of winning their prize. In his article entitled From Rags to Riches to Rags Again: 21 Lottery Winners Who Lost Everything Joseph Brean cited a few of these cases of people who were set for life, but ended up broke. This included:
- A 19-year-old English man won the equivalent US$14.4 million in 2002 and by 2012 he was living off unemployment benefits.
- Or an American woman who won a lottery worth $18 million in 1993. She declared bankruptcy in 2001. Reports suggest she was spending $300,000 a year on gambling.
An article in the National Post, a major Canadian daily newspaper, told the story of a Canadian man who won $5 million through a winning lottery ticket in 2006. Spending $20,000 a week, within three years he had spent nearly half the money and by 2016 he was broke and heading to jail for trafficking in crack.
In his article, Brean explains why this happened. He writes:
“One view, held by Richard Tunney, a professor of psychology at the University of Nottingham, is that the people who go wild and squander their jackpots are basically the sort who would have behaved irresponsibly anyway, whether rich or poor.”
These people are lifestyle poor and no matter how much money you give them, nothing changes.
Now there are also examples of people who won millions and actually bettered their lives, but oddly they are in the minority. Some estimates suggest that within seven years nearly 70% of the major lottery winners are broke.
Now it is true that the Bible encourages people to be generous to the poor especially the widows, single parents/fatherless and the elderly. God is concerned about those who are unable to help themselves.
But for the rest in his letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul says that if a man refuses to work, don’t let him eat. In other words, Paul was attaching charity to a person’s willingness to work and make their own way (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
This is exactly what a car dealership in Brighton, Michigan did when they noticed a panhandler outside their dealership. Instead of giving the man money, they offered him a full-time work at the dealership.
When the man turned down the job, the dealership put up their own sign telling people to give their money to others because he didn’t want to work. Many times money is not the answer to people’s problems and “social justice” is not “justice.”
- From Rags to Riches to Rags Again: 21 Lottery Winners Who Lost Everything:
- ‘Lottery curse’ claims another victim with Ontario man broke and in jail after $5M win: National Post