Sunday, March 21, 2010

Social Justice is not Socialism

Recently I was surprised to learn that the concept of social justice has been under attack. Several talk show hosts seem to be equating social justice with socialism and have warned Christians not to align themselves with anyone who is advocating for social justice.

While the words sound the same, they are actually quite opposite. Under socialism, all earnings from labor are given to the government and people are given just enough food and clothing to live in the worst conditions. I have never met a Christian social justice advocate who thinks socialism is the answer. Instead, we are guided by Scripture to acknowledge that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1) and we are to be stewards who care for the poor through loving generosity, not obligation. (2 Corinthians 9:6-10)

Justice is, in fact, a concept that is core to the message of the gospel. Jesus announced in Luke 4:18-19 that he was anointed to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne”, declared the Psalmist in Psalm 89:14 and Micah wrote, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

King Josiah discovered the lost scripture in the temple and hearing it read led him to repentance. Later Jeremiah wrote of Josiah, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy so that all went well. ‘Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 22:16)

While I can understand the concern that big government might actually increase poverty, I can not back down from the call of God to defend the cause of the poor. Social justice is not socialism. It is what it means to know God.

Micah 6:8 Conference from Conversations Next on Vimeo.