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.


Shea Daily said...

Where is the line between helping the poor and enfeebling them further? This is a stumbling block for me. Here is a true story that happened recently:
A woman came into the emergency room, morbidly obese, a smoker. When advised to lose weight and stop smoking to improve her health, she said it was her desire to stay sick enough to never have to work. She mocked the nurse caring for her, saying, "Look who is waiting on whom, and paying for it, too!"
I think by supporting this woman, taxpayers are unwittingly helping her to waste her life and to sin as a result.
Have you thought about this, and what would you say in response?

Sue said...

If we only help people when there is no chance that they will "cheat the system," we will never help.

If we only help those who "deserve" to be helped, we will never help.

As long as we reserve the right to scrutinize and judge those we are helping, we will always help reluctantly and begrudgingly, if at all.

God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. We can do no better.

Jimmy said...

That's fabulously true, Sue. You can give everything you have indiscriminately and be a tremendous blessing.

I would say, though, that no one should have the right - not in law, not in Scripture - to obligate me to do the same. For when you do, your notion of social justice has just become socialism.

Let's not forget that the system "socialism" was birthed out of the precise notions used to construct "social justice" - care and fairness for everyone.

Jesus came to set the "captives free". He came into a culture bound by rules and obligations - and it was suffocating.

It's a personal decision to follow Christ. He made it very clear He wasn't setting up a new government system, yet so many believe setting up a government system is what will accomplish His teachings. Nothing could be further from His truth.

Use what He has given you to take care of the poor. You have no right to demand the same from anyone else anymore than you have the right to demand they accept Jesus as Saviour.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting I really enjoyed reading.

As for the comment that compelling people to care about poverty is socialism, with all due respect, it seems a crazy allegation.Socialist nations do not empower the individual in this way.

Compelling people to act against poverty is encouraging them to return to their humanity and see themselves as more than just a consumer.

I think what is being seen here is both reaction against manipulation (a political tool of parties of all persuasions) and guilt.

Gary said...


I love your heart. Jesus definitely told us to look after widows, orphans, and the poor. Paul also modeled taking offerings for the poor however; those exhortations are to individuals and churches not governments. And none were compelled to give. Taking from one for the benefit of another regardless the motive is socialism.

I have met several Christian social justice advocates who believe socialism (govt. redistribution) is the answer.

The church should look after those in need I just don't believe the words "social" and "justice" go together. Two separate issues.

Thank you for allowing comments.