The whole topic of social justice from a Christian perspective has always interested me. As a boy growing up in Chile, South America, I lived in a comfortable home with plenty of food. Our home was happy and we lacked nothing. As missionaries we were by no means affluent, but in comparison to many in that time we had more opportunity to live a better lifestyle. My parents were excellent stewards of what God gave them as they lived by faith and were always eager to share with anybody who had a need. I am grateful for their example. As I became aware of my surroundings of our life in Chile, I began to see that some of our friends had more than us and others that we knew had less than we had. We often would be invited to visit and share a meal in a home where the floor was made of dirt and food was scarce. As I became older and had the opportunity to visit various countries in the developing world, the awareness became more acute and left me at times with more questions than answers. 


A heartbreaking experience took place for me on the island nation of the Dominican Republic. Far from the beautiful resorts lie fishing villages, small hamlets and communities where many eke out a living on what they can in their surrounding area. As I served with a Christian mission organization, I often met people who wanted to share their story. On one occasion, I had been visiting with some people and on the way back to our base I met up with a little boy who wanted me to see his home. As we walked into a small hut made of straw and mud and a dirt floor we awoke a little girl lying on the floor who I understood was his sister. I asked "Where are your parents?" The response was eye opening. The Mother had died and the father was not there; it is unclear whether he was working or just out. Night had fallen as this young boy was caring for his little sister. He did not ask for anything and had a proud look on his face as he showed me where he lived. It was a poor rustic home. I have never forgotten that home or those faces. The next day we were able to bring items that would make their lives more comfortable, but really, it was a pittance to all they really needed. 


The simple question often asked is....why? Why is there inequity? Why do some have and others don’t? The answers are varied. Bad choices, greed and mismanagement to name a few. Often though, it's the innocent and the young who are born into poverty who suffer the most. That form of social injustice is truly hard to take. The bible is clear in how we should approach this. A verse found in Micah 6:8 says 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.” There is no doubt whatsoever about the clear Biblical injunctions that impose a social responsibility upon the Christian, and especially a concern for the poor and underprivileged. In James 2:14-16 it says “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed" but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” Also in 1 John 3:17 it says “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” These verses do not, however, require us to follow every person, organization, or body of opinion that claims to be promoting social justice. Not only has God clearly imposed social concern upon us in the Scriptures, but in them He has also given us guidelines to direct us.


What, then, is social justice in Biblical terms? "Justice" and "righteousness" are part of a way of life which God expects of us as His people (see Ps. 11:7; 1 John 3:7). This stems from the kind of character which we possess, and is in turn the reflection of what God Himself is and how He acts (1 John 3:7). Social justice is essentially the outworking of this way of life in our relationships with others. It is thus not an option that we may accept or avoid at our choice; it is a necessary part of our practical Christian living.  


To be continued in Part 2


By: David Jones