Justice . Faves Honest Bible

Was Social Justice Part of Jesus’ Message? Oh Yes. 4 Scriptures.

What does Jesus say about social justice? I’m not going to argue percentages here. Let’s just see some very clear things he said so we can deliberately choose to believe in him – or not.

These following Bible passages about social justice are really, clearly there – right smack on top of social justice! What DOES Jesus say about justice?

Jesus and social justice.

Matthew 25 – Love in Public, the Door Into Heaven! 1

“What must I do to be saved?” This BLUNTLY connects “being saved” to practice of social concern!!

It’s a judgment scene in which the “righteous” are described by behaviors; so we can see what is actually “righteous” in Jesus’ thinking.  And the list is repeated four times, twice from Jesus’ mouth, once each from “the righteous” and “those on his left.”

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ …
46 “Then they [“those on his left”] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Jesus says “eternal life” depends on this!  And already he desires and looks for such behaviors.  Do we? Or do we in practice minimize and marginalize these priorities?

Social justice truly is “love in public” as Cornel West says somewhere. And love (mostly justice, which is always social) is THE commandment! The Lord emphasized these matters both in his teaching and in his practice.

Luke 20 Social Injustice with a Cloak of Religion. Danger!

46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

What they “like” and “love” are perhaps not obviously wicked except by implication.  But “for a show” is clearly a moral problem, especially when tied to “lengthy prayers” like this.  “These men will be punished most severely” makes clear Jesus’ moral thinking.  Their positives aren’t good.  Their negatives (“devour widows’ houses”) are contemptible.  But I’m sure they were careful to keep everything “legal”!  Yes, Jesus cares about economic – financial behaviors. [See article here on “Greedy Preachers”.]

Matthew 5:6,10  The Beatitudes.  Justice Characterizes People Who are Blessed.

Two of the Beatitudes focus directly on righteousness, which in what we call “Old Testament” Scriptures is largely about justice – how various “neighbors” are treated – not formal religious behaviors.  That also is clearly Jesus’ meaning in Matthew 25 quoted above.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [justice], for they will be filled …
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness [justice], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Wow!

Matthew 5:20  The Danger of Substituting Religion for Justice. 2

20 I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

This paragraph is a powerful, almost stunning  rejection of what we’d call today “Bibliolotry”, legalism, religious pride, hypocrisy, etc. These often replace in practice the justice so near God’s heart. Danger!

Thus, Jesus certainly taught economics, but from the moral side, not the currently faddish market-theory side. It’s not just “a justice flavor”.  It’s very strong, and blunt!

Social justice truly is “love in public” as Cornel West says somewhere. And love (mostly justice) is THE commandment, right up there with love toward God!  (See this post about love for God.) Jesus emphasized these matters both in his teaching and in his practice.

That’s explicit enough for a) inerrantists, etc., and for b) actual listeners to Jesus.

Sadly “evangelicals” tend to ignore social justice and read into their Scripture, then preach, things Jesus DID NOT teach about, like:

  • Homosexuality
  • Abortion
  • Gun rights
  • He did NOT ignore or teach against the concerns or strengths of women nor limit their freedom
    • Insert any of a number or people groups in place of the word “women”.
  • Theories of atonement
  • How to pray for salvation
  • Trinity, how to define God
  • How to be baptized
  • “Eucharist”
  • The Bible
  • The nature of inspiration of Scripture
  • Creeds
  • The virgin birth
  • Patterns of church hierarchy or local church function
  • Worship services
  • The US Constitution

Do we dare love and do what Jesus said, and thus actually believe in him?

After all, “Justice is what love looks like in public” as frequently stated by Cornel West, is very true. Do we love our neighbors as Jesus instructed?[click_to_tweet tweet=”Jesus says, “These men will be punished most severely.” It clarifies Jesus’ moral thinking. Their positives – not good. Their negatives (“devour widows’ houses”) – contemptible.” quote=”Jesus says, “These men will be punished most severely.” It clarifies Jesus’ moral thinking. Their positives – not good. Their negatives (“devour widows’ houses”) – contemptible.”]

See Also:   Justice is What Love Looks Like in Public. Why Resist It? Is It Possible We Hate Loving Our Neighbors?
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1 Some say it’s not persons, but nations, being judged in Mt 25.  Well, we fare no better if that’s the case – probably worse.  But the word means in effect types or groups of people.  It means persons.  If not, this story ends up evacuated of meaning – a common tactic of those who want to avoid Jesus in practice.  How do you send a “nation” one direction or the other without sending persons?  (Also – in this story the judge does not actually send the righteous to “Heaven.”  He invites them into “the Kingdom”. That’s different.)

2 The immediately prior context of this verse (Mt 5:20) seems to be supporting the legalism and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and “Lawyers,” but his conclusion in verse 20 completely demolishes their theological-moral stance. They do not at all understand Moses’ writings, nor do they use them in any appropriate ways.

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