Tuesday, January 29, 2008

100th Post! "And Justice for All"

This is the 100th time I've signed-in to this account to speak my mind, highlight news items, ponder the Bible, or comment on movies, books and music.

To celebrate, I will highlight a fine chapter in Toward an Evangelical Public Policy titled "Justice, Human Rights and Government." Ron Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action and author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, edited the book along with Diane Knippers and wrote the 30-page chapter under consideration.

Sider argues persuasively through logic and scripture that Christians must be concerned with four types of justice, which he summarizes in this way (p. 165):

Commutative justice "requires fairness in agreements and exchanges between private parties." Weights and measures should be the same for everyone. Contracts should be kept.

Retributive justice defines what is due to persons when they have done wrong. It defines what is appropriate punishment for someone who has broken the law.

Procedural justice defines the procedures and processes that must be fair if justice is to prevail. Procedural justice requires a transparent legal framework, unbiased courts, the rule of law, freedom of speech, assembly and the vote, honest elections, and so on.

Distributive justice refers to how the numerous goods of society are divided. What is a just division of money, health care, educational opportunities--in short, all the goods and services in society?

Sider addressed these issues by analyzing the words justice and righteousness throughout the Bible. Because he believes Christians tend to support a more-or-less biblical attitude toward the first three categories (which is debateable), Sider spends more time discussing the biblical imperative to distribute the means of survival equitably and justly. Specifically, he presents teachings on land/capital ownership, debt forgiveness, the sabbatical year and generosity. This discussion alone makes the book worth picking up at the library or local bookstore.

The final section of the chapter looks at the role of government regarding the four areas of justice described above. It is a worthwhile study but not the focus of this blog.

Here is a sampling of verses Sider references:
  • Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:3-4)
  • He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. (Proverbs 14:31)
  • 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. (Micah 6:8)
  • "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:40)
  • He defended the cause of the poor and needy.... Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 22:16)
  • Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. (Isaiah 10:1-2)
  • I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. (Psalm 140:12)

Plus Micah 2:2, Amos 5:11-12, James 5:1-6, Amos 2:7, Luke 16:19-31, Ezekiel 45:9, Isaiah 5:8-9. And many, many more...

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