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What Is Justice?

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What Is Justice?

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We live in a day and age when there are frequent calls for “social justice.” In recent years, school names have been changed, statues of Civil War generals have been torn down, and Ten Commandment plaques have been removed from courthouses: all in the name of “social justice.” Some schools and businesses have defined dozens of different genders that people can claim, in an attempt to avoid offending anyone.

There have also been historical and noble efforts to end slavery and to fight against racism as well as contemporary efforts against human trafficking that have also been pursued under the label of “social justice.” All of these causes, as well as many others, are dedicated to the attainment of justice in some fashion. But the question that is seldom asked when we find ourselves wrestling with these causes is this: “What is justice?”

Whatever our own personal feelings and opinions about individual causes that are labeled as “social justice,” it is clear that some of these causes are biblical and are addressed in the Scriptures. For example, not allowing people to eat in a restaurant because of the color of their skin is unjust. In the book of Acts, we read where Peter is given a message to preach the gospel to all people, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him’” (Acts 10:34-35 Acts 10:34-35 [34] Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: [35] But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.
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). Here we see the themes connected to justice being righteousness (living right) and obedience. God does not accept people based on the color of their skin or any other physical attribute. He accepts them based on what is right and what is wrong, and He defines those things in the Bible! God looks on the heart.

Biblical justice is universal and requires that we be just and merciful toward everyone, extending the benefit of the doubt and seeking to understand others.

In fact, God points out that not only does He hear the cries of those who have been oppressed, but that we must take care not to mistreat them, “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry” (Exodus 22:21-23 Exodus 22:21-23 [21] You shall neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. [22] You shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. [23] If you afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all to me, I will surely hear their cry;
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).

The Bible speaks a great deal about the subject of justice. As Christians, we should align our views about justice with what the Bible teaches, not with the latest cause in the world around us. Proverbs 21:15 Proverbs 21:15It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
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tells us “It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.” Deuteronomy 16:19 Deuteronomy 16:19You shall not wrest judgment; you shall not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift does blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
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says, “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.” Micah 6:8 Micah 6:8He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
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tells us: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

In all of these scriptures, we see justice connected with righteousness and obedience to God’s laws. We see it connected to refraining from sin, and being merciful to others. Perhaps most notably, we see that it is a universal standard that shows no partiality, either for or against anyone. What we do not find in Scripture is justice based on identity, such as age, sex or ethnic background, as is common in our society today.

So what does this mean for you? To be a just people, we must be just to everyone. For example, if we are just toward the minority, but unjust toward the majority, we are unjust. The opposite is also true. If we are just to women but unjust to men, or vice versa, we are unjust. If we are just to the poor and unjust to the rich, we are unjust. If we are just to the young and unjust to the old, we are unjust. The list of examples could go on and on, but you get the idea. Being just to some and not to others actually makes us unjust people!

Biblical justice is universal and requires that we be just and merciful toward everyone, extending the benefit of the doubt and seeking to understand others. The justice of our society is often partial in nature, unlike God’s justice, which shows no partiality. Behaving in a way that corresponds to the mindset of society can actually lead us to behave unjustly in God’s view.

Instead, we look to the future, seeking a justice that the world has never known, and which can only come about through the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to this Earth. His justice is truly blind—impartial, filled with respect, kindness and fairness to all. Such a justice has never been found in human society but will ultimately be perfected in the Kingdom of God!