Recently Kevin DeYoung completed an intermittent series on the topic of social justice. It’s both an important topic and, currently, a hot topic–and for good reason. Every Christian should care about justice and mercy and helping those in need. However, the primary purpose of DeYoung’s series wasn’t to advocate social justice (which he considers an “ambiguous phrase”); rather it was to clarify the biblical meaning of the term and try to at least begin to clear up some of the misunderstanding surrounding it.
In a post that appears to be the precursor to this series, DeYoung DeFines (sorry, I couldn’t resist) social justice. He argues (using Thomas Sowell’s categories of constrained and unconstrained justice) for a constrained vision of social justice:
In the constrained vision…justice is a process where people are treated fairly… The goal here is not forced redistribution; no one distributed the resources in the first place and no one is wise enough to allocate them for the good of everyone. Justice, in this vision, is upheld through the rule of law, a fair court system, and equitable treatment of all persons regardless of natural diversity. This doesn’t mean that in the constrained vision we shouldn’t care for the poor or that we simply shrug our shoulders and say “oh well” when we see people struggling through life with far fewer opportunities and resources than the rest of us. The Christian must be generous and should care about suffering and the disadvantaged. But in the constrained vision, this care is a matter of compassion, charity, and love, not automatically an issue of justice.
DeYoung makes it clear there that nothing he says relieves anyone of the responsibility to care for the poor. In fact, I would say something is drastically wrong in the heart of any professed Christian who doesn’t help those in need:
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 John 3:17)
So with that background, DeYoung examines seven different passages that often figure into a biblical discussion of social justice:
It’s a thought-provoking series dealing with what is in reality a complex issue. It’s a good starting point for an important conversation, but keep in mind that it’s only a starting point. A lot more needs to be said. Careful thinking is called for. When all is said and done, though, my hope is that no one would use the discussion as a way to hide from the clear call for sacrificial giving and radical discipleship.
EDIT: I missed this earlier, but Kevin has a tremendous, well-balanced wrap up of the series here.
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- How much like Jesus are we?
- The Dissuasiveness of Jesus
- The Promise No One Claims
- Paying the Price