Christians regard the Bible as a uniquely important source for human life on matters of belief and practice. For human beings to live a life that is meaningful and dignified, they have to be in a just and fair society that looks up to the need of others. For this to happen justice has to be emphasized, it has to be the driving force.
In the Bible, God clearly imposed social concern upon his people especially the poor and the marginalized. In Bible, numerous passages such as; in 1 John 3: 17 and James 3:14-17 draw people’s attention towards social concern and social justice.
DEFINITION OF SOCIAL JUSTICE.
Defining social justice, Dr Paul Kengor said, “Historically, social justice has meant different things to different people, and so equally todayaˆ¦”(Online). This statement actually means that social justice is a just a branch of justice that accommodates all forms of justice, it being restorative justice, economic justice distributive justice, rectificatory justice and so forth. We can in this paper therefore, say that biblical justice entirely consists of social justice because there are many chapters like Matthew 18:23-35 it talks about penal fairness that needs punishment by the book but lacks mercy is not the kind of justice desired by God. Also in Matt 20:1-16: the summary on social justice is an economy of care for the common good through social sustainability, healing, and transformation.
Marshall in his book said, “There is huge amount data to deal with. There are hundreds of texts in the Old and New Testament, which speaks explicitly about justice, and hundreds more, which refer to it implicitly. Justice is in fact one of the most frequently recurring to topics in the Bible” (2005:3). What actually Marshall means here is that, Biblical justice covers all aspects of life in terms of justice such as the personal and the social, the public and the private, the political and religious, the human and nonhuman.
But on the other hand, such remarks may mean that biblical justice does not consist entirely of social justice, but also independent justices such as political justice and many others. Marshall said, “Justice entails the appropriate distribution of social benefits and penalties and contending parties”(2005:6). Still more despite such analysis, social justice in biblical justice concept, remain inclusive of other justices because, the product of each justice is a social concern to the need.
OLD TESTAMENT CONCEPTS OF JUSTICE
Marshall in his book wrote, “Often in Hebrew Bible, ‘righteousness’ (sedeqah) and ‘Justice’ (mishpat) occur as a word pair with virtually identical meaning: But let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like an overflowing stream (Amos 5:24)”(2005:12. So this statement means that righteousness in the Bible incorporates the idea of doing justice and doing justice conveys the idea of putting right what has gone wrong.
Social justice of the Old Testament indeed was concerned with giving according to need thought it worked antagonistically; to the other it was really social justice and to another a different justice. For example, the deliverance of Israel by God from slavery in Egypt, it was a justice on social concern to them by God; but it was under a covenant. Marshall said, “Biblical justice is therefore covenant justice. It is the practical outworking of Israel’s special relationship with God” (2005:15). We can say, that indeed God did well for the Israelites out of the obedience to the law He gave them through Moses at Mount Sinai. The Law actually reviews what needed for Israel to live in peace, to experience what the God intended for human society, and all was done out of the covenant which was made.
In this justice, Israel had seen God intervene in their liberation from the oppression of slavery, to lead her safely through the wilderness and to constitute her as a free independent people. This became Israel’s own experience that God was a God of justice, Isaiah 30:8. God’s justice towards the covenant people was a call the Israelites to act towards one another I the way God had acted towards them, with justice, mercy and equity.
It is also recorded in some chapters like in Leviticus 19: 15 “You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justiceyou shall judge your neighbour”. It is aslo written on social justice in the Old Testament that, “You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take the widow’s garment in pledge. Remenber that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this”, Deuteronomy 24:17-18. This has actually pointed to Marshall’s description of God’s justice for covenant, through biblical justice which leds to social justice and further with the concerns with giving according to need.
Sometime, Biblical justice points at social justice with no concern to giving according to need. Marshall said, “justice requires impartiality; at other time partiality”(2005:38). In Exodus 23:3, “nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit”. As for Marshall, he poits to this kind of justice in accord to what he called criminal justice. Actually, we can support his point with the biblical justice on social justice in Exodus 22:21-24. God warns the Egyptians with His wrath in favour of the resident aliens, widows and orphans.
In other instances, Marshall said, “God’s bias or ‘preferential option’ for the por is, ultimately, in the interest of equity. In the perennial struggle for social Justice” (2005:41). This statement from Marshall actually talks about distributive justice that considers fair dealing between men. This is also a biblical justice of God’s ‘bias’ according to Marshall, can be seen through God’s historic intervention to rescue powerless impoverished Israel fro the hands of the Pharoahs in Egypt, and feed them in wilderness. This is God’s justice which is purely social justice which was give according to the neen of Israel at that particular time.
The other God’s justice which is in nature of social justice that is concerned with the giving according need is actually in Deuteronomy 24:19-2. This justice provides specific welfare and protection for the por and vulnerable. It is inform of law which guarantees access to food. They are given justice according to the need for survival. This is purely a social justice for social concern in biblical justice.
OLD TESTAMENT CONCEPT OF JUSTICE.
In the New Testament, biblical justice is not different from that of the Old Testament because the words that are used for justice remain the same, like righteousness but differs only that most of them are teaching by Jesus Christ. Jesus in part of this bible portrays biblical justice consisting social justice by barely giving according to the need. Marshall wrote, “At the outset of His ministry, Jesus deliberately evoked this messianic expectation by defining His own mission in terms of bringing justice to the poor” (2005:50). Indeed this is what Jesus had started to do, Isaiah 61:1. “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken -hearted, and to proclaim liberty to the captives release to the prisoners”. For Jesus to accomplish this he rejected social discrimination, he promoted social justice and gave it according to the need.
To the rich man who wanted to know he was to do to enter the kingdom of god, Jesus to him to sell all that he had and share the money with the poor. This is another biblical justice from our Lord Jesus Christ, as sign for social justice, which he had promoted.
To fight social discrimination, Jesus openly criticized the self-righteous arrogance of the religious experts and knowingly antagonized them by enjoying intimate fellowship with sinners and outcasts. For example in Matthew 9:13 when He said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” and also in Luke 5:27-23, a story of how He met Levi the tax collector and how the Pharisees and Scribes complained about it. Therefore, social justice of Jesus who is characterized by giving according to need viewed in Levi’s story, Jesus also assessed a new community, which was inclusive, and the poor were to be given preferential option.
Indeed, both Old and New Testament provide Biblical justice which is entirely consist of social justice that is concerned only with the giving according to the need because it is a complex multifaceted reality. It relates to every dimension of human experience. Biblical justice to its social justice seeks to restore dignity to those who have been unjustly deprived of, to meet their basic needs.
Jesus proclaimed of the Kingdom of God as a social justice. That is, proper use of wealthy and not excluding the weak and the vulnerable from participation in national matters.