Christians are to “do justice” (Titus 2:12)–dikaioma. In Micah 6:8 we are told to “do justice, love mercy”. When Job is taking an inventory of his life, he said, “I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist him. The one who was dying blessed me and I made the widow’s heart sing. I put on righteousness as my clothing and justice was my robe and turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy and took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.” (Job 29:12-17) Job is saying that these people are not treated fairly or justly in the social system: the single mother, the lame, blind, and poor, the alien and disadvantaged children. God demands that people without economic or social “clout” not be taken advantage of.
When the scriptural people of God seek redemption, they want something that goes far beyond personal salvation. In their eyes, God’s redemption means justice is coming, the King of all the earth is coming! They want “justice to roll down like waters” (Amos 5:24.) Do contemporary Christians bring the same passion to their hope of redemption as the people in the Bible did? When our earthly kingdoms have a good year, we don’t necessarily long for [justice] to break in. But if you are a slave in Pharoah’s kingdom, or in a Mississippi cotton kingdom “your kingdom come” means “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God’s World, p.103-104.).
What is ‘doing justice?’
According to the Old Testament, God’s justice means to share food, shelter, and other basic resources with those who have fewer of them (Is 58:6-10.) Injustice happens when people are barred from fair wages and therefore from the same goods and opportunities afforded others. (cf. Lev 19:13, Jer 22:13.) In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells of a widow who seeks “justice” from a judge in her legal battle with some more powerful adversary. (The details of the case are not given.) The primary application is that God is a just judge and will ultimately bring about vindication for this people– therefore we should persevere in our faith in him. But it is obvious from the analogy that the “justice” both the human judge (finally begrudgingly gives) and the justice that God will eventually dispense includes meeting their basic material needs. Meeting basic human needs for food, shelter, health, and education then, is thus not simply a matter of “compassion” but also of justice. God is committed to justice and those with a relationship to him will be as well.
Why is meeting basic human needs called not just mercy but justice?
We do not all start out with equal privileges and assets. For example, inner city children, through no fault of their own, may grow up with vastly inferior schooling and with an overall environment extremely detrimental to learning. Conservatives may argue that this is the parents’ fault or the “culture’s” fault while liberals see it as a failure of government and/or the fruit of systemic racism. But no one argues that it is the children’s fault! Of course it is possible for youth born into poverty to break out of it– but it takes many times more fortitude, independence, creativity, and courage to simply go to college and get a job than it does for any child born into a middle class world. In short, some children grow up with about a 200-Atimes better opportunity for academic and economic success than others do. (You can’t ask an illiterate 8 year-old—soon to be an illiterate 17 year-old–to ‘pull himself up by his bootstraps’!) Why does this situation exist? It is part of the deep injustice of our world. The problem is simply an unjust distribution of opportunity and resources.
Why should we do justice?
God tells Israel: “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 19:34) The Israelites had been ‘aliens’ and oppressed slaves in Egypt. They did not have the ability to free themselves–God liberated them by his grace and power. Now they are to treat all people with less power or fewer assets as neighbors, doing love and justice to them. So the basis for ‘doing justice’ is salvation by grace! Christians may disagree about the particular political approach to the problems of injustice. But all Christians must be characterized by 1) their passion for justice, and 2) their personal commitment to ameliorate injustice through personal giving, sacrifice, and generosity.
Source: “The Gospel and the Poor” by Tim Keller