Here is a link to part 1, in case you haven’t read it yet.
Have you heard? Glenn Beck has warned you to run away from a church that teaches “social justice.” So, I want to be upfront with you, and to let you know that I, as a preacher, can’t help but teach social justice. Jesus made serving the needy and oppressed a priority in His ministry, God berated the Israelites over and over again for not pursuing justice for the poor, and Christians today must focus on serving others, especially those in physical distress.
But, to be fair to Mr. Beck, I don’t think he intended to use the term in such a broad manner. In some follow-up discussion, after his comments comparing the idea of “social justice” to Nazism and communism received a huge Christian backlash, Beck explained that what he means by “social justice” is the idea that a church should make it their goal to bring about redistribution of wealth and other charitable ideas by the use of political power and the government. Here is a portion of what he said:
“The concept is that Christians should not merely give to the poor but also work to correct unjust conditions that keep people poor.” Yes! You’re exactly right. We should as Christians do that. But then there’s that added little step of having the government do it, not you.
So, it seems Beck was not taking issue primarily with social justice as the Bible describes it (i.e., helping the poor, freeing the captive, etc.), but he was concerned about churches trying to carry out those mandates through the political system. And, as much as it pains me to say this…I have to agree with Mr. Beck.
If we learn anything from Jesus’ ministry, we learn that it is God’s will for me to help the poor and those in distress. It is God’s will for me to spend time with sinners and outcasts. It is God’s will that the Church bring about social justice, and that we not pass that role on to the government. As a fellow Christian and friend aptly pointed out in a recent email discussion, when the government steps in to provide assistance to the poor (e.g.- welfare, unemployment, health care reform bill, etc.), we Christians tend to step back thinking the situation is being handled, and there is no need for our assistance. But, that is not Biblical social justice. That is not Biblical health care reform.
Here is what real health care reform and social justice would look like:
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all (KJV says, “all men”), as any had need.
The early Christians understood “social justice.” They willingly gave up everything for those in need. They did not claim any possessions as their own, but shared freely. And although we have shining examples of sacrifice and wonderfully generous givers in the Church today, we are still a long way off from the giving culture of the first Christians and of Jesus Himself.
But, we don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves. We have let the government take on what is our responsibility–and not because we failed to vote or stand up politically, but simply because we have not returned to the sacrificial community that characterized the first century Church. I believe we need to do all that we can to nurture that culture, and bring that kind of fellowship back to the Church again. True social justice is the Church helping people. True social justice is me helping you.