Social Justice in the Old Testament

Social Justice has become a hot topic in the media recently. A quick online search will produce a myriad of definitions; which are based on one’s view of politics, religion, and philosophy.The current main stream interpretation of social justice is a forced redistribution of wealth, similar to socialist and communist programs.

Social justice is however, discussed very clearly in the Bible. Chapter 58 of the book of Isaiah refers to it as part of true religion and love for God: “I tell you what it really means to worship the Lord. Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly. Free those who are abused! Share your food with everyone who is hungry; share your home with the poor and homeless. Give clothes to those in need; don’t turn away your relatives” (v 6-7). Chapter 59 clearly condemns social injustice: “All you think about is sin; you leave ruin and destruction wherever you go. You don’t know how to live in peace or to bear with others. The roads you make are crooked; your followers cannot find peace” (v 7b-8).

There are over 2,100 verses of Scripture dealing with poverty and justice. The Lord God loves the poor and He blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. Caring for the poor and needy are conditions of our blessings. Isaiah chapter 58 verses 9-14 gives a list of “if…then” statements from the Lord, making clear the types of religious practices that are pleasing to Him and worthy of His blessing.

If the church, the body of Christ, is obedient to do what Scripture teaches about caring for the poor and needy, then there will not be a need for government agencies and other humanitarian agencies (good as they may be) to care for them. God calls us to humble ourselves and “share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house…” (Isa 58:5, 7). In his commentary on the book of Isaiah, John Calvin states that “uprightness and righteousness are divided into two parts; first, that we should injure nobody; and secondly, that we should bestow our wealth and abundance on the poor and needy. And these two ought to be joined together….”¹

It is clear from Scripture that social justice is not about a forced redistribution of wealth. It is about loving God and your neighbor as yourself. It is about living as citizens of the Kingdom of God,surrendered to the lordship of Christ, with a passion to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

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¹ John Calvin, Commentary On The Book of The Prophet Isaiah, vol. 8
(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 233.

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About Bárbara

I am a Christ follower, wife, mother, missionary, and Online Instructor for LU Online teaching Introduction to Missions. My family and I serve at Living Bread Ministries; planting churches among the desperately poor in South America. I have an MA in Intercultural Studies from LBTS. My passion is to see the Lord Jesus worshiped among the poor and needy and to see lives transformed by the power of the Gospel.
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One Response to Social Justice in the Old Testament

  1. You did a great job on this post. You have clearly communicated the concept of Biblical justice. You are right in that it is most certainly not an issue of forced redistribution of wealth. However, this was a voluntary aspect of justice in the early church and it seems to be on some level what Paul was advocating in 2nd Corinthians 8. The key is that it flows from a heart that has been grasped by the grace of God resulting in one who walks humbly before God, fulfilling the 2 great commandments, for the glory of Christ and the good of His Kingdom.

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