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WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT JUSTICE?

It is quite fascinating to listen to the rhetoric coming from the ministers related to the South African Council of Churches. They are always exhorting us concerning a just, democratic, peaceful South Africa expressive of true Christianity. However, only now are they beginning to openly tell what they mean by this "justice". An interviewer recently asked the Archbishop of Cape Town point blank whether or not he was a Marxist. He answered, "No, but I think I would use Marxist insights: 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.' That, I think, is in line with what Our Lord... would have taught" (Inside South Africa, 4/88, p. 11).

As we shall see, the underlying concept of justice which he and others use is absolutely hostile to Biblical Christianity. It is amazing to me that these men do not seem to have compared their socialist-Marxist sources with the justice of God as described in the Law of God and upheld in the Gospel. This is Biblical "social analysis." It is critical to developing an essentially Christian definition of justice.

The First Concepts in the Understanding of Biblical Justice
The first step, then, in understanding and exercising true justice is to see evil as God sees it. He hates evil (Ps. 5:4-6). Next, one must realize that there is then a mutual antagonism between the sons of God and the sons of wickedness: "An unjust man is abominable to the righteous. He who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked" (Prov. 29:27; Gal. 4:29). Those who are filled with His character, love justice, hate sin and evil men (Ps. 11:5, cf. 5:5-6; 26:5; 31:6; 97:10; 119:53, 158; 139:21), and pray for their downfall yet at the same time seek their salvation (Ps. 10:12-18, Ps. 96; Matt. 5:43-48; Lk. 6:35). There is no contradiction. "The execution of justice is a joy to the righteous but a terror to the wicked" (Prov. 21:15). "Evil men simply do not understand justice" (Prov. 28:5)!

Absolutely foundational, then, to our whole discussion is this very basic observation. Since man is hostile to God's justice, God not man must define justice. We find this definition in the Scriptures, more specifically, in the Law of God (i.e. the Ten Commandments and their applications to the social, political, and economic systems in the so-called "Civil Law"). It is, then, very important to energetically hold to this point. Governments have always tried to pass "statute" law to get around the precepts of God and His common law. Any government is judged by God when it violates His law and needs no mandate from the "people" to exercise godly justice. God, not the "people," rules and makes law!

Justice and Love: Are They Opposite?
Now, contrary to some, justice is not the opposite of love. Love rejoices when truth and justice prevails (1 Cor. 13:6). In other words, justice and love can be reconciled - in the cross of Christ (Rom. 3:17-31)! There, all the requirements of God's just Law were fulfilled so that He could cry: "It is finished." His perfect obedience to God's law in life and death made Him the only just man ever to live on the earth. All other men find their justice in His righteousness (Rom. 5:16-19; 2 Cor. 5:21). Justice and love, then, are supplementary attributes of God's nature. If they were opposites, God would not be perfect! The opposite of justice is evil!

Therefore, Christians must live in and proclaim both justice and compassion for the genuinely poor and helpless oppressed. This is especially true of those oppressed by massive taxation, State and bank created inflation, and those State manipulations and regulations that violate God's Law. However, compassion is not contradictory to exercising the penalties of God's Law such as whipping - as cruel as it may seem, the payment of restitution, and death penalty. These are certainly much more compassionate - and healing - than rotting in a de-humanizing prison for two to twenty years! God is kinder and wiser than man. Justice is not a sentimental emotion but goodness according to an absolute standard (Mic. 3:9; Ps. 19).

Therefore the New Testament does not invalidate the Old Testament concept of justice as defined by the Law of God. The New Covenant writes that just Law on the heart (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10-11). It upholds God's Law and gives man the desire and ability through Christ's indwelling presence to practise and apply it (Matt. 5:17-20f; Rom. 3:21-26, 31; 7:12f; 8:4; 13:8-10; Phil. 2:12-13, 4:13; Heb. 13:20-21). New Testament justice is not lawless!

Biblical Justice Described
With this background, I wish to examine the various facets of God-ordained justice. It involves "fairness" or "equity," that is "freedom from bias or favouritism." The Scriptures repeat this many times (cf. Ex. 23:7; Prov. 17:15, 18:5). Justice is not swayed, or blinded by any form of "bribery" whether it is a gift of money or of a lucrative government pension (cf. Ex. 23:8; Mic. 3:11; 7:3; Is. 5:23). Justice gives no legal favour nor disadvantage to the rich or to the poor (Lev. 19:15). There is to be one law and legal system for all without reference to social class, citizenship/alien status, or gender (Ex. 22:21, 22, 27; 23:3, 9; Lev. 20:33). However, God's Law, as well as traditional Western law, recognizes legal discrimination between male and female, citizen and alien, minors and adults in certain carefully defined areas.

Biblical justice, thus, is clearly not equalitarian. To exercise justice means treating everyone fairly, without bias, not making everyone equal. Justice thus involves retribution, punishment for crime, not redistribution of wealth. A person gets what is due for his actions whether a reward or a punishment. Justice cannot mean that everyone will be forced to be absolutely equal whether in finances or gender.

To force all to be equal would involve a violation of the principle of just retribution. Some deserve a reward, others deserve punishment (Matt. 25:28-29). The cause of a person's need for punishment is not society or "capitalism," but rebellion against God's law. Financial success per se, thus, is not a ground for punishment if it is the result of righteous actions and attitudes. To redistribute wealth by taxation and inflation, then, is simply a form of oppression!

Basic to justice in the law courts is retribution - to reward the good and punish the evil (Rom. 13:2-5; Jms. 3:11-12; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). Anything more or less than retribution always is injustice. A government must not punish - nor reward - without a fair hearing in a court of law (i.e. innocence until proven guilty). It is an abomination to "justify the wicked or to condemn the innocent" (Ex. 23:1-7; Prov. 17:15, 18:5). To release hardened, convicted revolutionaries is abominable to God!

Justice in the Bible assumes that good and evil are irreconcilable and hostile opposites. Justice wars against injustice with the "sword" (Rom. 13:2f). Whereas our leftist priests make much of their obedience to God, their definition of justice belies their charade of true righteousness. Much of their "persecution" is just. They are suffering as social "revolutionists" who envision an equalitarian, Humanist State. It matters little whether one plants car bombs to burn Pretoria or whether one preaches the violent "nonviolence" of sanctions. The end result is a "New Jerusalem" that has no resemblance to that which comes in the book of Revelation!

Economic or Social Justice: Varying Views
View one:
equal opportunity. However, God sovereignly gives each person differing initial opportunities. He places each in a different social class and in a different geographical location on the earth. Thus opportunities are not equal by God's design. View two: equality of income for all persons with the same need. The advocates of this violate such just God-given commands as that forbidding the debasement of the currency leading to inflation [a form of theft], and forbidding legal judgments against the rich just because they are rich. This takes the form of a progressive income tax whereby the "exploitive" are taxed at a greater percentage than the "oppressed." View three: one equal standard of justice for all and an equal requirement for all to be diligent and faithful with the opportunities God has given (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Matt. 25:23-30). True life does not consist in our possessions, thus no-one should be envious of the opportunities and prosperity of others who have been blessed with greater opportunity or ability or wealth (Ps. 37, 73; Lk. 12:13-34).

Clearly the third view alone is Christian. The end result of this faithfulness- faith, hard work in that faith, generosity, contentment, and righteous character is more real prosperity and well-being than that of those who have greater opportunity but smaller faithfulness. The leftist proponents of what is falsely called "christian social justice," malign this as the Calvinist Work Ethic. It is not original to Calvinism! It is Christian Biblical justice. This can be illustrated by many Proverbs (cf. Prov. 28:19, 20, 22; Prov. 23:21, 22:7; Prov. 28:27, 21:25; cf. Ps. 37:21-22, 23-26)

This leftist "christian social justice" system leads to the centralization of wealth into the hands of the wicked humanist. "Christian socialist] justice" is the same system which the ancient prophets preached against. It was the system which drives the face of the poor and the farmer into the red, dry dust. Though the names have changed, and the packaging is made more attractive and subtle, God's perspective has always remained the same. He hates it and wishes to destroy it.

Justice and the Function of Government
Retributive and protective justice is the only God-ordained government function (Ps. 2; 1 Sam. 8-12; Dan. 4:17-27; Rom. 13:3-4; 1 Pet. 2:13). The government is to "strike" the lawbreakers and God-rebellious "on the jaw, to break the teeth of the wicked and snatch the innocent prey from their teeth" (cf. Ps. 3:7, Job 29:17). Thus the civil government is especially enjoined to protect those classes of people who are "helpless," such as the truly needy, orphans, widows and the alien (cf. Job 29:12-15; 31:16-22, 32; Is. 29:17f; 35:3f; 42:4, 7; 61:lf; Matt. 25:31f; Jms. 2:1-9, 5:1- 6). This is to be active and not an apathetic spectatorship (Prov. 24:11-12).

Therefore the function of government is not job creation, nor pensions, nor ownership of any industry except that which is absolutely essential for justice. All that is the function of the citizens as individuals in voluntary economic association, or as families. Even local churches have certain responsibilities. When a State usurps these functions, it arrogantly oversteps its God-ordained bounds. Instead of being a servant of God and of the citizens (Rom. 13:1-4; Matt. 20:25-28; Dan. 4:27), it becomes a paternalistic substitute Family and "Church," providing a substitute salvation. A just government, then, is strictly limited to police and defence force, foreign affairs, the court system, and parliament - a body applying God's Law, not making new law. God alone can make law (Is. 33:22; Jms. 4:12). Instead, a just Parliament should study the Law of God and apply its principles to modern situations.

Conclusion
Keeping God's true, divine justice in mind, it is certain that our government - as do all governments of the earth - falls short. Every government is responsible before the Court of Heaven to exercise true justice. Every state must of necessity be Christian. If it is not, then it falls under God's necessary and inevitable judgment. Thus those who are citizens must exercise their ballot box responsibility to ensure that godly and Christian men are put in the seats of government, men who will obey and apply God's justice not their own. Every citizen, then, must be diligent to preserve or transform his country along the lines of justice. Escape from responsibility is a treasonable offence (Matt. 24:45-51; 25:14-30) for those who have been given the great Dominion Mandate to disciple all the people's, and to rule the earth by "following all that He commanded us" (Gen. 1:26-28; 12:3; Ps. 8:6- 8; Ps. 22:27; Dan. 7:14-18; Matt. 28:18-20).

Mark Kreitzer, April 1988.

Gospel Defence League
P. O. Box 587 Sea Point 8060
Cape Town South Africa
Tel/Fax: 021-510-6854



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