Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:17 ESV)
In the wake of the horrific murder of George Floyd on television, we have seen activists take to the streets in the form of protesting, and the mention of social injustice in a popularized chant, “No Justice, No Peace,” among other avenues.
First, let’s take a look at what social justice means and involves before moving forward in this much-needed discussion. Wikipedia defines social justice as “a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society, as measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges.”
The words “fair” and “just” are key in this definition. The institutions of society that are applicable to social justice often include taxation, social insurance, public health, public school, public services, labor law and regulation of markets to ensure fair distribution of wealth and equal opportunity. However, some religious leaders choose not to mention the peaceful protesting of social injustice in their churches, or they fear ostracism and retaliation if they do. Meanwhile, the Bible speaks of getting involved to correct social injustice in countless scriptures.
When any group in society is oppressed or suffering and is constantly denied the privileges and rights of the institutions that the majority enjoys, it is social injustice. Therefore, it is unfair and will ultimately lead to contention, discord and uprisings, such as what we are seeing now across the globe. A lack of basic human rights, systemic racism, police brutality, a broken criminal justice system, a disparity in funding of public schools, unequal access to healthcare and religious oppression are among the many social injustices that are in dire need of attention in order to ensure freedom, justice, and equality for all citizens in America.
Sin is sin, no matter who commits it; therefore, social injustice is wrong and should not be tolerated because the Word says, “But glory, honour and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.” (Romans 2:10-11 KJV)
Here are some of the Scriptures that are found in the Word, relevant to social injustice. All of them are from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. As you read these verses, study them to see why social injustice is a sin, according to the Word:
Proverbs 31: 8-9 — “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Zechariach 7:9-10 — “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.’”
Micah 6:8 — “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Romans 12:15-18 — “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Matthew 7:12 — “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets.”
I John 3:17-18 — “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Leviticus 19:15 — “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”
Amos 5:24 — “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (This scripture was often quoted by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Further, it is inscribed on the Civil Rights Monument at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., where it memorializes 40 individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of civil rights, including Dr. King.)
Deuteronomy 16:20 — “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Proverbs 14:31 — “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”
Proverbs 29:7 — “A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.”
Mark 11:15-17 — “And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, ‘Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
Luke 12:48 — “But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”
Thus, everyone bears a responsibility to right the wrongs of social injustice. In the wake of the social unrest that is presently going on internationally, I leave you with timely words from Marian Wright Edelman, an American activist for children’s rights from Bennettsville, who is also the founder and president emerita of The Children’s Defense Fund and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom: “You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.”
Have a wonderfully blessed week, stay safe, get involved in righting the wrongs of social injustice, and never leave home without Him!
(Anna Bright is a minister and educator in Walterboro. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)