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What the Bible Means When It Talks About Justice


A new video by the Bible project asks a question that has come to the forefront of our cultural consciousness lately: What is justice, exactly, and who gets to define it? True to their mission, the Bible Project looks to Scripture to tackle this tough question.

“This is the bedrock of the Bible’s view of justice: All humans are equal before God and have the right to be treated with dignity and fairness no matter who you are.”

Justice in a fallen world

However, due to the fact that we live in a fallen world, people don’t always live out the principles we see in the Bible. And the stories in the Bible acknowledge this reality. “We are constantly redefining good and evil to our own advantage, at the expense of others,” the video explains.

Perhaps this is why Abraham was chosen by God to “keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.”

But what is righteousness and justice? These words are so important and the concepts they represent so complex, sometimes we don’t fully grasp what they mean. Plus we need to look at these words and their meaning in ancient Hebrew in order to truly understand them. “Righteousness is an ethical standard that refers to right relationships between people. It’s about treating others as the image of God—with the God-given dignity they deserve.” Justice can refer to retributive justice, such as someone paying the price for stealing, but more often it refers to restorative justice. “It means going a step further—actually seeking out vulnerable people who are being taken advantage of and helping them.”

Mentions of Justice in the Bible

The video highlights a few verses that mention justice explicitly:

Proverbs 31:8-9 talks about opening your mouth for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Jeremiah 22:3 “Rescue the disadvantaged, and don’t tolerate oppression or violence against the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow.”

Psalm 146:7-9 “The Lord God upholds justice for the oppressed, and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. He loves the righteous.”

Everyone is guilty of injustice

While God has given us the instructions to do righteousness and justice, we don’t always obey those instructions. Everyone is guilty of injustice on some level or another. Whether it is through explicit acts of oppressing other people or through our complacency—everyone has participated in injustice at some point.

God’s response to our disobedience is the life and example of Jesus Christ. Jesus showed us a radical way of life. He offered mercy and kindness to those who didn’t deserve it. Jesus was truly righteous and showed us how to be righteous. Jesus was the word made flesh, and he lived a life of justice and righteousness as an example for us.

But even though we have the example of Jesus to follow, the work of justice is still very hard. “It’s courageously making other people’s problems my problems,” the narrators explain. “This is what Jesus meant by loving your neighbor as yourself.”

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