I want to share an interesting quote from a WaPo editorial by M. J. Gerson caught my eye: “But the centerpiece commitment of Christian social ethics is not order; it is justice.”
This is totally spot-on, but could use some additional elaboration. “Justice” as it’s generally defined in the Bible comes from a Hebrew word, tzedakah, which is often translated “righteousness” but is better rendered as “justice.” However, if you dig into how the word is actually used, it’s different from the way we typically think of justice, i.e., retribution.
Instead, it’s restorative justice. Making things right. So, for example, giving food to a hungry person is an act of justice. In the OT particularly, “charity” and “justice” have considerable overlap. In fact, both use the same word (which makes for some interesting translation possibilities). We could benefit from thinking about justice in this way.
My two shekels worth…
Quoted with permission. For a good essay, see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzedakah
But think, when you think about “justice” or “charity” and realize that in the Old Testament they are both the same word — what does that do for your perspective on justice? How does it affect your thoughts about justice when you think of it as restoration rather than retribution.
Is that the first thing you think of when you think “justice”?
Gives a new perspective to Alma 11: 44:
Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be arestored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body
- Did this change your perspective on the word “justice?”
- How about on the word “charity?”
- What other words have you encountered that had their meanings change for you as you have studied the scriptures and the gospel?
- Can you have justice without charity?
- When Christ talks about love as the great commandment upon which are hung or built all the law and the prophets, does it make sense that the love and justice he is talking about are forms of restoration and charity (and why Paul would talk of charity as the greatest of all spiritual gifts)?
- Does this affect the way you look at the Old Testament?
- Does this affect the way you look at doctrine?
Images from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.