Demanding God’s Mercy as a Right
The concept of “social justice” has its origins in socialism. Fairness or equity in society is believed to require a fundamental equality of outcome: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The achievement of this more just outcome requires the compulsion of the state to redistribute forcibly, through a progressive taxation system, taking from some to bestow upon others. In doing so the state necessarily claims the right to suspend the eighth and the tenth commandments.
When Christians buy-in to this non-Christian worldly ideology they often do so because they think it is a means of complying with the biblical injunction to take care of the poor and the needy. They could not be more mistaken.
Actually, when Christians are sucked into the “social justice” ends and means they are effectively giving up their responsibilities to their neighbours and delegating them to a pagan state. They are deciding that the poor belong to the realm of Caesar, not the Christ.
But there is a deeper evil at work. It is hinted at in the use of the word “justice” with respect to the poor and needy. Justice has to do with one’s rights and getting what one deserves. In criminal justice, this means appropriate punishment (or not) depending upon guilt or innocence in committing a crime. In civil justice, it means (largely) receiving the rights and rewards of contractual obligations, whether explicit or implicit via the general equity of common law.
In the case of welfare, “justice” means that poorer people get the property and support to which they are entitled or to which they are due. This means that “social justice” teaches that the poor have an implicit and overriding property right in the possessions of others.
In the Scriptures, and the Kingdom there is a sharp disjunction drawn between justice and charity (grace). Salvation is a matter of grace and divine love, not a right. If God treated us as we deserve–that is, justly–we would all be condemned. The law of God, codifying the justice of God, condemns us at every point–not because the law is so high or unreasonable, but because we are wicked from conception. But God shows mercy and sets His love upon us. His salvation is a matter of being a free gift, not a just reward. These concepts are at the heart, and reflect the essence, of the Gospel.
Care for the poor and providing for them is an expression of charity not justice in the Scriptural world-view. It is an expression of love of our neighbour. But when Christians forget this and begin to promulgate compassion for the poor and helping provide for them as a matter of justice not love, they implicitly disbelieve the Gospel itself. If taking care of the poor is required because of the demands of justice, then the blessings and good gifts of God must be due to human rights and receiving just deserts. This implicit denial of the Gospel leads the next generation of Christians into explicitly denying the Gospel itself: salvation becomes a matter of receiving what one deserves in the first place.
Whilst this may not appear to have a logical necessity, it certainly has a spiritual one. Churches and denominations at the forefront of the social Gospel in the early twentieth century within a generation were openly denying the Gospel itself, along with the divinity of the Saviour, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the life to come. We believe there is a reason for this development. The idea of social justice in social and political ethics eventually transferred to the Christian Gospel.
If God’s love can be demanded as a right by the poor, so it can be demanded as a right by the sinner. The next generation will “make” it so–to their own eternal destruction.