What is Social Justice?
Many pundits, especially on
the left, teach that social justice is equality. This understanding is
problematic since it seeks a leveling of individuals and groups. The term
"leveling" means people have the same income, the same size houses, etc.
The idea is to make the lives of people in the society conform to one
another. At the same time it raises unrealizable expectations and
completely removes incentive. In reality, while all people are of equal
value before God, they are given different callings, gifts and abilities.
Some are called to accrue wealth to be used for God's Kingdom. Some
are employees and some are called to be employers.
Political correctness is an abusive manifestation of this perspective. In
part, this is why, in the Western world we can no longer make (or are
sometimes no longer allowed to make) good distinctions. Men and women have
to be more and more equal in their roles and their lifestyles. Marriage
between two persons of the same gender must be seen as equivalent to a
marriage between one man and one woman.
My concept of justice is rooted in Scripture, not in these false ideas of
equality. I believe that a comprehensive reading of the Bible yields the
following definition of social justice or a just social order. A just
social order is one where every individual and every group is able to
pursue and fulfill their God intended destiny. A society is unjust to the
extent that individuals or groups are prevented or precluded from
fulfilling their unique destiny. By destiny, I am referring to a
person's freedom to pursue their life direction under the leading of
the Holy Spirit. Oppression is limiting a person's choices to use
their gifts, abilities and sense of calling before God. Of course that
destiny should be worked out with a passion to serve the Kingdom of God.
Though possible, most people do not have a single destiny or role for a
Since the French Revolution, modern societies have advanced the false
notion of justice as "leveling" equality. This view restricts people, and
destroys freedom, opportunity and initiative. People have different
callings. Some are called to be inventors; some to be engineers, artists
or congregation leaders; some to be journalists, educators or farmers.
Some are called to be employers and some to be employees. Some are able to
make great sums of money and provide for others through business and
enterprise. We could go on and on.
The Bible provides us with an ideal of a just social order where three
things are necessary. One is that crime is punished and righteousness is
rewarded. Just courts are crucial for this. The basic Law of God must be
established in society. Secondly, everyone who is able to work should find
employment, and society should foster conditions where all can be provided
for through honest labor. A basic provision of food, clothing and shelter
for those who can work should be the result of such honest employment.
Those who are genuinely not able to work should have a means of support as
well, but this does not necessarily imply central government programs (that
is another discussion). The scriptural picture of a just social order is
one of prosperity where each one can "sit under their own vine and fig
tree." This means that adequate shelter, clothing, food and a means of
provision - including their own labor - is a necessary part of a just
social order. Not everyone is destined to be rich, but all should have
adequate provision. The biblical prophecies of the future Kingdom describe
such an order. Thirdly, the disparity or accumulation of excessive wealth
is limited by providing wealth through land allocation for all, which is
restored every 50 years. Leaving part of the harvest for the poor and
setting aside a tithe for the needy are important scriptural examples of
voluntary social welfare.
Social Justice Problems in Israel
I believe that social justice issues in Israel are a great threat to our
survival as a nation, almost as threatening as our menacing neighbors. The
greatest social justice problem in Israel is that many Israelis cannot
afford to sustain a modest lifestyle without accruing huge amounts of debt.
This problem is partly due to the great defense burden that is carried by
all the citizens of Israel. As I once said to a friend concerning life in
Israel, "taxes are double, the salaries are half and the costs are twenty
percent more," living in Israel is not for the faint of heart.
A year and a half ago, there were massive social protests in the major
cities in Israel. The protests were largely fostered by young adults, but
people of all ages participated. Two important social justice issues were
1. The cost of living in Israel is beyond the income of many Israelis. The
greatest problem is the cost of housing. The second is the cost of food,
which due to Israeli monopolies is 20% more than the cost of food in
Europe. Why is housing so expensive or why do costs not track according to
the ability of people to pay? Though some social protestors think that the
issue is based on a lack of affordable public housing, I completely
disagree. The issue of housing is a supply and demand issue. One analyst
stated that we are 100,000 housing units short of our true need.
What drives the price? In Israel, most land is state land, controlled by
the Israel Land Authority. There is collusion between development
companies and the Israel Lands Authority that prevents the release of
sufficient tracts of land for building affordable housing. The developers
want this shortage since it drives up their profit. They buy the land at a
very low price. They sometimes hold on to land instead of building
immediately, so the price will go up more. This is a type of crony
capitalism. In addition, they build very expensive housing that is sold to
wealthy Jews from abroad who do not take up residence in Israel. The
developers make a huge profit, but this scheme does not house the people.
If our young families cannot afford to live in Israel, they may lose heart
and leave. This is a very serious issue. I would pray for the Prime
Minister to take up this issue and speak out forcefully and propose
legislation to solve it.
2. The second great issue of injustice concerns the Ultra-Orthodox. The
Ultra-Orthodox have become a huge welfare class in Israel. They do not,
for the most part, serve in the army nor do any alternative national
service. Government policy pays for the men to study Torah indefinitely.
The welfare life is survivable poverty, but the religious leaders among
them foster this life orientation. Therefore the larger population of
secular and National Religious Orthodox are very upset. Both these groups
have to pay for this "welfare" through taxation and by carrying the burden
of national army service. The Ultra-Orthodox do not desire, for the most
part, to see their schools train or educate their young so they can make a
normal living as adults. Of course, this produces a very abnormal
situation and creates a much less healthy community than, for example, the
same black dressed Ultra-Orthodox people in New York.
In Israel, their lack of participation in the workforce increases the tax
burden for all others. Again, coalition politics has compromised justice
and our Prime Minister has not addressed this issue. Perhaps he believes
that national security requires that he should not fight this battle now.
However, this is very destructive for the State of Israel and for the
Ultra-Orthodox who continue to live a very unhealthy life pattern. Though
I respect our government and Prime Minister Netanyahu, I am disappointed
that he is not more direct and forceful in speaking the truth about these
issues. His political coalitions and considerations make this hard, but he
should be a statesman and do so.
There are other social justice issues. There is the matter of equal
spending for schools and infrastructure for Israeli Arabs and their
neighborhoods. There is favoritism for big business interests. A very few
large businesses and their leaders control most of the wealth in Israel -
this is also very unhealthy. However, the first two issues are the most
Young Messianic Jews are starting to engage on these issues. Some are
considering careers in the field of political and social justice. This
could be very exciting. However, these issues are also real matters for
prayer for all of us who care about Israel. I would love to see our
witness to Yeshua include speaking to the primary justice issues of our
society. I am glad to be connected to some of the young adults that are
taking on Israel's social justice issues.