Thursday, April 24, 2008

justice is charity.

tzedek. a simple hebrew word. it has been translated over the years to mean justice, yet the western capitalist version of justice conjures up all sorts of idealism about fairness and equality and the punishment of criminals. while the first two ideas are noble at an anthropological level, i shall remark only this about the third. "by the same measure with which you judge, so too, you shall be judged."

yet, however noble the ideas of fairness and equality may be, they are not true representations of the word justice in its hebrew origin. for indeed, the word 'tzedek' is more accurately translated as charity and not a social system of order. the prophet micah, speaking for the Lord, states that the first quality God seeks is the pursuit of justice, the pursuit of tzedek, not of social order, but of charity. man is to actively seek out charity in all things, in all situations he is to be just only as it means he is charitable to his fellow man.

in our society, charity is often viewed as a crutch for the lazy and apathetic homeless man, whom we call a 'bum' on the streets, begging for money. and though 'social justice' has become a cultural buzz word most often associated with helping children in africa, the dominant mindset in our capitalist society is that homeless people deserve, in all fairness, their poverty because they did not work hard enough to earn their own living. this thinking is in complete contradiction with the command to pursue tzedek in micah. a command echoed by the fulfillment of jewish law and prophecy, Jesus, when He describes His sheep in matthew 25:34-36.

"then the King will say to those on His right, 'come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 'for I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

in a society of competition, the american dream, and such excessive materialism, it is easy to see why justice is defined with fairness and equality, that criminals are so punished and that homeless people are seen as blemished people, lower-class degenerates. yet, this is not a new development of human selfishness or greed, for indeed throughout history this illusion of 'equal liberties' has been propagated by those up high in their social positions of comfort. just as the american who proclaims the individual rights of all man as being created equal under God, does so from the air-conditioned comfort his wealth has afforded him.

we preach social justice, the great charity of man in helping fellow man, but we are deceived by our own lies. we hope for a better world, but continue to keep it separate, segregated, and inequal. by our own false definition of justice we are the unjust. we are the criminals who deserve punishment in stealing that which is not ours. we are the goats who call themselves sheep. true justice is in charity, not of man's noble aid to another, but of God's philanthropy. His great love of mankind which overturns the man-made system of legalism and morality which severs man from God and claims to hold the power of reuniting the two. true justice does not come from man but from God, in His charity.

to bear Witness to this truth of His word is to subvert the systematic inequality of western capitalism with unfair kindness that is not deserved nor earned, but given by he who has to he who has not. not to give out of selfish ambition or institutional agenda, but out of love. love which first recognizes the poverty of one's self and then seeks to serve in alleviating the poverty of another, however temporary or permanent. the commandment in matthew 25 is always available to be fulfilled. for even Jesus himself declared that the poor will always be with us, the inequality shall always exist, yet we do what we can in spite of the inevitability of this disparity. we love those who society rejects and exhibit true justice in charity given them out of the absurd hope that when we fight poverty in even a single moment we are defeating it then, even though the same battle waits to be fought again the very next day.

true justice is not given to him who deserves what he is given, but in turning over the tables and giving to him who does not deserve being given what he does not himself have. true justice exhibits the charity of such a subversive love which bears Witness to the Word of God.

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