(This letter was sent to volunteers and Friends of RCS.)
The month of February is an auspicious month for most of us, especially if we are Chinese. That’s because the Lunar New Year falls on this month. But the Lunar New Year is not the only red-letter day (important day) in the month of February. The World Day of Social Justice, on the twentieth, is the other.
The General Assembly proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice in 2007, inviting Member States to devote the day to promoting national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly. Observance of World Day of Social Justice should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all. (Taken from the UN website)
Social Justice should be one of the greatest concerns for Christians because it is one of God’s greatest concerns.
“What is Social Justice?” you ask.
First of all, let me tell you that the Hebrew word for justice is tzedekah, and it appears countless times in the Bible. It is even the theme of whole chapters, such as Isaiah 58.
Sadly, modern Christianity has delineated between things spiritual and things social. (This was in part how the Social Gospel came about.) But, looking at Isaiah 58, God does not separate the two. In fact, He puts social justice in the same basket with the spiritual activities such as fasting.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then in the next chapter, Isaiah 59, God tells His people why their prayers are not answered. Its because they have sinned – they have not upheld justice. “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away…Truth is lacking” (verses 14-15).
It goes on to say, “God saw it and was it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede” (verses 15-16). God is looking for intercessors. Not those who pray for hours, but for those who would stand up in defense of the poor and oppressed. Will you be that intercessor?
As far as God is concerned, injustice has occurred when there is the rich and the poor, the have’s and the have-not’s among you. And if the rift between them is ever widening, then you know that injustice is increasing.
Like it or not, the capitalistic system of economy on which the world is built is a fallen system. God’s system of economy, on the other hand, is a just and righteous one. Every fiftieth year, God presses the Reset button; all slaves are set free and all land returned to their rightful owners. But as long as we are living in a capitalistic society, we must be involved in the works of justice otherwise the poor will always remain poor, and the rich will only get richer.
If there is one thing that God expects from you and I, it is this: to love mercy, to do justice, and walk humbly before your God (Micah 6:8).
Paul closed his epistle to the Romans with these exhortations: “Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom 15:-2 Holman Christian Standard Bible).
And “pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father,” James states, “is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).
Tzedekah is not only translated as justice in the Bible. It is often also translated as righteousness. Surprised?
Unlike charity, which is voluntary, to do the works of justice is part and parcel of what it means to be righteous. It does not earn you righteousness, but it is the evidence that you have been justified (another way the word tsedekah is being translated).
In his book, Generous Justice, Pastor Tim Keller points out to us that there is an inherent connection between being justified (to be redeemed and forgiven by the blood of Christ) and doing justice (helping the poor and defending the oppressed). Just as your faith has to be proven to be alive by works (of faith), so your justification must produce an outflow of compassion and passion for justice for it to be genuine and complete.
How do you respond to a message like this? First off, ask yourself, “Do I know anyone who is poor, or in need?” Then follow that up with, “What am I doing to meet that need?” Finally, DO IT!
Believe it or not, you are fully able to meet that need. According to the latest studies in Singapore, those earning below $1,000 per month gave more (1.82 per cent of their income) than those earning between $5,000 and $5,999 (0,52 per cent of their income). How much do you make? Its time to have a change of heart and out-look (looking outwards, away from yourself and at others). As you do, God will “make all grace about to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all time, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8).
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:1-5).