We’re experiencing two pandemics; the medical one causing illness, suffering and death due to a ravaging disease and the economic one causing financial hardship, food insecurity, and job loss due to a devastated economy.
Families and businesses are making hard choices, choices in which fairness is important but may be difficult to achieve. I listened to a podcast last week that addressed this issue as a matter of justice, which I found worth thinking more about.
What is justice?
In the podcast, Dr. Celine Grounder interviewed Adam Grant, a psychologist and professor. She asked him what makes for a good leader in the kind of crisis we’re experiencing now. He replied the best companies and their leaders base decisions on justice and he described 3 types of justice.
- distributive justice- making choices that lead to fair outcomes
- procedural justice-making decisions through a fair and unbiased process
- interpersonal justice-making decisions in a way that treats people with respect, dignity, and compassion
What is Biblical justice?
This idea caught my attention because I made an insight recently while reading the part of the Bible known as the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew chapters 5 through 7 contains some of the most well known passages from the Bible, some you may not realize are biblical. Have you ever heard these phrases?
- eye for an eye
- turn the other cheek
- go the extra mile
- the Golden Rule
- pearls before swine
These phrases, from the Sermon are attributed to Jesus and may not have been from a single sermon; the lessons it teaches may have been given at different times, as in the book Luke, which contains some of the same messages.
In the Sermon as in other New Testament scenes, Jesus taught his followers how they should live their lives and one word he uses several times is “righteousness”.
Righteousness sounds overtly religious, living bound by strict laws, emphasizing rule keeping, striving for perfection. As Richard Foster wrote, righteousness can consist of “control over externals, often including the manipulation of others.” (from Celebration of Discipline )
So I was surprised that one version, the New Living Translation (NLT), uses a different word for righteousness-justice.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.Matthew 5:6, NLT
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Matthew 5:6, NIV
Several other Bible verses suggest righteousness and justice are two aspects of the same concept.
- The Lord loves righteousness and justice;the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:5, NIV
- The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Psalm 103:6, NIV
- But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24, NIV
Reflecting on these and other scriptures in I Am With You author Ann Spangler wrote this
“Righteousness is a Biblical word that means being in a right relationship with God, and with others. Injustice fractures and destroys relationships….righteousness is
“primarily a relationship, never an attainment; a direction, a loyalty, a commitment, a hope-and only someday an arrival” (quoting Addison Leitch)
Farther in the Sermon Jesus tells the people to
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.Matthew 6:33, NLT
suggesting that living justly isn’t merely thinking about justice, but behaving in a just manner, perhaps like the interpersonal justice Mr. Grant describes in the podcast.
Reverend Erin Clifford explains both Old and New Testament Biblical justice in this short video.
some other thoughts on the Sermon
Matthew 5:6 is from part of the Sermon known as the Beatitudes. learn more about it here
And in the rest of the Sermon, Jesus goes on to describe some other criteria for living a righteous or just life. I’ll explore that further in another post.
Here is a link to the podcast if you’d like to listen to it .
“EPIDEMIC is a twice-weekly podcast on public health and the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19). Hosted by Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who has worked on tuberculosis and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and was an Ebola worker during the West African epidemic. And co-hosted by Ron Klain, the U.S. Ebola czar from 2014 to 2015.”
The COVID-19 pandemic may well be the defining moment of our times. Our lives have changed irrevocably. We need to understand the science so we can care for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And we need voices of reason to help us make sense of it all.EPIDEMIC
- work during a pandemic and which companies are taking considerations to continue to take care of their employees, and which companies aren’t.
- what good leadership during a crisis really looks like, and whether the COVID-19 pandemic may change the kinds of benefits that employers offer their employees.
- how companies can improve their work-from-home culture, as well as how the pandemic may change people’s work-life/home-life balance permanently.
exploring the HEART of justice
Thanks for joining me to explore justice from a social and Biblical perspective. I plan to share some other thoughts on this since it is so vital to working through the health and economic crisis we are facing.
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