A Commitment to Justice

“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.  Have nothing to do with a false charge, and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.  Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.  Do not oppress an alien; you yourself know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”

 -          Exodus 23:6-9

 “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”

 -          Leviticus 19:15

“Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly.  Do not pervert justice or show partiality.  Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.  Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

-          Deuteronomy 16:18-20

 “Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.”

-          Deuteronomy 24:14

 “Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God  there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.”

 -          2 Chronicles 19:7

  “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

 -          Isaiah 1:17

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 -          Galatians 3:28

Justice means equity and fairness.  It is both a responsibility of conscience and a legal responsibility.  In the context of civil society, justice means doing our best to ensure (to the extent that this is possible through a code of law), that the rules by which society is supposed to operate are clearly defined, fair, and equally and impartially applicable to everyone, rich or poor, male or female, and of any race.  As noted earlier (in the part of this First Principles section on the Rule of Law), justice is closely related to the rule of law, and at least two conditions must be met for the rule of law to be well established, and to be a true instrument of justice:

 a)      Legislative powers must be exercised by elected legislatures (Congress for the federal government of the United States, and state and local legislatures for those levels of government), rather than usurped by the judicial or executive branches of the government, because good governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

b)      All citizens of a particular country, state, or locality (including powerful government officials) must agree to be bound by the laws thus enacted, rather than arbitrarily changing or evading the laws to suit their convenience, so that we all may be ruled by consistent, predictable, and impartial “laws” rather than by arbitrary “men.”

The Biblical passages on justice make it clear that God hates bribery and corruption.  The Biblical passages on the subject of bribery are generally in the context of honesty in the justice system  (which is one of the most basic requirements of a civilized society, since dishonesty in this area affects our rights to life, liberty, and reputation in addition to property.)   However, modern economic research also indicates that corruption is one of the biggest barriers to economic growth and prosperity in areas that are heavily affected by it.

Impartiality is also one of the major themes of the Biblical passages on justice.  Therefore, although God does have a special concern that the poor, the powerless, and the alien be treated fairly (which is something that human nature, in its selfishness, often tends to forget), this does not extend to favoring some segments of society at the expense of others.  The goal should be balanced and fair treatment for all.

The subjects of fair treatment for the poor and for immigrants (and the appropriate government role in each of these) are discussed in more detail in the sections of this site on Helping the Poor and Immigration. 

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