Christianity, The Golden Rule, and Social Justice

I have had these thoughts simmering in my head for a while after having received something from a Jewish Social Justice site talking about the golden rule: Love your neighbor as yourself.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

The Golden Rule is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights, in which each individual has a right to just treatment, and a reciprocal responsibility to ensure justice for others. The main point of the Golden Rule is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people with the same consideration as he would expect to receive, not just members of his or her in-group. The “golden rule” is exemplified in many Christian stories, in particular the Parable of the Good Samaritan. One point that gets missed is that the Samaritans is that the Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along, yet the Samaritan was the only person who helped the traveller.

It seems that the question being asked today is “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) with the answer being “NO”.

But does the Bible make a responsibility to watch out for and care for one another? When one turns to the New Testament, it becomes clear that the answer is in the affirmative. In fact, there are many passages which emphasize that people do have responsibilities to others, and not just our immediate families: hence the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10: 29-37

These were two groups that normally did not get along, yet the Samaritan showed the Jew compassion. Southern Beale had an interesting quote from Ezekiel 16:48-50 about Sodom and Gomorrah where God compares Jerusalem to Sodom:

As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Daisy Deadhead pointed out that Christ was no fan of the rich, and that is the Gospel. Daisy points out the passage:

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:21-22

That is not the only place where riches and materialism are pointed as being contrary to proper spiritual growth. For example:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

Oddly enough, we have those who would say that the Gospel of Social Justice is a perversion of Jesus’s message, yet that statement is wrong. There are more than enough examples of where there is the commandment to “be your brother’s keeper” in most of the World’s religions. I have only scratched the surface of where the Bible commands that should one maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor. The Bible contains more than 300 verses on the poor, social justice, and God’s deep concern for both.

Ultimately. there is nothing wrong with a prosperity gospel, as long as it makes clear that EVERYONE deserves to share in the prosperity, not just the few. But, that’s prosperity and not GREED that I am talking about. Social justice is about treating others as you would have them treat you. Indeed, it is being your brother’s keeper in that you watch out for his welfare as you would your own.

See also:
Isaiah 58
Versions of the Golden Rule in 21 world religions
Am I My Brother’s Keeper? | Daily Devotion from Genesis 4:9-16 | RayStedman.org
The Bible on the Poor or, Why God is a liberal
God Calls Us To Show Mercy and Compassion to Our Fellow Man
How Greed Destroys America

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