The world defines justice as freedom from oppression, freedom from a group that seeks to confine an individual. By this definition, the individual needs to be liberated of any ties to any groups to truly experience justice, as groups demand and impose and exploit and enslave. But if freedom is an individual’s ability to be an individual, then justice lacks relationship.
So how does the Bible define justice? I don’t think it equates justice to individuality – does the Bible ever define anything in terms of the individual? Rather, biblical justice is about interconnectedness, about inviting the individual into a community that fights for each other, that embodies Isaiah 58, specifically verses six through eleven:
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
According to Isaiah, biblical justice is about severing the chains of falsehood and, instead, serving within a community of truth. Biblical justice is about mimicking God, who is constantly giving Himself away for the sake of those He maintains relationship with. If we truly grasped this, we would ascribe worth to others at cost to ourselves, always in relationship.
And according to Isaiah, when we engage in this type of fast, when we take a break from our self-focused nature and fast from our obsession with self-preservation, we’ll discover the abundance of our Heavenly Father’s nature. We don’t exist in a realm of scarcity where there are only so many resources, so many blessings to go around. There’s no need to hoard when we operate in a paradigm of surplus, when we understand God for who He truly is: giving. God isn’t limited; “like a spring of water,” He’ll never stop pouring His unlimited blessing out on His people in unexpected, unimaginable ways. If we truly grasped this, we would seek to “break every yoke” and “pour [our]selves out,” trusting that God will continue to pour into us simply because He’s a provider by nature, trusting that God will “make our bones strong” enough to embody this type of justice.
Biblical justice is about sharing in abundance, not providing the minimum for others while maintaining our own comfort.
I’ve heard this concept talked about in books or in class or on podcasts or in church – in fact, essentially all of what I wrote above came from Donny Butkus’ sermon at my Colorado church last Sunday. But in light of the Dressember movement our campus just lived, these concepts have more pertinence; they’re more palpable. Especially towards the end of the month, when we raised over $6,000 in two days, thereby surpassing our goal, I saw Dordt people operating within a paradigm of abundance. I saw Dordt people giving recklessly, trusting that God could use these gifts to provide for others and that He would, in turn, provide for the givers. Because our campus community sought to enact the type of fast God commands, International Justice Mission will conduct three rescue operations with our funds. Wow.
I promise that, even though our fundraising site will accept donations until January 31st, this is the last you’ll have to hear me talk about DCDressember. However, this isn’t the last you’ll hear our campus talking about justice and human trafficking. If you’re interested, I encourage you to head over to In All Things, Dordt’s more professional blog. In the last few days, some professors, alum, and current students have posted fascinating, heartbreaking, five-minute-reads on the trafficking industry.
I'm beyond grateful to be a part of a group that's constantly showing me how to live a God-honoring life, always teaching by example. That's not a legitimate conclusion, though, and I can't really write a worthy one until justice is enacted in whole upon Jesus’ return. So instead, I’ll let Anne Frank do it for me:
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”