Economic Justice

Jeremiah 22:15-16

Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?

The prophet Jeremiah’s urged employers to pay workers a fair wage.  Jesus consistently displayed concern for the widow and the orphan. The early church practiced wealth-sharing so that no one would be in need. Christians are called to show compassion to those in need and seek economic justice. God’s love for humanity demands a response from the Christian community that is directed at ensuring that no one is hungry; no one is thirsty; no one is turned away from the banquet.

In our consumer-driven economy, our faith challenges us to seek life and moral prosperity above materialism and profit. Christ identified himself with the least powerful of his society; we are also called to advocate for the most economically vulnerable amongst us, whether they are clients of predatory lenders or the unemployed in Crook or Joseph County. Finally, we seek an economic prosperity that honors the contributions of all and is available to all.

Economic Fairness in Scripture

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Isaiah 10:1-3

The Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor. Psalm 140:12

Give the king your justice, O God… May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice… May he defend the cause of the poor of the people and give deliverance to the needy. Psalm 72:1-4

Christians and Economic Fairness

“God’s prophets call his people to create just and righteous societies (Isa. 10:1-4; 58:3-12; Jer. 5:26-29; 22:13-19; Amos 2:6-7; Amos 4:1-3; 5:10-15). The prophetic teaching insists on both a fair legal system – which does not favor either the rich or the poor – and a fair economic system – which does not tolerate perpetual poverty. Though the Bible does not call for economic equality, it condemns gross disparities in opportunity and outcome that cause suffering and perpetuate poverty, and it calls us to work toward equality of opportunity. God wants every person and family to have access to productive resources so that if they act responsibly they can care for their economic needs and be dignified members of their community. Christians reach out to help others in various ways: through personal charity, effective faith-based ministries, and other nongovernmental associations, and by advocating for effective government programs and structural changes.

Restoring people to wholeness means that governmental social welfare must aim to provide opportunity and restore people to self-sufficiency. While basic standards of support must be put in place to provide for those who cannot care for their families and themselves, incentives and training in marketable skills must be part of any well-rounded program. We urge Christians who work in the political realm to shape wise laws pertaining to the creation of wealth, wages, education, taxation, immigration, health care, and social welfare that will protect those trapped in poverty and empower the poor to improve their circumstances.”

– The Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals (representing 30 million Americans) unanimously adopted For the Health of the Nation as the official framework for the NAE’s public policy work.

“Exodus 21:2, Leviticus 25:39-41 and Deuteronomy 15:1 all emphasize the importance of helping others escape poverty. These passages speak of not exacting debt or labor where it impedes the ability of people to obtain the basic necessities of life such as food, shelter, clothing, etc. They are a direct appeal for the generosity of those with means. This notion supports the concept of taxation based on progressive principles, i.e., ability to pay. The implication that can be drawn is society must not allow disproportionate taxation on poor persons, unaffordable housing, costly healthcare, indebtedness for survival and substandard wages to create a permanent underclass, whereby escaping poverty on one’s own is virtually impossible. It also implies those that can pay more should. Just taxation permits the pooling of resources for both individual good and the common good, two notions that are distinct and but linked.”

– Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Tax Reform Guide

“Economic justice means building a fair economy that works for everyone. It means fair trade policies that protect workers’ rights to organize and to receive a living wage for their work at home and abroad. It includes budget and tax policies in which corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share, and which support good schools and childcare, affordable healthcare and housing, retirement security, and a safety net for those in need. It promotes the common good by funding public services.”

– American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Online Resources