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Economic Justice

March 17, 2016

Much is being said these days about economic justice. Everyone in public life seems to have an opinion on the subject. But when people’s opinions about economic justice are based on their personal or intuitive principals of justice, they are all at root subjective. For instance is “fairness” determined by equality of opportunity or or equality of outcome? I believe that Scripture gives us the only objective principals that guide us in the direction of understanding God’s standards of economic justice. OT law has a great deal to say about an economic order that came directly from God Himself. The context does provide limitations for us when it comes to application because we are looking at a Theocracy set in an agrarian culture. I will be speaking in terms of what I see as underlying principals. Application will be another matter.

Principal One. Economic justice under OT Law was not to be left to the good will and individual initiative of the people. It was systemic and codified into the law. Whether the portion of tithes to be set aside for the poor or the rules for planting and harvesting, Sabbath or Jubilee. All of these issues are specifically directed at creating an economic order different from anything that had existed before.

Principal Two. Provision for the basic needs of the poor needs to be built into the system. Under OT Law this is demonstrated in the laws regarding the planting and the harvesting for crops. Plant with square corners in the field and harvest with rounded corners. Harvest each field only once and leave what ripens after for the poor. Those who made loans to the poor of the nation were prohibited from charging interest on those loans. Resources allocated for the needs of the poor were created by the very operating laws of the system.

Principal Three. In a system that is economically just the rich are prohibited from building their wealth at the expense of the poor. This is demonstrated in OT Law by the prohibition against making loans with interest and by the provisions within the dictates regarding the Sabbath year. These provisions dictate that all unpaid loan balances are to be forgiven every seventh year. Further, those in a position to make loans are warned that they should not refuse a loan to anyone is need simply because the Sabbath year was approaching.

Principal Four. Neither wealth nor poverty should be inherited indefinitely. OT Law provided for this with the Year of Jubilee. Every 50 years the land was all to be returned to the descendants of those to whom the land had originally been distributed. In this way the wealth of the land was to be redistributed and resources equalized every two to three generations.

Principal Five.  God’s people are always to be kind and generous to the visitor in the land. God told His people specifically to do this keeping in mind where they themselves had come from.

Principal Six.  God does judge nations other than Israel in the OT severely when the violate His standard of economic justice. Example, according to Ezekiel, the reason for the total destruction of Sodom was their arrogance and their neglect of the poor. Ezekiel doesn’t even mention sexual sin.

 

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