Scripture: You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. Exodus 23:2 ESV
Observation: In this segment of the book of Exodus, as pertains to the broad category of social justice, the Lord further instructs Moses on the ninth commandment (to not bear false witness against your neighbor). Interesting to note, the Hebrew for “many” (rabbîm) can also mean the “mighty,” which provides an essential contrast with the “poor man.” Thus, we can understand Yahweh’s intent for justice to apply to all classes of people, whether the influential or the poor. In other words, without exception, Israel must not show favoritism and commit purgery and thus pervert justice, whether for those who wield influence or those who have none.
Takeaway: Several decades ago, a movement emerged in the Roman Catholic Church in South America, led by a few well-meaning but sorely misguided priests who sought preferential treatment for the poor (based on the plethora of Scripture that demonstrates God’s heart for the poor). To redress the balance of scales where the wealthy and powerful pervert justice and oppress the poor (whether directly or indirectly), the movement condones the use of violence when warranted to effect change. This paradigm shift has become known as liberation theology—an attractive name to cover a gross misinterpretation of Scripture regarding care for the poor.
So what is the biblical response? Understanding that abuse or neglect of the poor is intolerable in God’s eyes and will result in his wrath and eventual punishment against perpetrators, we must stand against injustices inflicted on those who are defenseless. But we must not sit in the judgment seat and side with the poor in a manner that would pervert justice. Nor should we engage in physical confrontations (except in those instances when necessary to save a life), “for the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47). But we possess superior weapons of warfare that, with God’s help, will uphold justice for all: loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44), which identifies us as children of God (Matthew 5:45).
Is our biblical response passive? No, loving and praying moves us to action: exposing partiality, influencing lawmakers, and alleviating the suffering of those who incur injustices. While this stance may not provide results soon enough for some, it will bear the fruit of justice in the Father’s perfect timing.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you are a just God who has a heart for the poor and seeks justice for all. Would you please guide us through your Holy Spirit to join you in upholding justice by godly means of sacrificial love and prayer that moves us to seek the welfare of all who suffer inequities? And would you please help us exercise patience while waiting for your results? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling