Justice is a big reason God broke into human history in the person of Jesus. It wasn’t the first time God called on a person to do something to accomplish God’s purposes. God used Moses to lead the people of Israel out of bondage and exile and through the wilderness detour into the Promised Land. God later used Jesus to raise up a movement to usher in the kingdom of God on earth. But here we are, still in the wilderness.
Just as the Israelites couldn’t blame God for wandering in the wilderness for forty years, we cannot blame God for our own wilderness experience. We are still wandering in the wilderness because we have failed to do our part of justice. Certainly not a message we want to hear during the festive holiday season!
Justice is based on a fair-minded, equitable system for all members of the community. Justice does not guarantee equal outcomes, but it does promise equal opportunity, that everyone deserves the opportunity to walk out the wilderness, not because they were born into a wealth or privilege, but because of their effort in pursuing the opportunities available.
The opportunities available in just the United States are in peril when:
- Productivity goes up 90-percent but the average income increases only 8-percent in the past 35 years.
- The top 10-percent take home half of our income. CEOs earn 273 times more than the average worker.
- A family in the top 1-percent has a net worth 288 times the average family.
- 1 in 6 Americans experience food insecurity, meaning they miss a meal because there is not enough food.
- A general overview of household income in the U.S.
Justice is access to a way out of poverty: affordable housing, quality education, healthcare, and food. A child born into the top 20-percent has a 2 in 3 chance of staying near the top. A child born in the lower 20-percent has a 1 in 20 chance of making it to the top and is 10 times more likely to remain in the bottom 20-percent … and it’s not because they are lazy, are having more children, abuse drugs and alcohol more, and want to stay on welfare.
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor. ~ Psalm 72:1-4
Celebrating Advent is to remind us of the glowing vision of God’s righteousness and justice, and to inspire us to join it here and now. God, through Jesus, began a new way of relating to the world. God’s justice and righteousness call for all of our relationships to change. God isn’t calling us to be like John the Baptizer, but does challenge us each individually to consider what our role might be. Well?
Sometimes it’s overwhelming to consider justice and even more confusing to know who to listen to or what to do. When that happens, may I be reminded of the simple Golden Rule; treat others the way I want to be treated. Forgive me when my response to human suffering is making sure it happens to someone else somewhere else. Amen.