Christian Economics and Social Justice

QUESTION: Christian Economics – The Principle of Social Justice

ANSWER:

Christian socialists believe that social justice to the poor demands that everyone share limited resources equally and that this principle takes precedence over all other considerations. Reconciling this principle with biblical teachings, however, is problematic. Paul teaches the relationship between work and property when he says, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat’” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

God teaches us that fairness consists of not showing special favor to the rich or to the poor (Leviticus 19:15). Beisner counters the socialist interpretation of social justice when he says, “God is not ‘on the side of the poor,’ despite protests to the contrary. Any law, therefore, that gives an advantage in the economic sphere to anyone, rich or poor, violates Biblical justice.”1 Justice requires equality before the law rather than equality of income or ability. Justice will in fact lead to economic inequality. Beisner continues, “The Bible demands impartiality, which—because people differ in interests, gifts, capacities, and stations in life—must invariably result in conditional inequality.”2

Christian Economics – Equal Opportunity, Not Equal Distribution
Biblical justice is based on equal opportunity rather than on equal distribution of wealth. Michael Novak explains, “Given the diversity and liberty of human life, no fair and free system can possibly guarantee equal outcomes. A democratic system depends for its legitimacy, therefore, not upon equal results but upon a sense of equal opportunity.”3 Equal opportunity does not mean that everyone possesses the same skills, interests, or social contacts, but that the law should prohibit no one from competing equally in the marketplace (Proverbs 31).

Notes:

Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 E. Calvin Beisner, Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 52.
2 Ibid.
3 Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1982), 15.

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