Justice runs throughout Scripture

Pastor Matthew Best
4 min readJul 28, 2022

One of the main themes that run through scripture is justice for the poor and oppressed.

Let me clarify that statement so you can understand the full impact. I’m currently reading “the Lost Art of Scripture” by Karen Armstrong. It’s a great and fascinating book — taking me back to my seminary days. She is a proficient author on theological topics having written over 20 books.

In this book she argues that all scripture — regardless of religion, culture, or time — have similar major themes that run through them. Some of those themes are about the human yearning for transformation, seeking the divine, and that the divine cares about the plight of the poor and oppressed and yearns for justice for them from those in authority.

It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, the teachings of Buddha or Confucius, the Vedas in India, ancient Chinese religious beliefs, or Islam, or any other religion from the ancient world. The message was always the same — justice for the poor. That’s because most of the world operated on an agrarian system that was oppressive to the vast majority of people. And the divine expected those in charge to care for those under their rule.

This wasn’t a one off set of beliefs — it was every culture in every time.

The prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures have a heavy focus on justice for the poor and oppressed as well as a specific focus on welcome to the stranger and foreigner. Many of Jesus parables and teachings continue with these traditions.

Yet somehow the Western Church, especially certain parts of Christianity have ignored these themes. They have turned faith into a private practice and piety that closer resembles ideological beliefs than any scripture tradition throughout history. Often discussion of justice in the church is shouted down by people in the church because it’s just “too political,” meaning it doesn’t match with their ideological belief system and so they don’t want to talk about it.

We want to claim the name of Jesus, but we don’t want to talk about the things that Jesus cares about.

Maybe we don’t want to look in the mirror and see how we contribute to the status quo of injustice to the poor and oppressed through out politics and policies that we believe we somehow personally benefit from. Maybe we don’t want to examine that we’re not the Israelites or first believers in the story…

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Pastor Matthew Best

My name is Matthew Best. I’m an ELCA (Lutheran) pastor who attempts to translate church and churchy stuff into everyday language.