There is a lot of talk about “social justice”—speaking out and acting on behalf of those who are oppressed, marginalized and disenfranchised. This is close to God’s heart, too, as He describes “pure religion” in terms of caring for orphans and looking after widows (see James 1:27).
But we hinder our attempts at social justice if it’s not tied to God’s righteousness. Because without righteousness, we don’t have God’s unlimited help and are simply operating under our own limited power.
Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2, emphasis added)
Justice is mentioned four times in this 59th chapter of Isaiah, but always in close proximity to righteousness—
- Justice (2 times in verses 8-9) + Righteousness (verse 9)
- Justice + Righteousness together in verse 14
- Justice (verse 15) + Righteousness (2 times in verses 16-17)
The opening verse is the perfect conclusion: God has the ability to help us (justice), but our lack of righteousness prevents Him from hearing our pleas and moving to action.
The single-best way to make social justice maximally effective is for each of us to pursue God’s righteousness.
All efforts at social justice apart from God’s help will bring small, temporary gains at best. But even our smallest attempts at social justice with God’s help will bring lasting results for the greatest number of people.