Social Justice

In what ways does a godly presence in a society lead to social justices?

Photo credit: Gustave Deghilage - Flickr

Reflection: The Beatitudes and Social Justice

WCIU Journal: Social Justice Topic

July 16, 2017

by Beth Snodderly

The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 give us Jesus’ inaugural address about the Kingdom of God and show us what international development and justice should look like.

Beatitudes wordcloud.jpg

One way to hear the Beatitudes through the eyes of 1st century oppressed people is to read them in “chiastic” order, a common rhetorical and memory device in the Old and New Testaments. In this reading, the first four Beatitudes represent the condition of the oppressed. The second four represent the powerful or influential people of society who are the means by which God intends to bring blessing and justice to the oppressed. Those who are the means of blessing others, in turn, receive the same or similar blessing. For example:

Oppressed: Blessed are the poor in spirit

For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Powerful: Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice [because they championed the poor; In the past the prophets were persecuted because they championed righteousness]

For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Oppressed: Blessed are those who mourn  

For they shall be comforted

Powerful: Blessed are the peacemakers  

For they shall be called the children of God

Oppressed: Blessed are the meek      

For they shall inherit the land

Powerful: Blessed are the pure in heart  

For they shall see God

Oppressed: Blessed are those who are  hungry and thirsty for justice and righteousness  

For they shall be filled [with justice—Amos 5:24: Let justice roll on like a river]      

Powerful: Blessed are the merciful            

For they shall obtain mercy

The people of Jesus’ day were hungering and thirsting for political justice. Jesus showed how their felt need for social justice would be met by the righteousness and shalom of God.