“Tax the Rich!”

In March 2024, a news outlet reported on a developing story entitled, “Boston Activists Demand $15 billion in Reparations, Urging White Churches to Pay Up and Atone for Slavery.”

The Boston Reparations Task Force proposed a three-fold payment plan. The plan includes $5 billion in cash payments to Boston’s Black residents, $5 billion to invest in new financial institutions, and $5 billion to address racial disparities in education and anti-crime measures. The suggested amount is more than three times the city’s annual budget for fiscal year 2024. [1]

The Rev. Kevin Peterson, the founder of the Boston People’s Reparations Commission, has led the effort along with sixteen other religious leaders who have signed a letter and sent it to several churches in the Boston area.

Rev. Peterson stated that “We call sincerely and with a heart filled with faith and Christian love for our White churches to join us and not be silent around this issue of racism ands slavery and commit to reparations….We point to them in Christian love to publicly atone for the sins of slavery and we ask them to publicly commit to a process of reparations where they will extend their great wealth – tens of millions of dollars among some of those churches – into the black community.” [2]

It remains to be seen how Boston and other cities will respond to the commission.

The irony of this demand – in “Christian love” of course – is that it is spiritually misguided and wrong-headed. In a word, it’s unbiblical. The concept of corporate reparations for sin is contrary to God’s Word. It’s dealing in death and divisive. Allow me to explain.

 The Jewish prophet Jeremiah wrote his book, contained in the Hebrew Scriptures, as the ancient nation of Israel was about to be taken into a seventy-year period of captivity. Jeremiah’s book says that God gave him a backbone like “a pillar of iron” (Jere. 1:18). He was fearless in his proclamation of God’s judgment on his nation – especially the self-proclaimed “shepherds” of God’s people whose counsel brought death and division upon them. And God was going to profoundly rebuke them.

Jeremiah wrote: “‘Woe to the shepherds who are causing the sheep of My pasture to perish and are scattering them!’ declares the Lord…’You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not been concerned about them; behold I am going to call you to account for the evil of your deeds,’ declares the Lord” (Jere. 23:1-2).

Later, Jeremiah speaking of the New Covenant that Jesus Christ would establish among His followers, declared God’s Word to his people. He quoted a common piece of folk wisdom of his day: “In those days they will not say again, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge” (Jere. 31:29-30).

What Jeremiah was saying is that in the coming New Covenant way of living, which is how all Christians would one day live – and how all true disciples of Jesus Christ live today – each of us would be responsible for the consequences of our own sins, not those of our forefathers.

The sin of slavery – and have no doubt, forced slavery is a sin – is expressly forbidden in the Bible (Ex. 21:16; 1 Tim. 1:9-10). There is and never was any legitimate biblical justification for slavery. In our country, as early as 1688, godly political leaders, men and women, called for and gave their lives to eradicate slavery from our society. Our nation’s leaders atoned for it long ago by fighting a Civil War to abolish and outlaw it. In most of the world today, slavery has been outlawed. And where slavery still exists, disciples of Jesus Christ condemn and refuse to practice slavery in any of its evil forms. But for Christians to demand present day “reparations” for the past social sins of some of our forefathers is equally unjustifiable.

The demand for justice in the form of reparations “in Christian love” is incompatible with Christian love.

Justice is a misunderstood term and a misapplied concept to most Americans – especially in the church. It’s defined and practiced in a very self-absorbed way by some (“Justice is whatever I think is right”). It’s used as a social and political football by others (“Justice is whatever fits my political or social bias”). And for too many, justice is about getting revenge (“Justice demands an overdue payment to me from society”). The Bible defines justice differently.

When we see injustice on earth it’s always at the hand of people, knowingly or unknowingly, (but almost always willingly) who are under the influence of evil – not God. We’ve all been given free will by God. The problem is that we can choose to exercise our free will irresponsibly – out of step with the character of God’s justice. And we do – often. The time will come, however, when God will judge the world and all the people in it. He’s going to get rid of all the evil and injustice in the world – and the spiritual forces behind them. He will punish everyone who turns away from Him and His perfect and holy standards. But the good news is that in His wisdom, He’s not doing that – yet. He’s waiting because He’s patient and He wants everyone to have an opportunity to accept His Son, Jesus Christ, and His sacrifice for their sins rather than pay the spiritual death penalty that justice requires for their sins (2 Peter 3:9 – NASB). [3]

It’s God’s kindness and goodness that keeps Him from judging the world – yet. That’s because He knows His kindness and goodness and patience will lead people to ask Him for forgiveness of their own sins (Romans 2:4 – NASB). That’s how and why God is just.

There are many implications of God’s justice for the world we live in. They touch on every justice issue you and I can think of including poverty, racial bigotry and contention, corruption in politics, human sex trafficking, genocide, consumerism, and the staggering number of orphans in the world – just to mention a few.

But before we discuss what the Bible says about justice issues we need to define some terms. The phrase “social justice” has become politically super-charged over the years – and it cannot be divorced from its present-day context. Social justice is often used as a rallying cry for many well-meaning people who stand on the more liberal/socialist side of the political spectrum. Wikipedia defines social justice as “…a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution. These policies aim to achieve what developmental economists refer to as more equality of opportunity than may currently exist in some societies, and to manufacture equality of outcome in cases where incidental inequalities appear in a procedurally just system.” [4]

The word “egalitarianism” coupled with the phrases “income redistribution,” “property redistribution,” and “equality of outcome” tells us a lot about this view of social justice. Egalitarian refers to the idea that all people are equal and deserve equal rights – including political, social, economic, and civil rights. While that is a noble sentiment and one with some truth to it – when the concept of “social egalitarianism” is pushed to its logical conclusion, it reveals several fatal flaws when applied in a social setting.

There are at least two problems with this view of “social justice.” First, it assumes that all rich people get wealthy by exploiting the poor. That may be the case some of the time, but certainly not all of the time. The Bible says, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5 – NLT). Second, socialist programs too often create more problems than they solve. People who are encouraged to rely on others for assistance over a long period of time, have a higher probability of becoming permanently dependent on that assistance, rather than being motivated to improve their situation. “Every place where socialism/communism has been tried on a national scale, it has failed to remove the class distinctions in society. Instead, all it does is replace the nobility/common man distinction with a working class/political class distinction.” [5]

  So, what is the Christian view of biblical justice?

We’ve already seen that the Bible teaches God is a God of justice. In fact, “all his ways are justice” (Deuteronomy 32:4 – NIV).  And the Bible supports the idea of biblical justice – caring for the poor and the afflicted (Deuteronomy 10:18; 24:17; 27:19 – NASB). The Bible also refers to the fatherless, the widow, and the “sojourner” – as people we should care for. In fact, the nation of Israel was commanded by God to care for society’s less fortunate, and their eventual failure to do that was part of the reason for His judgment on them – and their many years of captivity at the hands of their enemies.

In the New Testament, Jesus and his disciples taught the same thing about biblical justice. Jesus talked of caring for the “least of these” (Matthew 25:10 – NASB). In James’ letter he says that the nature of “true religion” is to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27 – NASB). God knows that due to sin in the world, there will be widows, the fatherless, the poor, and underprivileged. And he made provisions in the Bible to care for the less fortunate. Jesus modeled the ultimate act of God’s justice by bringing the gospel message to everyone – even the outcasts of society.

But, the Christian idea of biblical justice is different from the contemporary concept of social justice. The biblical commands to care for the poor, are more individual than societal. The Bible teaches that each Christian is to do what he or she can to help the “least of these.” That’s the second of the greatest commandments – to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39, 22:39 – NASB). But replacing the individual with the government through excessive taxation and other means of redistributing wealth (as social justice demands) doesn’t encourage individuals to give sacrificially of their time, talent and treasure, out of love. It only creates resentment from those who see their hard-earned resources being taken away.

The Christian view of biblical justice does not view wealthy as evil. Rather it sees having financial resources as a responsibility to be good managers of those resources. And with that responsibility comes the expectation that people with financial resources will voluntarily share their wealth with those in need – with a tender and compassionate heart. The Apostle Paul told Timothy: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world…to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…” (1 Timothy 6:17-18 – NASB). Compassionate and caring believers will be generous to the less fortunate with their resources – especially for the needs and causes that most concern them – like caring for the poor, the homeless, the unborn, orphans, widows, those caught in human trafficking, etc.

Biblical justice is choosing to make individuals and communities whole, by focusing on goodness and impartiality. Scripture says, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern” (Proverbs 29:7 – NIV). Justice flows from God’s heart and character. That’s what motivated God throughout the Old and New Testaments in His judgments on sin and injustice. And that’s why godly disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to work for biblical justice.[6]

We can never establish an economically and socially perfect world through government policies. Only God can create and maintain a perfect world. One day He will – by returning to earth and making all injustices right (Revelation 21-22 – NASB). But for now He wants to establish His biblical justice through His people – the Church. God and his biblical justice is about praying and acting in order to bring His kingdom to earth. And He will do it through people who love Him and his justice and mercy – until He returns. When He does return, Christ will restore all things and execute perfect justice. But until then, a godly man and disciple of Jesus Christ will express God’s love and do biblical justice by showing kindness and mercy to those less fortunate – out of a compassionate heart.

[1] //dcweekly.org/2024/03/25/boston-activists-demand-15-billion-in-reparations-urging-white- churches-to-pay-up-and-atone-for-slavery/

[2] //toddstarnes.com/values/boston-blscks-demand-white-churches-pay-reparations/

[3] Cited on the website All About… in the article God is Just, July 2016 //www.allaboutgod.com/god-is-just.htm

[4] Cited on the website www.gotQuestions.org “What Does the Bible Say About Social  Justice?” //www.gotquestions.org/social-justice.html

 [5] Cited on The Heritage Foundation website, Special Report #142 on the Economy in the article The 2013 Index of Dependence on Government by David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. and Patrick Tyrrell, November 21, 2013 //www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/11/the-2013-index-of-dependence-on-government

[6] Leadership Journal, Summer 2010: Justice & Evangelism, “What is Biblical Justice?” by Paul Louis Metzger //www.christianitytoday.com/le/2010/summer/biblicaljustice

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