by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The reading for Sunday, September 6, 2015:
Nehemiah 5: 1-13
Every year, when we have our Nehemiah action with BOLD Justice, I think about the book of Nehemiah, which is much less familiar to me than much of the Bible. Our text today gives us a vision of justice restored.
Justice is different from charity. Charity often fixes an immediate problem: think of a food bank, for example, where a family gets several bags of food to tide them over. Justice looks at the larger picture and ponders why we need food banks at all--where are the jobs that would allow people to earn enough to buy their own food?
Even if we aren't successful at creating change, God still calls on us to work for justice.
Not to contribute to charity, although God mandates that too. But to work for justice.
In a book I cannot recommend highly enough, The Heart of Christianity, Marcus Borg explains the difference this way: "Charity means helping the victims. Justice asks, 'Why are there so many victims?' and then seeks to change the causes of victimization, that is, the way the system is structured. Justice is not about Caesar increasing his charitable giving or Pilate increasing his tithe. Justice is about social transformation. Taking the political vision of the Bible seriously means the practice of social transformation" (page 201).
He offers this comfort: "The world's need for systemic transformation is great, but it is important not to become passive or discouraged ('without heart') because the need is so great. None of us is called to be knowledgeable about all of it or capable of doing something about all of it " (page 204).
We are lucky to be part of a church that works for both justice and charity. We are stronger in a group than we are alone. Together we can help create a world where everyone has what they need.
We have been successful on many levels. It's time to celebrate that success--and to continue the work.