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Refreshment in Refuge

    by Gina Burgess

What is Social Justice?
Date Posted: January 29, 2023

We hear this term bandied about like so much confetti. The fact is, there is no real definition of it. In general terms, the United States began as a social justice government stated in our Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…

Although, the term first appeared in The Federalist Papers and, here's a cougher, in The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbons, I had an opinion that Social justice was just an oxymoron until a few weeks ago. I discovered that God defined it in no uncertain terms. In Jeremiah 22:13 He is adamantly opposed to those in power who “lord it over” on their fellow man.

Jeremiah 22:13 Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness, and his upper rooms without justice. His neighbor serves without pay, and he does not give him for his work;

Of course this was addressed to a specific king against specific actions of his during the last days of Judah before exile to Babylon. However, God doesn’t shift change therefore deploring this man’s actions we know that these actions are deplorable to Him, not the man. Jehoakim also taxed the land beyond endurance to pay Pharaoh Necho. God has established there is a difference in utility of man, but there is equality of humankind. He called them fellow man/neighbor serving without pay.

On the other hand, the Roman Empire did have representation of the masses in the beginning but the emperors bethought themselves divine toward the end which heralded the end of “social justice” because man thought himself god. The emperors of the Roman Empire adjusted the economy to placate the masses which resulted in an economic nightmare.. Here's an excerpt from my paper...

Growth, plenty, economic boom and the State had copious revenue, so much so that Augustus began huge public works programs when he “repaired all the roads of Italy and Rome, restored the temples and built many new ones, and built many aqueducts, baths and other public buildings. Tiberius, however, cut back on the building program and hoarded large sums of cash. This led to a financial crisis in 33 A.D. in which there was a severe shortage of money. This shortage may have been triggered by a usury law which had not been applied for some years but was again enforced by the courts at this time” (Frank, T. "The Financial Crisis of 33 A.D." American Journal of Philology, 1935 56(4): 336-41). “The shortage of money and the curtailment of state expenditures led to a sharp downturn in economic activity which was only relieved when the state made large loans at zero interest in order to provide liquidity” (Thornton, M.K., and Thornton, R.L. (1990) "The Financial Crisis of A.D. 33: A Keynesian Depression?" Journal of Economic History 50(3): 655-62).

Here we have a perfect example of the “invisible hand of the marketplace” being held by big government. The time frame between the boom of Augustus and flop of Tiberius was just a year or two. Did Augustus actually practice hands off policy? Not really, not when there was an abundance of public works underway, and not when the taxes were lowered. In the traditional Keynes philosophy, public works and lower taxes are government tactics used to give the economy a burst of energy. In other words, government induced economic growth. Augustus employed Keynes theory before Keynes was a twinkle in his daddy’s eye.

Did the depression happen because Tiberius hoarded large sums of cash (the economy was based on a cash flow system and credit was not widely used). Was the zero percent interest a shot in the arm in Keynesian style? In contrast to the laissez faire classical macroeconomic theorist point of view, yes. Since the government was not keeping a hands off attitude but was digging deep into public revenues it was the beginning of the fall. The emperors of Rome began to degrade the amount of gold and silver in coins. This debasement of coinage caused inflation which led to the population hoarding the more valuable coins and paying taxes with the less valuable coins. This led to a greater need for revenue by the government so taxes were raised and this resulted in the privately wealthy to be slowly robbed of their wealth. The natural inclination of the patricians to hide their wealth came in the form of tax evasion. The sights of the government were then turned to the middle class. These employed the tactics of the rich by tax evasion in various forms mostly by appearing to be poor or by outright selling themselves as slaves to the larger land owners. (Slaves didn’t have to pay taxes.) The constant drain on the empire’s coffers by the military caused a greater and greater need for more revenue. The emperors pressed more coinage with less and less gold and silver in it. It was an economic nightmare. It happened 2000 years ago, but could be today's headlines!

Does this sound familiar? Will we never learn?

Russia, Spain, Greece and other countries found out there is no way to spread the wealth. When people, like rats, become used to free food, free medical care, a hammock instead of a safety net, they become belligerent when that free stuff is taken away thus the riots and anger across the pond.

Jesus told his disciples when they became angry at the usage of some valuable perfume and an alabaster jar that the poor would always be with us. In essence He said there is no such thing as equal status, merely equal rights in God’s eyes. Our forefathers had it correct, unalienable rights because we are created equal.

The Romans defined it, lived and breathed it because of fear. They had become used to the free daily food. So how did that work for them? Not well at all. That kind of thinking brought a 10 centuries old empire to its knees and then flat on its face in the mud. Ours isn't half that old, but we will fall just as hard, and the impact to the world will be just as devastating.

We have the right to pursue happiness, in godly terms: to pursue blessedness. Our right is not to be happy because it is a state of mind, not a destination. The only way to be blessed is to live close to God, preserve His word in our hearts, to fast as He would have us fast. His recipe is in Isaiah 58. d

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Biography Information:
Gina Burgess has taught Sunday School and Discipleship Training for almost three decades. (Don't tell her that makes her old.) She earned her Master's in Communication in 2013.

She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.

If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection

Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and
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