A Reflection on Justice and Righteousness

Updated: Jul 11, 2019

As Westerners, we often dualistically distinguish between justice and righteousness causing us too seriously misinterpret the Scriptures. We see justice in terms of the public sphere of life and associate righteousness with the private or personal sphere of life. We place the two words into different boxes and segregate them into diverse spheres of life, forcing us to live with the tension that exists between two. Sometimes we go even further and end up with two opposing groups within of the Christian community. One group is gung-ho on justice while the other group prioritises a type of privatised spirituality or righteousness. The result is that something is seriously wrong. In the Old and New Testaments, a single word in the Hebrew and Greek is employed for both justice and righteousness, and it is rarely translated using another word. This implies that ‘justice’ and ‘righteousness’ are so closely aligned, so integrated, that they are virtually the same thing. Thus, those well-known words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33 should or at least could be translated, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his justice and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. The result is entirely different from the privatised understanding that we often attribute to this verse, giving us a more balanced and holistic perspective.

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