In Season 2 Episode 6 of the Eudo Podcast, Dr. Paul M. Gould discusses the virtue of justice and the source of our longing for justice.
Observations #1: We Live In An Unjust World.
Today there are more slaves in our world than during the last four hundred years of the transatlantic slave trade combined.
- As of 2016, there are 40.3 million people worldwide who are owned by slave masters (as either sex slaves or forced labor workers).
- According to a 2014 study, the slave industry takes in $150 billion annually, with about 1/3 or $99 billion of that total coming from the sex trafficking industry.
We could add to these stories and statistics the daily injustices great and small experienced and perpetrated by humans—wars, rape, murder, lies, and on and on the list could go. We do not live in a just world. Even as we find so many things to celebrate about our own society here in America, it is clear that we do not live in a perfectly just society lo9 either. Nor for that matter, is it correct to say, as we look within our own hearts, that we are perfectly just individuals.
Observation #2: Yet we long for Justice
As we examine the interior of our own hearts, we find this intuition that something has gone terribly wrong. The world is not how it is supposed to be. As we travel through this world of injustice and brokenness, we find a longing within the human heart too—a longing for wholeness, and justice, and peace. We long for a world made right. We long for a world as it ought to be.
In other words, I believe that deep within each of us, there is a longing to act justly, to be just, and to live in a just world.
What is the source of this longing for justice?
In Deuteronomy 32:4 we read this description of God:
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he.”
We learn that Jesus is God’s manifestation of perfect justice in this fallen world. In the Gospel of Matthew, for example, Pilates’ wife implores unsuccessfully her husband to release Jesus who she describes as “an innocent man” (Matt. 27:19). Or as Peter describes Jesus in a speech in Acts 3, Jesus is “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14).
These passages, and many more like them, teach us about the source of justice. God is just and the source of perfect justice.
Moreover, Scripture is clear that his followers are to be agents of justice; consider Micah 6:8:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
So, because God is a God of justice, and Jesus is God’s perfect manifestation of justice, and we are called to follow in the steps of Jesus, each of us is called to be an agent of justice in this world. In short, we are called to be men and women who cultivate the virtue of justice.
So, let’s explore our next cardinal virtue, the chief moral virtue of our group, the virtue of justice.
What are some Historical Accounts of the Virtue of Justice?
The fundamental concept of justice has to do with the idea of each person is given his or her due (by other persons and by society as a whole).
- Plato: The just individual “puts himself in order . . . . [he] harmonizes the three part (reason, spirit, appetites) of himself like three limiting notes in a musical scale—high, low, and middle.” (Republic 443d)
- Aristotle: “what we call just is whatever produces and maintains happiness and its parts for a political community” (Nicomachean Ethics, V.1.13) and the virtue of justice is “the state that makes us do justice and wish [i.e., desire] what is just” (Nicomachean Ethics, V.1.3).
- Aquinas: “justiceis a habit whereby a man renders to each one his due by a constant and perpetual will” (Summa TheologiaeII.58.1)
Definition of Justice:
- A just person is one who successfully organizes his or her life around the good that is God.
- A just community is a community organized around the good that is God for the blessing of all.
- The virtue of justice is the stable disposition of character to desire and seek the good of all things.
There are three implications to my definition of justice and the virtue of justice:
- First, thesocial order reflects the sacred order.
- Second, in a fallen worldwe can never achieve perfect justice.
- Finally, in a moral universe justice is costly.
I want to help you see the connection between our missional identity and our calling to be just individuals working toward a just community.
We long for a world made right. We long for justice. And this longing, if we pay attention, reminds us, as the Enlightenment thinker Blaise Pascal puts it, of a memory of a memory of a time when man was truly happy. In other words, our longing for flourishing, for shalom, for justice, reminds usof God’s originally good creation.
- Aquinas,Summa Theologiae
- Aristotle,Nicomachean Ethics
- Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson, The Justice Calling
- Oliver O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order, 2nded.
- Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues
- Plato, Republic
- Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well
- Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People