Methodist Conference Sidebar: Justice vs. Righteousness

An interesting point that Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek made yesterday in his talk. He challenges the way many read their bible in the English-speaking world in the face of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. The issues revolves around the translation of dikaiosynē. This Greek word can be translated either ‘righteousness’ or ‘justice’. For example, reread these passages with justice rather than how we hear them normally (translated as righteousness):

Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first for the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things will be given to you as well.

They have a different ring to them, don’t they? Dr. Ateek gave words to something I have been thinking – when many hear ‘righteousness’ they automatically assume a personal, private holiness and piety. Justice gives a connotation of how we relate to others as well.

Does this change the passages? Or is it still the same way? Or do you believe that Jesus was indeed talking about personal piety and not larger justice issues?


2 thoughts on “Methodist Conference Sidebar: Justice vs. Righteousness

  1. Hey Will,
    Righteousness would be the term that would be appropriate. The Jews and some I believe some of the disciples wanted a revolution. If Jesus had said Justice, Christians would have thought this guy wants to revolt, and acted accordingly. Yet righteousness is a justice that is implied through the glorification of all things that are good and holy. The justice of God is His righteousness. Because if God was not righteous in His wrath, then He would be an unjust God.

    You would be proud of me today, I was in Columbia S.C attending a wedding…in a Methodist church. I told my friends you would be proud.

  2. Hey Nate, thanks for your comment!

    The question becomes does justice = revolt? No doubt some would have thought that – maybe that’s what Judas wanted. Still, Jesus came to speak of justice in a new way. Jesus didn’t come simply to save souls to a far away place, but came to put the world to rights – stop abuse, overthrow oppression. Yet, he did this not by revolt (as you rightly indicate), but by sacrifice.

    Glad you were at a UMC in Columbia! Maybe we will snatch you from the Baptists! 🙂

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