What is Economic Justice?

Unemployment, poverty wages, unsafe jobs, globalization, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, taxes (who pays and how much), inadequate public schools, lack of health care, the right to form a union (and why someone might want to), imports from China and closed factories in the U.S. – these are issues of economic justice. And they are very complicated issues.

But things are a little simpler for people of faith. We measure the economy against one fundamental truth: the earth and all that is in it belong to God (Ps. 24:1). God has blessed us with abundance and God’s vision for every one of God’s people, all 7 billion of us, is to live in the fullness of life. God intends for us to fully share God’s gifts (Exodus 16: 16-18). There is enough for all our needs if we share God’s resources. Each of us can live an abundant life.

But we know that this radical equality is not reflected in the economic realities of our world. Some of us have very little while others have very much. The question: “who has how much of what?” is a fundamental economic question.

Examining a question like this can make us uncomfortable because it delves into topics like money, wealth, poverty, privilege, and disadvantage. But the church must address these matters because economic questions are also moral questions. Do some people have too little money and resources? Do others have too much? Does everyone deserve health insurance, affordable housing, and a good public education? If so, who should pay for it? These are all economic questions that also involve moral judgments.

As people of faith, before we begin working to change the economic system we must first discern, as best we can, a vision of what God wills for our society and our economy. For many people, this would be a world where no one is poor, homeless, living in substandard housing, or lacking the nutritious food and health care needed for a healthy life. Everyone who wanted a job would have one.

Once we have a vision, we can we begin working to put it in place – by lobbying our elected representatives for the needed legislation, standing with striking workers, resisting unfair international trade and investment agreements, sharing our abundance, ensuring the social safety net is sufficient, and taking other actions to make certain that all God’s children receive a fair share of the resources that God provides for us all.

Staff members of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries educate and advocate around a number of economic issues: poverty, wealth, and growing inequality; workplace justice especially for low-wage workers; ensuring all wages are living wages; supporting the right of workers to form unions; strengthening workplace rights for native-born and immigrant workers; opposing biased trade and investment treaties; working to reform harmful or ineffective practices of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization; ending the economic crisis and building a new economy that works for everyone; and reshaping the federal budget to better meet our needs. These are big issues. But we know God walks with us as we work for justice.