Justice. Righteousness. Scripture often treats these as synonyms. Yet each is distinct. To be just means one has avoided breaking the law, and has fulfilled the law. It conveys an absence of culpability. Righteousness, by contrast, implies a larger, fuller standard of behavior. It subsumes justice, but adds the love-motivated behaviors that represent the very heart of God’s kingdom. Righteousness is a higher standard than justice, applicable to those with ‘ears to hear’. We see this distinction play out quite clearly in Scripture’s guidance to business people.
The Bible has quite serious things to say to employers regarding just compensation of workers. God frequently and emphatically condemns businesspeople who take advantage of their workers, particularly through exploitive compensation:
‘Why have we fasted’, they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers (Isa 58:3, NIV; emphasis added).
Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty (James 5:4, NIV; emphasis added).
Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts’ (Mal 3:5, ESV; emphasis added). Read more