Charity vs. Justice

A reading for Wednesday, August 26, 2015: Mark 14:1-11.

There is a difference between charity and justice...

Charity is given out of abundance. It is paying back the good fortune that one enjoys. Charity helps the poor and the less fortunate. It reminds us that we too might be in such a way at some point, and so we want to do for others the way we would want others to do for us. Charity is a good thing. Why would the money from the perfume jar in our lesson today not be used for charity? Who could be against charity?

Justice comes from a different place, vulnerability. Justice comes out of a sense that something isn't right with the world and more than that, right with our lives too. Justice is based on God's shalom, the sense that all people deserve to be whole and valued. The woman with the jar is searching for justice as she anoints the feet of Jesus. She knows that Jesus has come not only to transform the world but to offer her transformation too. She wants to be different. She senses that she is just as broken as the jar of perfume. It's a subtle difference, but justice shapes the giver as well as those being given.

The problem with justice occurs when the giver doesn't sense they need to be changed. If they have a sense that they are privileged or already righteous, then justice can't happen. In that sense justice can become charity, or it can just be denied all together. Not justice no peace!

Judas is the anti-justice figure in the gospel stories. He betrays Jesus and the attempts of Christ to bring justice. Truth is, sometimes we all act a little like Judas. We don't want to be changed. We would rather just offer charity. Justice is a more excellent way!


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