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Everything I needed to know about justice, I learned as a child.

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

Justice is a buzzword right now. Each day, possibly several times a day, we hear about imbalances in justice and the need for fair treatment, opportunities and status. The need for justice is great, but things can be confusing. What does it mean to be just? Who judges what is fair? Who is right about justice needs? There are plainly differing views.

How can we have a good grasp on the concept of justice? After looking for pertinent information, I realized that justice is actually very basic. In fact, most of us learned the basics of justice as children. For instance:

1. ”If the classroom has only 7 pencils and 20 children, you must share them with your classmates.”

This kind of justice is called distributive justice. It deals with the fair and equal distribution of resources. Of course, the definition of fair and equal can be understood differently by separate groups of people.

2. “The classroom rules apply to everyone equally. “

This is an example of procedural justice. It concerns the developing and implementing of decisions for equality and fairness. It is important in procedural justice to insure that those who implement decisions are unbiased. Procedural justice should also seek to gather input from those who will be affected by the decisions.

3. “When you do something against the rules and get caught, you get a time out.”

This is known as retributive justice and it relates to the way people treat each other. If you treat others poorly, there are consequences. If you do not follow the rules, you get a penalty.

4. ”It is important to say you’re sorry to someone if you hurt them so that they can feel better. That way you can still be friends.”

Restorative Justice-this kind of justice is concerned with restoring relationships, restoring lives and healing wounds. It aims to rebuild lives and communities as well as prevent further harm.

These are the main categories of justice.* Other types of justice exist and we hear of them often, such as social justice or juvenile justice. Others we hear of less often, like transitional justice or elder justice. Each of these is either very specific like elder or juvenile or more fluid like social justice. This does not diminish their importance, but acknowledges them separately for clarity.

JustKindHumility seeks to draw attention to justice, or lack of, in order to challenge us to find where it is lacking and how we fit into God's greater plan for balancing justice in the world.


Today, I challenge you to think about justice and injustice in the world or in your community. Some questions to ponder:

  • Where do you see an uneven distribution of resources?

  • In what decision have you felt recipients were not included?

  • Have you seen times when punishment did not fit a crime?

  • How have you seen victims getting help to restore their lives?

Eternal Perspective:

As you ponder these questions, I challenge you to seek out God's view of justice from Scripture.

  • How does God view the relationship between those with resources and those without? (Proverbs 29:7, 31:8-9; Isaiah 10:1-2; 1 John 3:17-18)

  • Does God care about our laws, legal decisions and judgments? (Exodus 23:6; Leviticus 19:15; Proverbs 18:5; Isaiah 10:1-2; Zechariah 7:9-10)

  • How does the LORD view crime and punishment? (Proverbs 24:23-25; Isaiah 61:8-9; Jeremiah 21:12-14; Malachi 4:1)

  • In what ways does God offer restoration to those harmed or oppressed? (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 140:12; Isaiah 30:18; Isaiah 61:1-11; Jeremiah 23:5)

*Maiese, Michelle. "Types of Justice." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: July 2003 <>.

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