I have often talked and written about the difference between charity and justice. Jim Wallis in a Sojourners article in November 1985 explained well that charity is not justice. He wrote: “Charity requires no fundamental change, while justice challenges root assumptions, popular attitudes, and basic structures. The prophets and Jesus cry for justice, not for charity.”
Charity is giving a homeless man a new sleeping bag. Justice is providing a home and case management so he no longer has to be homeless.
Charity is providing clothing for a child. Justice is paying her mom an adequate salary so she can buy all the basic necessities for her children.
Charity is giving someone a hot meal at a soup kitchen. Justice asks, “Why are people in our community hungry?” and then fulfilling the needs that the answers lift up.
Charity can address immediate, crisis needs. Justice does the hard work of developing people and systems so everyone can meet his or her basic human needs and care appropriately for family.
The prophets cried out for justice to roll down like water. May it be so.