Is God just? Can the words “justice” and “injustice” be applied to God?
The search for justice has been a constant source of injustice in life, especially for the poor and working class from whose perspective we are examining the question of “why does God hate the poor”. Calls for justice are usually the starting stage of the greatest injustices of history. “Justice” has been defined in many ways, by philosophers and theologians, all of which have failed to achieve justice. For classical and for modern philosophers varying from Plato to Karl Marx, justice means “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”. As usual, this sounds nice in the abstract, but both for Plato’s Republic and to the other extreme of Marxism and its post-modern progeny, the end result in reality is always the same tyranny of the few over the many that is the class struggle of history. Modern theorists on justice, such as John Rawls in his books A Theory of Justice and Justice as Fairness and Karl Popper with his book The Open Society and Its Enemies, tried to subsume the Christian Beatitudes into a secular form of social norms but such attempts have failed miserably in making any qualitative improvement in human society. When acting in association with capitalism and science, some calls for justice have at least materially or quantitatively improved the human condition. However, such association qualitatively has served only to replace chattel slavery by wage slavery; all have done nothing to improve qualitatively human nature in any way in relation to any concept of justice or injustice — all such concepts are relative to a given point in history. The lower classes continue to remain slaves and will continue to do so for as long as there continue to be humans in the class struggle that is history.
The word “justice” is purely a human creation. In the reality of human language, the meaning of most words is their use and usefulness. In this sense, the meaning of the word “justice” in human reality as used by any individual is “that which gets me what I want”. If the individual wants something to give their life meaning and they get it, the process and result is just. If someone else or something denies them this meaning, this denial is unjust. Assistance in getting what the individual wants in order to give meaning to their life is justice. Any denial is unjust. For a society, justice is anything that maintains order and the status quo power structure of that society, and injustice is anything that threatens the status quo power structure and order of a society.
Does the word justice have any inherent meaning when applied to the concept of God? Again, you must remember that God is defined here as the reason why there is something instead of nothing. Based on any purely analytic examination of the nature of God, the answer to the question of whether justice or injustice applies to God is “no”. God is the ultimate power of reality. He can do whatever He wants, whenever She wants, and to whoever He wants. The word justice has no meaning when applied to God, any more than do the words good or evil. The concept of justice does not apply to God and He cannot be described as just or as unjust. Nothing can deny God anything. God does not need anything. God does not owe us anything.
This is why religions such as Islam and Old Testament Christianity that make justice the ultimate virtue and aspect of God are so dangerous in life, especially to the working class and the poor, more so than religions such as New Testament Christianity that make love the ultimate virtue. Any religion that gives the attribute “justice” to the absolute power that is God is a dangerous illusion for the working class because it equates the workers’ or the poor’s need for something with God’s need for something. This equating of what the worker wants to what God wants not only weakens workers’ ability to will, work, and fight for what they want and need because they expect God to get it for them but also serves to justify any atrocity that the individual worker wants to commit to their fellow workers in order to get it. This results in the working class wasting a lot of time and energy fighting among themselves while the Powers-that-be stand by and watch the battle — enjoying their power. Once one starts to believe that God will give you prosperity, education, or whatever simply because one wants it and therefore it must be just, one has lost the battle against the Powers in any struggle one is fighting. God may do such for the rich and powerful, but He will not do it for the working class or for those that are not among the Powers-that-be; this is the whole point of this question we are asking of “why does God hate the poor”. He plays favorites. He is entitled to do so. Workers and the poor must work, fight, and struggle for what they want. He is not just or unjust. He is God, He can do whatever She wants.
New Testament Christianity tries to get around this aspect of God by talk of love, mercy, the Trinity that includes a Person that is divine, and so forth trying to make love the primary and only attribute of God. However, even according to New Testament Christianity, justice is not a reality in this life and, from my reading of the New Testament, is not a reality in the next either — if there is a next. “Justice” is a minor word in New Testament Christian reality. I realize the New Testament states in the Beatitudes “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. And Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, but these Beatitudes do not say how the thirst and hunger will be filled nor what the reward will be. It definitely will not be by justice because God can do whatever He wants with His creations, either in this life or in the next, if there is any. As Clarence Darrow said, “There is no justice in life, in or out of court.” More accurately, the description should be that there is no justice in this life or the next, if any.
This Christian reality is best brought out by the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard at Matthew 20:1–16 that goes as follows:
For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
Faced with injustice, essentially God’s answer is: “it is my world [vineyard], I can do what I want with it and with you”.
So just to summarize where we are as of now in our contemplation of the question of “why does God hate the poor”, we can conclude that this question is not one of good or evil, of morality or ethics, nor of justice or injustice. None of these human creations apply to God. If He wants to hate the poor, He is free to do so without any limitation by attributes of good, evil, morality, ethics, or justice. What about fairness? Also, is it a matter of free choice? Is God choosing to hate the poor? Does She know She does it? Does God love and hate? Can She really hate the poor? Or, is His mistreatment of them purely business and not personal? I will consider these questions next.