- Approximately 550 Bible verses deal with heaven.
- Less than 100 Bible verses deal with hell.
- Less than 500 Bible verses deal with tithing / giving.
How many sermons have you heard on heaven?
What about hell?
What about tithing?
Don’t get me wrong, those topics are extremely important, but if God talks about justice four times as much as any of three topics, don’t you think we need to talk about more than we do?
Why don’t more evangelical churches talk about social justice issues? The answer goes back to the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century America.
British thinker and writer, G.K. Chesterton (d. 1936) once commented that the United States was “a nation with the soul of the church.” As the United States entered the industrial revolution, and as more and more immigrants flooded Ellis Island, churches and preachers became concerned and involved in social justice issues like caring for the poor, civil rights, unemployment, and political corruption.
At the same time, more conservative churches and members became concerned with a new approach to interpreting Scripture called “higher criticism.” This approach was raising all kinds of questions about traditionally held beliefs like the virgin birth of Christ, Creationism, and the inerrancy of Scripture. So, while more mainstream churches were emphasizing bringing in the kingdom of God through social justice, more conservative churches were interesting in correcting doctrine and emphasizing the need for individual conversion. As a result, churches and preachers who pushed social justice issues were called “liberals” and their practices were tagged with the name, “Christian Socialism.”
Evangelicals, who came out of the conservative side of Christianity, didn’t see the need to get involved in social justice issues, and then willingly gave these issues over to the government to solve, and even then, the more liberal side of the government.
In essence, evangelical Christians in the United States threw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.
Thankfully, today, more and more evangelical churches are seeing the error and becoming more and more socially conscious. But we have a long way to go!
It is time we, as evangelical Christians, take Jesus’ story about sheep and goats seriously (Matthew 25:31-46). The fundamental difference between sheep and goats is what they think, and how they treat, social justice issues.
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of min, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).