How do the Ten Commandments relate to social justice?

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Social justice means that all people in a society should be treated fairly and equitably. The Ten Commandments exemplify social justice because their rules apply equally to everyone in the society, rich and poor, male and female, native born and foreign. An especially strong example of this equal justice concept is embedded the Fourth Commandment, regarding keeping the Sabbath as a day of rest (please note that, depending on your faith tradition, the Ten Commandments are numbered differently).

The Fourth Commandment adds the following pointed explanation after decreeing that no work should be done on the last day of the week:

"In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates."

Everyone must be allowed to rest, including the animals: the wording makes quite clear that there are no exceptions. There is not one set of rules for a privileged group and another set of rules for the other groups.

Further, the commandments help foster social harmony by commanding people to put God ahead of themselves and to strictly avoid preying on one another (the Commandments say, for instance, that one must not steal or murder).

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The Ten Commandments, especially the latter six, which are universal irrespective of an individual's views on the existence of a higher being, represent social justice in that they were intended to establish a level playing field for all of humanity. The concept or idea of "social justice" is to provide for all equal opportunity and the equal distribution of resources or wealth. These universal principles of right and wrong should, in theory, guide human conduct. Because the Ten Commandments were issued by a higher being for the conduct of human behavior, that higher being, God, acts, especially in the Old Testament, as governor, with certain individuals, Moses, chosen as his administrators of social justice.

While God, in the old Testament, establishes a hierarchy of sorts, with Aaron and the Levites enjoying a somewhat exalted position, the equal treatment of all and the requirement that God and only God be above humanity are the guiding principles. To allow any individual or group of individuals to emerge above the rest of humanity in the manner of a pharaoh or dictator is to violate God's will and undermine the concept of social justice.

In short, the Ten Commandments establish the framework within which the pursuit of social justice can be achieved. Because the commandments were the provenance of God, nothing humanity does can usurp that authority. We are all equal under God's law.

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This is a great question. If you look at the Ten Commandments, then you will realize that they first deal with people's relationship with God (first four) and then with each other (final six). From a theological perspective, what the Ten Commands are saying is that the basis for morality is first rooted in a knowledge of who God is and what he has done. So, for the Jew and the Christian and the Muslims, the Commandments are the foundation for all morality.

With this foundation, an application of the Ten Commandments leads to social justice. For example, the Ten Commandments prohibit murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting. We can synthesize these commands to the injunction of creating a better world, where social justice reigns. This is one of the main points of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible (Torah). God desires obedience, not so much sacrifice. We might ask obedience to what? The answer would be to the Ten Commandments. When this obedience exists on a theological level, there will be social justice.

One example should suffice. If people took the idea of no stealing seriously, all people would be paid a fair wage. There might even be debt forgiveness. After all some loan are outrageous and the concept of Jubilee comes from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (Torah).

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