Justice

The image is called “Lady Justice.” Artist unknown. “Lady Justice” holds a scale to measure balance and fairness and a double edge sword symbolic of the swift decisiveness and authority that ought to characterize justice.

Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.

Isaiah 42:1‐4

At the heart of the virtue of justice is rendering to each human being what belongs to them. Justice alone of the virtues instructs us in our interactions with other people, while the other virtues (prudence, temperance, and fortitude) instruct us in how to govern ourselves: our own mind, body, and emotions. Justice promotes balance, fairness, and order in all things. Justice demands the acknowledgement of the dignity and worth of every human being, in spite of all temptations to disregard this truth. Injustice is marked by greed and theft: either taking material things that belong to another or taking dignity through maltreatment. The foundation to a Christian understanding of justice is that human beings are made in the image of God and are therefore endowed with certain “rights” including the right to live and freely pursue the work and worship commendable to God. The State aims to fulfill justice through a detailed system of laws and rights and enforces justice with punitive action. For Christianity, justice paves the way for the theological virtue of Christian love: “The just man, the more he realizes that he is the recipient of gifts and that he has an obligation to God and to man, will alone be ready to fulfill what he does not owe. He will decide to give something to the other that no one can force him to give.” This selfless giving, born out of the overflow of love we receive from Christ, is the goal of the Christian life.

 

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