Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Justice, at least if it benefits me...

If you don't live around Pittsburgh, you may have no point of reference for this blog post.  In Allegheny County Pennsylvania, there is a huge furor over property tax reassessments.  Somebody petitioned the courts a while back to force the county to reassess properties.  The county complied, and then began mailing out the new assessments.  The assessed value of some Pittsburgh properties has gone up 400% and more, and believe me, the owners are not happy.

Because of the kind of inner city ministry I'm involved with, there is a lot of talk about "justice."  We believe that God has called us to act justly in the world and to do so on behalf of those who don't always have the strongest voices.  So on the surface it seems like a justice issue that so many taxpayers are up in arms about their new assessments and the extra taxes they may have to cough up because of it.  And my first reaction is fight because, for me and Carla, our newly assessed home value has increased by over 30%.  Justice is to fight for a lower assessment, right?

However, as a Christian, I'm called to act justly....always.  That means even when it doesn't benefit me.  That means even if it directly harms me.  Right?  Because our newly assessed home value is actually right in line with what our home is worth on the market.  Which leads me to ask the simple and difficult question:  Would I be willing to fight for a higher assessment if our assessment was considerably below fair market value.  And because our assessment is actually fair, it really isn't justice at all to fight it, it's just not fun to accept.

Do you see the issue?  I feel called to right the wrong, to justice, if I am going to have to pay more.  But isn't the real test of my justice mettle to see if I would fight to pay more if paying more was actually correct?!  What say you?


Nate said...

Dear Brett,
First, I miss you. Second, I wish that everyone had the understanding of justice that you do. I go to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and "justice" is a buzz word like no other at this school. The problem that I have with the understanding of justice is that a much more dangerous way of thinking, entitlement, has been joined with it in a pervasive and even covert manner. Justice has become "getting what's mine", and that really isn't justice at all.

Once I'm done with this whole seminary thing, or perhaps over the summer, I'd love to come down and see what you are up to. I have been working with inner city ministry as well and would like to continue doing so in some fashion if/ when I end up back in PA, which it looks like I will.

Love you and miss you bro.

Brett said...


First of all, I miss you too! I hope you're doing well. I talked with Sara Hilf a few days ago and she said you guys stay in touch.

I appreciate your thoughts and echo a hardy amen.

I would totally love to hook up and see what God is doing in your life. Let me know when you're back this way.

Love and miss you too man!