Will Injustice Ever End?
“THE system of justice that applies to you is different than the one that applies to the people who are influential.”
Maurice H. Nadjari, then Special State Prosecutor to investigate the criminal justice system of New York city, made that statement in an interview last summer. When asked: “Do you think there’s a double standard in this society; one for the nobles and another for the peasants?” Nadjari replied:
“I think that certainly in our system of justice, there is. There’s been a duality of justice. One system of justice for the politically weighted, and another one for you and me.”
Do those remarks seem to describe your area too? Probably so, for persons everywhere experience galling injustice. Aside from what you personally may have experienced, you likely have heard of many examples of injustice.
For instance, do you know of cases in which a prominent lawmaker, judge or politician accepted bribes, peddled his influence or broke the law to enrich himself or advance his career? Yet did he receive just punishment? Or was his punishment much lighter than a person from a minority group might expect for a comparable crime? To bring it ‘closer to home’: If it were revealed that an influential person in your community defrauded the government of, say $50,000, do you think that his punishment would be equal to that given to one of your workmates or neighbors if he stole as much money?
The fact is that in many places the “system of justice” is not really just. A national council on crime reported:
“Those caught up in the system are overwhelmingly the poor, the lower class, members of minority groups, immigrants, foreigners, persons of low intelligence and others who are in some way at a disadvantage. Those who have a good chance of escaping the system are the affluent criminals, corporate criminals, white-collar criminals, professional criminals, organized criminals and intelligent criminals.”
We can put some flesh on the bones of this generalization. According to one study, ‘racketeers were found five times less likely to be convicted of a crime than others.’ Another study revealed “that prominent white-collar defendants average about one year [in prison] for every $10 million they steal. . . . In contrast, bank robbers who got away with a few thousand dollars averaged 11-year sentences, five times longer in [prison] than bank embezzlers who got away with millions.”
That was in the United States. But if you live in another country, do you think that the situation is much different there?
Of course, most of us may figure that this particular type of injustice will not directly involve us, for who of us plans to rob a bank or embezzle millions? Still, injustices may be our lot in other ways.
As an illustration, you may have tried to get some legal matter settled. Perhaps it was obtaining certain travel or family documents or a permit to make alterations on a building. You met all the legal requirements, such as fulfilling the building code. But did you get fair, just treatment? Or, where you are, does justice in such matters depend on “who you know”?
Whatever the sort and extent of the injustice, all of us have experienced too much of it. As a result, probably we have all wondered, “Will injustice ever end?”
HELP WITH THE PROBLEM
Those who have tried to solve some of the more glaring public injustices have learned that this is easier wished for than done. Among solutions that you may hear from the man on the street are:
‘Get the leaders to be honest and just; then the rest of the people will be just.’ ‘Make sure the courts enforce equal sentences for all, not letting the gangsters or politicians get off easy.’ ‘See to it that the poor have adequate legal help so that they get justice.’ ‘Increase the punishments for accepting bribes so that those in authority will not be tempted to pervert justice.’
Such views, however, overlook some vital points regarding injustice that are brought into focus in a Bible account found in Luke chapter 18. Our briefly considering that account will give us some historical perspective on the problem of injustice and will present angles of the matter that are often ignored.
The account is an illustration that Jesus gave based on things with which his listeners were familiar. Jesus said:
“In a certain city there was a certain judge that had no fear of God and had no respect for man. But there was a widow in that city and she kept going to him, saying, ‘See that I get justice from my adversary at law.’ Well, for a while he was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Although I do not fear God or respect a man, at any rate, because of this widow’s continually making me trouble, I will see that she gets justice, so that she does not keep coming and pummeling me to a finish.’”
Then Jesus counseled:
“Hear what the judge, although unrighteous, said! Certainly, then, shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, even though he is long-suffering toward them? I tell you, He will cause justice to be done to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”—Luke 18:2-8.
Jesus gave this illustration to stress the need to persevere in prayer. (Luke 18:1) But we can also learn about justice from it.
First, the parable should have a balancing effect upon us. Why? Because it indicates that even nineteen hundred years ago it often was difficult to get justice from a person in authority, such as a magistrate appointed by the Romans. Yes, injustice is an age-old problem. Who can say how many different human governments and reform movements have tried to end injustice? Yet it is still with us. Recognizing this historical fact can be a safeguard for us. How so? It can protect us from getting quickly swept up in another human effort of some sort to change the situation, an effort probably not much different from what has been tried before.—Prov. 24:21.
Also, the parable should drive home to us that, according to the Bible, mankind’s Maker is compassionately interested in justice for all, even for a lowly widow. (Deut. 10:17, 18) This agrees with the description of God given by a psalmist who was aware of His judgments: “He is a lover of righteousness and justice.”—Ps. 33:5.
Finally, Jesus’ illustration, though not of itself pinpointing when it will occur, does give us reason to believe that God’s purpose is to “cause justice to be done.”
“Yes,” some might say, ‘but how will injustice end and when?”