The Perspective of Justice

The Principal Laws of Social Life

The great commandment of the Hebrew covenant, ratified by Jesus as the greatest commandment, is to love God above all else and with all we have.

Already in ancient times it was the most abused commandment, as the people of Israel struggled with different forms of idolatry

In our own day we continue to violate this commandment with the various idolatries that infect our public life: worship of the almighty dollar, adoration at the altar of capitalism, religious reverence for ‘the American way of life.’

Jesus did not invent the second greatest commandment, either. His contribution was to link it with the first, to tie together love of God with love of neighbor.

Just as we violate the first commandment, so we violate the second one as well: we discriminate against our neighbor, we use our political and economic power to oppress our neighbor, we overwork and underpay our neighbor, we sexually harass our neighbor, we physically abuse our neighbor, we lock our neighbor up and forget about him, we seem to do many things that are not love of neighbor.

“Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Our experience tells us otherwise.

One may not take as the ultimate criteria in economic life the interests of individuals or organized groups, nor unregulated competition, nor excessive power on the part of the wealthy, nor the vain honor of the nation or its desire for domination, nor anything of this sort. Rather, it is necessary that economic undertakings be governed by justice and charity as the principle laws of social life.

Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra,1961: 38-39

Gerald Darring

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson