In addition to distributive justice and commutative justice, there is also the issue of remedial justice. Remedial justice addresses just compensation and punitive action when there has been malicious or careless damage done to life, liberty or property. It is necessary for someone to have a reasonable certainty that the fruits of their labor will not be taken by capricious or malevolent behavior if we expect them to invest their resources toward productive ends. Otherwise, why take the risk? It stifles the role God intends for us as co-creators and renders the idea of private property meaningless. Here are just a couple passages addressing remedial justice in the Old Testament:
Lev 19:15 NRSVThere are even specific penalties listed for various crimes:
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.>
Deut 16:19-20 NRSV
19 You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
Ex 22:1-2 NRSVThese are just a few examples of the laws God prescribed for Israel illustrating his concern for remedial justice.
1 When someone steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, the thief shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. The thief shall make restitution, but if unable to do so, shall be sold for the theft. 2 When the animal, whether ox or donkey or sheep, is found alive in the thief's possession, the thief shall pay double.
Ex 22:7-8 NRSV
7 When someone delivers to a neighbor money or goods for safekeeping, and they are stolen from the neighbor's house, then the thief, if caught, shall pay double. 8 If the thief is not caught, the owner of the house shall be brought before God, to determine whether or not the owner had laid hands on the neighbor's goods.
Ex 22:14-15 NRSV
14 When someone borrows an animal from another and it is injured or dies, the owner not being present, full restitution shall be made. 15 If the owner was present, there shall be no restitution; if it was hired, only the hiring fee is due.
The lack of justice in Israel was a constant refrain with the prophets. Amos had one of the most eloquent pronouncements:
Amos 5:12-15 NRSV
12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins--you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. 14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. 15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Amos 5:21-24 NRSV
21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Jesus and the New Testament spent little time directly addressing governmental structures. Instead, Jesus encouraged us to go beyond simple justice equations like “…an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Jesus instructed us to love our enemies which would include respect for their possessions and health. If this ethic were widely shared, there would be no theft and violence, and no need for remedial action in the first place. When Jesus met Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus seemed instantly to understand that he must make restitution for what he had stolen if he wanted to follow Jesus. When Jesus announced his ministry at Nazareth, he announced the jubilee ... the ultimate in remedial economic action to prevent permanent economic bondage.