Do Justice

What does justice or injustice look like?  How do we live life so that we “do justice”  (Micah 6:8)?  I see Genesis 1:27 as being a foundation verse from which justice should flow.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:27)

We all have been created in the image of God, and that means everyone deserves dignity and respect.  There needs to be equal treatment for all. Whether you are rich or poor, the Lord is the Maker of them all (Proverbs 22:2).  Justice is for all.  This means there is no place for bias, partiality, or bribery (Deuteronomy 16:19).  The same laws apply to all, whether immigrant or native (Leviticus 24:22).  People, regardless of race, class, gender, ability, and behavior, must be treated equally with fairness and respect.  Justice means there is equal treatment for all.

Justice also is about being generous.  The Bible is very clear that private property exists.  We own, create, and produce stuff that is ours.  It is clear that we should not steal (Exodus 20:15), and that includes kidnapping, stealing of a person (Exodus 21:16).  And yet at the same time God reminds us that reality is that we really own nothing. We are only stewards of what God has given us. He is the real owner (Deuteronomy 10:14). Even our abilities are a gift from him (Deuteronomy 8:17-18a).  In Israelite society, the farmer was required to leave some of the crop for the poor to be able to glean (Leviticus 19:9-10). This allowed those lacking to be able to eat.  Also debts were forgiven every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1-2), so that no one would be in a situation they could not recover from.  The principles derived from these passages lead not to strict socialism, and they are also not laissez-faire capitalism.  Either extreme is not Biblical. God calls us to be generous with what he has given us.

Doing justice, also means being an advocate for those without power. The wealthy have the power and money to take care of themselves.  The poor, the needy, the destitute, and the oppressed need us to advocate for them and defend their rights (Proverbs 31:8-9). They too were created in the image of God and need to be given dignity and respect. Back in Zechariah’s day, God said:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”  (Zechariah 7:9-10)

Who are the oppressed today?   How can we stand up for them and defend their rights?

So how does injustice happen? It can happen in two ways, directly and indirectly.  If I am robbed, injustice to me has directly happened.  And there can be socially institutionalized ways of life that promote sin, and/or favor the rich and powerful allowing the poor and the disadvantaged to suffer injustice. We may not directly be involved in those sins, and yet we may be complicit and responsible as a society. God can hold and has held families, groups, and nations corporately responsible for sins that others committed in the past.   The consequences of those sins can linger for generations.  There is a corporate responsibility for injustice that lingers.  Daniel repented for the sins of his ancestors (Daniel 9:3-19) even though it is likely that he was not directly guilty of those sins.  In Amos, God pronounces judgment for the past sins of the surrounding nations (Amos 1), as well as the sins of Judah and Israel (Amos 2).  Those nations bore the responsibility and all in those nations suffered the consequences. What are those national sins today? What consequences of past national sins still linger today?  What past and present national sins do we need to repent of?  How do we do justice and work to make things right?  In America, racism is still affecting Americans of all colors. It is one old national sin that continues to produce consequences that still needs to be dealt with.

So we need to treat all people equally because we all are made in the image of God.  This can be done by being generous to those in need.  That includes standing up for the powerless and oppressed, and helping them get by in today’s society.  And it also means taking responsibility for past national sins and working to make things right. Let us do justice.

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.  (Deuteronomy 10:17-20)

This was inspired by a section in Timothy Keller’s book, “Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter”.  Timothy Keller also has a book on how God’s grace empowers us to be gracious, generous, and just.  It is called “Generous Justice” and is also an excellent and inspiring book.

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