Justice is very important to God. He addresses the concept all through the prophets of the Old Testament and points out injustice as one of the primary sins he holds against the people of Israel when they wander from him. God defends the weak, the impoverished, the alone, and those who are looked down upon by society. If we begin to see this world through God’s eyes, we will, like him, promote justice. If we don’t fight for justice, we’re not following the heart of God.
When Jesus came, he came as the anointed one of God to bring make a difference in this world and in the world to come. Isaiah 6:1-3 tells about his mission,
“The spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion -- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
When Jesus left this earth, he taught his disciples that he would be living through them via the Holy Spirit who would inhabit them. The church would be the body of Christ carrying on his work in his absence. According to this passage, it seems that being like Jesus means, in part, showing compassion and promoting justice in this broken world. The writers of Proverbs agree.
First, they tell us to defend the defenseless. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). Not only are we commanded to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves, but the wisdom writers tell us that we can’t plead ignorance.
We must practice awareness of injustices around us and then act to correct unjust situations as this passage states, “Rescue the perishing, don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,’ will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know – Someone not impressed with weak excuses.” (Proverbs 24:11-12 The Message).
That verse wipes out excuses for not getting involved. We have a responsibility to be alert as to where injustices occur and to do what we can to defend those who need us. It may be in our homes, in our workplaces, on our kids’ playgrounds, in our neighborhoods, or in society at large. People of integrity cannot be silent when injustice rears its ugly head! And they have to be always on the look out for those who are being mistreated.
Help the needy.
A second aspect of justice requires us to help those who are in need. “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31). And another, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Proverbs 19:17).
Part of seeking justice in our world is sharing from the abundance that we have. In comparison to much of the world, many of us reading these words are wealthy. As Christians, we should never accept that it’s OK for us to have a surplus when there are those who don’t have adequate food, clothing, and shelter – the basic needs of life.
According to Proverbs, we cannot take advantage of those who are poor and we cannot ignore their need. And when we read these verses we are reminded, as well, of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25 when he tells us that when we do kindnesses for the hungry, thirsty, strangers, prisoners, and naked, we are doing those kindnesses for Jesus himself. That teaching alone should be enough to drive us to compassionate giving to those around us in need.
We have now talked about pursuing honesty and about promoting justice. Both of these characteristics are part of a bigger concept: Integrity. We’ll talk about that in our next post.