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Micah 6:8

Do Justice


O man, He has declared to you what is good. And what does Jehovah require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8 LITV)

(I am exceedingly indebted to Mr. Gale Kiersey, at whose suggestion this series was devised).

To “do justice.” The phrase itself conjures up visions of our court system, and indeed questions as to whether or not there is justice in the land. It has been well said that a Christian should never expect justice – nor cease to give it. In this lesson, we will focus on what the ordinary Christian is expected to do – so that he might come before the Lord and be known as a man of justice.

Thou Shalt

One of the many blessing of living under grace, rather than the Law, is the simplicity of life this brings. In the matter of justice, if I wish to know what God wants me to do, I need only remember the first principle: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In this lesson we shall amplify the principle a bit; but for all practical purposes, it is sufficient for the positive side of justice.

Justice for your wife

C. S. Lewis once remarked that any society which tolerates the double standard (as we do) for men and women, is a society which is permanently unfair to women. The reasoning is relatively simple. In such a society, women attract men by their appearance – which declines with the years. Men attract women with their achievements – which increase with the years. If we esteem our wives solely for their beauty, we will eventually make them miserable.

In this matter men should remember that the husband is like Christ to his wife; marriage is the personal picture of Christ and his church, his bride. Listen to what a saint of many years ago tells us:

“Don’t expect your wife to have things that are beyond her power. Remember that the church received everything from her Lord’s hands; by Him she was made glorious, by Him she was purified and freed from blemish. Don’t turn your back on your wife because she is not beautiful. … Your wife is God’s creation. If you reproach her, you are not condemning her but Him who made her. What can the woman do about it?”[1]

Sadly, this is not the way our society treats women. Nor is this a new phenomenon; the Old Testament saw the same thing. God specifically warns the men of Israel that the reason he no longer heard their prayers is that they had abandoned their wives in favor of younger women.[2]

Justice for those around you

In two separate places in the Old Testament[3] God gives instruction on what to do with a stray donkey. One place tells you what to do if the donkey belongs to a friend of yours; the other, if it belongs to an enemy. What’s interesting is this: the instructions are the same. You are to treat them equally, in the same way. This is typical. Treating them alike is simply a question of do unto others.

Nowhere is this more important than in the way you treat people in public, for there you not only affect your own life, but the lives of those who might look up to you. James puts it to us this way:

My friends, if you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you won't treat some people better than others. Suppose a rich person wearing fancy clothes and a gold ring comes to one of your meetings. And suppose a poor person dressed in worn-out clothes also comes. You must not give the best seat to the one in fancy clothes and tell the one who is poor to stand at the side or sit on the floor. That is the same as saying that some people are better than others, and you would be acting like a crooked judge.

(Jam 2:1-4 CEV)

God causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust,[4]; we are not to show favoritism because we are his children.

This also applies to those private transactions between each other. We are to treat those who are the poor with care and dignity. The ancient Israelite was cautioned that he was not allowed to loan at interest to his brother. Indeed, if he was to take the poor man’s cloak as a pledge of repayment, each night he was to return it to him, for this was the only thing the man would have to sleep in – and it gets cold on those desert nights.[5] So we would see that we are to treat all with fairness, and with great consideration for their personal welfare.

Agree Quickly

It happens, however, that disputes do arise. We would like to think that kindly Christians would never need raise their voices, but it is not so. Therefore, we need to know how to resolve those disputes:

  • Be proactive. Before the dispute has a chance to fester, go to your Christian brother (and this works for others as well) and offer to settle matters.[6] Do not be known as one who is intransigent; rather, as one who is reasonable.
  • Settle quickly. It saves you time, money and effort, and helps keep relationships intact.[7]
  • “Rather be wronged”. If the dispute is between two Christians, then find a way within the church to settle it. DO NOT hire a lawyer and go to court, for doing so disgraces the church.[8]

The matter is particularly important within the church. It is made difficult by lack of faith; after all, if we trust God to provide, surely he knows that we have been wronged! Surely he will provide what is needed to make it right?

Thou Shalt Not

Just as “do unto others” is the principle for the positive side of Christian justice, there is a principle behind the negative side. That principle is simply this: some aspects of judgment God has reserved for himself. If you use such parts of justice, no matter how righteous you may feel about it, you are stealing from God. And it won’t work.

Being Judgmental

A common accusation against Christians is that “they’re so judgmental.” It is a stereotype particularly beloved by the world. After all, they’re all judgmental hypocrites, so anything they say can safely be ignored.

Christ’s definitive teaching on this comes from the Sermon on the Mount.[9] He brings out the difficulty in this by showing us the fault of it:

  • First, when we are judgmental we are usually doing it out of proportion to the offense (the beam and the speck). We have a standard for them, and a standard for us.
  • And, of course, we don’t stop to think: does this apply to me as well? Am I open to the same judgment? We need to be the imitators of Christ in this.
  • Most tellingly, it is very clear from any number of passages[10] that whatever standard we use in this, will be used on us – at the Last Judgment.
Another man’s servant

There is one particular area of being judgmental that calls forth a particularly large amount of Scripture. That area concerns judgment of our fellow Christians. This is most commonly the case for those who are in leadership positions. The most prominent location defining this is in Romans, chapter 14. The entire chapter is dedicated to handling disputes and varying opinions between Christians. We can but summarize its main points;

  • First, that we are not to pass judgment on debatable matters. You think it sinful to drink alcohol? I should do nothing to defile your conscience in this. I think it’s OK? You should not condemn me, but rather leave the matter to God.
  • Next, in whatever way we find to be pertinent, we are not to use our liberty if the result is the destruction of another Christian. Our freedom carries with it responsibility – for ourselves and for others.
  • Finally (see verse 22) we are to learn to keep our mouths shut about our differences. If it does not relate to salvation, we should be very reluctant to air our differences.
Slander and Gossip

First, let me define the difference: slander is when you know it’s not really true. Gossip means that it’s true. Many Christians think that if something is true (or even if it’s probably true), then it’s OK to “share” it. But the Christian is called to speak the truth in love.[11] So both of these are forbidden, for both of these tear down our brothers and sisters.

Indeed, as James reminds us[12], if we slander our Christian brother, we are actually passing judgment on the Law of God! We’re saying, in effect, that we need to “spread the word” about this, because what God will do about it is either wrong or ineffective. This is not a point which I would wish to pursue personally with the Almighty.

Those outside the church

One thing which is strictly prohibited – though you might not know it from the sounds of things – is judgment on those outside the church. This is indeed stealing from God.[13] God will judge those outside the church. Our judgment is limited to ourselves, and to those circumstances in which church discipline is being applied.

It would be well to outline the difference between church discipline and being judgmental:

  • Church discipline ALWAYS begins with a one on one conversation. If you observe the sin, in general you are the one who is to be first in pointing it out – to the sinner. If this succeeds, the matter is closed – and so is your mouth. Slander and gossip simply proclaim the matter to as many people as possible. One is for the sinner’s benefit; the other tears down the church.
  • At each step in church discipline, the sinner is given the chance to make things clear. You might be mistaken as to the facts; therefore this must be approached with all humility. Slander and gossip need the “holier than thou” attitude.
  • Church discipline, obviously, is for the restoration of the sinner to a right relationship with God. Therefore, it cannot be applied outside of the church.

God’s Justice and Judgment

There is also a guiding principle here: your sense of justice – what you proclaim as fair – will be used on you at the Judgment (if not before). To claim anything else is to show contempt for the justice of God.

The Lord will judge his servants

On those occasions when I have (as a manager) received complaints about my people, there is one consistent response: “I’ll take care of it.” My people have to deal with me; therefore, they don’t have to deal with anybody else’s manager. They don’t work for him; they work for me. The same is true with God. He will judge his servants (either as profitable or unprofitable). It’s none of your business. If you make it your business, then you should expect him to “allow” others the same privilege concerning your performance.

Indeed, if he decides that forgiveness is better than punishment,[14] that’s his business. If you will recall, the essence of the matter is that we are sinners, asking for forgiveness. If we can’t leave that alone, he may allow our principles to be used against us.

So then, why is this so hard? Why is it so commonly the case that we are quick to judge? Perhaps it’s this: we just can’t imagine that things could turn out right if we weren’t there to point out all the injustices and wrongs of the world. Even to say it is to laugh; God knows the sins of this world much better than we do.

Hunger and thirst after righteousness

God is looking for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness – those who may not always receive justice, but always desire to give justice. Let me give you an example:

When I was in high school (1961-1964, for those of you who collect antiques) my father contracted to have a cinder block wall built around the yard. In 1971, there was a large earthquake. My parents home was very near the center of the quake, and the house suffered much damage. About a month after the earthquake, my mother was surprised to see the person who had built the wall come to the door. He asked to be allowed into the yard so that he might inspect the wall. He wandered around, applying an expert eye. When finished, he turned to the two workers with him and said, “We start tomorrow. We will fix this.”

My mother started to explain that the damage to the house was quite extensive, insurance not available, and the wall not that much of a priority. She thanked him for coming by, but said clearly she could not afford to hire him to repair the wall. His reply was simply this: “My walls don’t fall down. We start tomorrow.” It took some time for him to make himself clear. He was not soliciting repair business; he was fixing his wall. He did not charge a dime. He was simply doing what he thought was right.

If you are one who seeks after righteousness, always giving justice, never expecting it in return, you are then trusting God to reward you for this – and he has promised to do so. Indeed, you might even become known for it. Like our bricklayer.

Lord, Lord

There is a sad fact about this: many will go through life feeling themselves to be righteous, and miss the kingdom of heaven. Jesus describes it as the narrow door.[15] Some have used this sentence to announce that only if you belong to their particular sect can you come to salvation. But our Lord doesn’t say, “Guess right about the name on the church door.” He says instead, “Make every effort…” Seek what he commands, hunger and thirst after righteousness – make every effort.

On the day of his return, there will be many who will start their self-justification with the phrase, “Lord, Lord, …” They will call him Lord; he will deny that they ever knew him. They will tell of their days in church, of the large checks they wrote – everything that tells of being in the right church. It is not a matter of the right sect. It is a matter of lordship. If Christ is not Lord to you, then you are on the wrong highway, no matter how doctrinally correct your particular group might be.

It could not be otherwise. Remember again our three principles:

  • In the matter of dealing with others, did you consistently treat everyone else with the kindness, justice and courtesy you would want for yourself?
  • In the matter of obedience, did you leave to God that which belongs to God? Or did you decide to give him some assistance, unasked? Did you steal his judgment? Did you slander? Did you gossip?
  • In the matter of fairness, are you willing to let God apply the standard you apply to others – to you? And if so, just how well will you measure up?

Only the truly just will see justice done. And as we will see in the next lesson, the truly merciful obtain mercy.

[1] Chrysostom, On Marriage and Family Life, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 1986. And worth the reading, too.

[2] Malachi 2:13-16

[3] Exodus 23:4-5 and Deuteronomy 22:1-4

[4] Matthew 5:45

[5] Exodus 22:25-27

[6] Matthew 5:23-24

[7] Matthew 5:25-26

[8] 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

[9] Specifically, Matthew 7:1-5

[10] Obadiah 1:15 will do for an example.

[11] Ephesians 4:15

[12] James 4:11-12

[13] 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

[14] See. for example, John 8:1-11, the woman taken in adultery.

[15] Luke 13:24

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