What does it mean to “do justice”?
Often times, the image that comes to mind when we think about the idea of “justice” is Robin Hood. Stealing from the rich and giving it to the poor. We love the story, and loved the movies when they were popular. But, it has really confused the idea of Justice.
Doing Justice is not merely a redistribution of wealth. The closest the New Testament comes to teaching that concept is Acts 2 where we read that they shared everything and had everything in common. But even then, while they pooled their resources, they also shared duties and responsibilities. It wasn’t one person working for the money so someone else can spend it for them.
Well, then, what is Justice. There are two aspects of it, legal and ethical. While there are things the church can do in regard to legal justice, most of our efforts focus on ethical justice.
It is in this realm that we must Do Justice as a church. God’s understanding of Justice can be found in Leviticus 25 where Israel is instructed in the Year of Jubilee when property that was sold was returned to the original owner and people who were forced to become servants to pay debt were set free. There is little evidence that Old Testament Israel ever actually followed God’s instructions. However, in Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61, which is a reference to the Year of Jubilee. He’s talking about himself, though it appears most don’t get it.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and the regaining of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Here we see some of the clearest ways we can Do Justice, good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom for those who are oppressed. In Isaiah 61 also adds helping the brokenhearted, comforting those who mourn and offering praise instead of discouragement.
Jesus did all those things. And while He did all of them physically, he did them spiritually as well. He preached good news to the poor – he encouraged them, but he, himself was the good news – the best news they could get. He set people free from the bondage of demon possession. He encouraged Mary and Martha after Lazarus had died, and ministered to their broken hearts. And, while He physically gave sight to the blind, He gave us all sight from our spiritual blindness.
Because Jesus saw himself as the fulfillment of God’s command for justice, the church, His body, must do the same. These are the things we must do. Because we know and understand what Jesus did for us, we don’t do justice because it is commanded – instead – it has become part of our DNA. A believer who doesn’t do justice would be considered an anomaly. You can see evidence of this in the way the New Testament church lived. They were very just to one another and to those they encountered who needed it.
Proverbs 16:8 says:
“Better to have a little with righteousness
than to have abundant income without justice.”
You may not realize this, but the definition of righteousness includes the idea of justice. Someone who is living rightly, also lives justly. A righteous person will be Just. And since we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, the expectation to live justly is only increased. In the Old Testament, it was expected to do these things as a part of the Law. Now, for us who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, it is Christ in us (the hope of glory) that motivates and empowers us to do this work.
Later in Isaiah 61 we see this:
“For I, the Lord, love justice
and hate robbery and sin.
I will repay them because of my faithfulness;
I will make a permanent covenant with them.”
As we see, God is very much in favor of Justice. And the Justice we see God working out is, good news to the poor, release of captives and freeing of prisoners, helping the brokenhearted, praise instead of discouragement, and giving sight to the blind.
2 Corinthians 9:9-13 says:
“Just as it is written, “He has scattered widely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever.” Now God who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your supply of seed and will cause the harvest of your righteousness to grow. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God, because the service of this ministry is not only providing for the needs of the saints but is also overflowing with many thanks to God. Through the evidence of this service they will glorify God because of your obedience to your confession in the gospel of Christ and the generosity of your sharing with them and with everyone.
God provides everything. And God gives to those who love Him. Even more than that, He wants to give to us so that we can use it for spreading the gospel. The problem is, we need to be trustworthy. We need to be on mission. We can’t use the money and resources God gives us for our own gain and our own name. We have to use them to be generous on every occasion.
It is through this kind of living that we will see the real reward of Doing Justice. Those whom we are generous to, will see the evidence of our faith and they too will glorify God because of our obedience.
This is the kind of Religion God likes. James 1:27 says:
“Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Righteousness is a big word. In the old Testament it was a condition that made people acceptable to God and allowed them to be in his presence, God gave rules that had to be kept to stay “clean” so God’s people would not be separated from Him. In the New Testament, everything gets amped up, including Righteousness. Through Jesus’ death we are given Righteousness, which we could not attain on our own, (Philippians 3:9 says: “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”) but we are expected to embrace everything that goes with it. Justice is a part of Righteousness. Throughout the Bible, in the Old Testament especially, the two words are often used interchangeably. In fact, you will find some translations that use Righteous where others use Justice and vice versa.
Since we have the Spirit at work in us, transforming us to be like Christ, how much more should we be about doing justice? If we are full of God, having God’s Spirit living in us, we will do what God wants. It will be impossible then, for us to not do Justice.
What about us here at SixEight Church? What are some of the ways we do Justice? Right now we are doing things like “Laundry Love” and the Food Pantry. But, we will also be looking for more ways to bring good news to the poor, release those in bondage to addiction, debt and other forms of entrapment, bring sight to those who have been blinded to the truth about God and life, setting free those who are oppressed by violence and fear, coming alongside the brokenhearted, comforting those who mourn and offering praise for the hope and contentment that God brings instead of the discouragement brought by the cynical world around us.
We will do Justice as God provides us with resources. So, stay tuned! We’re excited about what God has in store for us and we want you to be a part of it!