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Without a doubt, our nation faces numerous serious problems. Many believe that one of our greatest needs is justice. Current news often mentions the “Social Justice” movement. Many protest and even riot and loot claiming to seek justice.
Matthew 23:23 – Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of the law including justice (often translated “judgment” in KJV) and mercy and faith. Justice is a duty, not just of government, but of each individual: one of the weightier matters of the law.
Notice what God’s word teaches.
Matthew 23:23 – Justice is one of the weightier matters of the law.
Proverbs 21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. In the New Testament our sacrifice is our worship – Hebrews 13:15. Everyone in government, in our country, and in the church should understand they cannot practice injustice and still expect God to accept their worship.
Psalms 33:5 – God loves righteousness and justice. Like love, mercy, holiness. and many other qualities, God requires us to practice justice because it is a basic part of His character and His inherent standard of righteousness.
The Old Testament discusses justice in great detail, so we will learn much about it there.
People often pervert word meanings to rationalize sin. Some defend premarital sex or homosexuality as “love” or “marriage.” Some claim sprinkling and pouring constitute “baptism,” or sports and social meals fit the meaning of “fellowship.” Likewise, many pervert the meaning of “justice.” Consider the proper Biblical meaning:
Deuteronomy 25:1 (ASV) – “If there be a controversy between men, ... and the judges judge them; then they shall justify the righteous and condemn the wicked.” Justice is justifying the righteous but condemning the wicked.
Ezekiel 33:18-20 – God said His judgments were fair: “When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. … I will judge every one of you according to his own ways.” Justice is always based on what a person does.
So, justice involves reaching a verdict or giving a reward in which the person who does right is treated as though he did right and the person who does wrong is treated as though he did wrong. Such a decision is “fair.” But if someone who does wrong is treated as though he did right, or someone who does right is treated as though he did wrong, that is unjust or unfair.
The ultimate decree of justice for each person will be declared by Jesus at the judgment day. But the Bible also shows that all of us must make just judgments in everyday life.
1 Peter 2:13,14 – Civil rulers should punish evildoers and reward those who do good. That by definition is justice. Rendering justice is the fundamental reason for the existence of rulers.
Deuteronomy 16:18-20 – You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates … and they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality … You shall follow what is altogether just.
Yet throughout history in almost every nation, some rulers allow guilty people to go unpunished because they are famous, rich, or influential, or because high-paid lawyers find some loophole in the law. Or innocent people are imprisoned or lose their property or family because they cannot afford the high-paid lawyer or because the judge is biased against them.
Verse 19 – “You shall not … take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.” Sometimes rulers rule unjustly for the sake of personal gain or profit.
God will hold rulers accountable for using their authority with justice.
Colossians 4:1 – Masters, give your servants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. Some employers cheat their employees by not paying the wages they have earned. And some employees expect pay but do not do the required work. Either way is unjust.
Leviticus 19:35,36 – You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have just balances, just weights, etc. Sometimes unfair measurements are used so the customer gets less than what he paid for. Or the product may not do what it was represented to do. Or something promised may not be delivered.
On the other hand, some customers buy a product then refuse to make payments. Or they may use it till they no longer need it, then they return it and ask for their money back.
Do we practice justice in our business affairs?
Genesis 18:19 – God praised Abraham because he would lead his family to practice justice. Fathers should teach the principles of justice and set an example of treating our families justly.
Colossians 3:21 – Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they be discouraged. One of the main ways we can be guilty of discouraging our children is by treating them unfairly.
If two children break the same rule under similar circumstances but one is punished and the other is not, we have been unjust. Justice requires that people must be considered guilty when they violate the rules and innocent when they do not.
However, kids sometimes accuse parents of unfairness to make their parents feel guilty simply because the kids didn’t get their way. Kids who do this are being unfair!
God expects people in every human relationship to practice the principle of justice.
John 7:24 – “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Jesus had been condemned for healing on the Sabbath. He responded that the people judged Him wrongly because it only appeared that He violated the Sabbath when really He did not. He was accused of error even though He was not guilty. That is unjust.
Contrary to what many people think, when Jesus said, “Judge not,” He was objecting, not to all judgments, but to unjust judgments.
Matthew 7:15,20,21 – Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. The fruit is whether or not they are doing and teaching the will of the Father (verse 21). Each of us must make judgments about religious teachings and practices, but our judgments must be based on God’s will.
Proverbs 28:4 – Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them. Christians have a God-given duty to make just judgments.
We must determine whether or not people around us are guilty of sin, so we do not participate in that sin and so we can warn others about the dangers of their sin. But our judgments must be just: do not justify the wicked or condemn the just. How well are we doing?
(Proverbs 17:15; 24:28; 19:28; 1 Timothy 5:20,21)
Like all Bible principles, justice is often perverted. People often misunderstand justice or falsely accuse others of being unjust. True justice is based on the following characteristics:
Proper justice must be determined by whether or not people obey God’s word.
Proverbs 2:6,9 – The Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding … you will understand righteousness and justice, equity, and every good path.
Proverbs 28:5 – Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord do understand. You can’t apply the law fairly when you don’t understand the law.
Amos 5:14,15,24 – Seek good and not evil … Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. … Let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.
Our society repeatedly calls evil good and good evil, not just in government, but in schools.
The website of “DC Educators for Social Justice” illustrates perverted concepts of justice. It encourages school teachers to “affirm” homosexuals and transexuals and “We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.”
To practice justice, we must know what is right and be determined to defend what is right and oppose evil at all costs. Are you and I committed to the truth?
Remember, justice is based on what a person does. To judge on some other basis is unjust.
James 2:1-4,8,9 – Do not show partiality toward those who visit church meetings. Don’t dishonor poor people or give special honors to rich people. Partiality violates the Royal Law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Those who are guilty are convicted by the law as transgressors.
1 Timothy 5:20,21 – Sin should be rebuked without prejudice or partiality. Partiality involves favoritism or respect of persons: people may be treated as being right simply because they are rich, famous, influential, or because of personal friendship or family relations.
Proverbs 18:5 – It is not good to show partiality to the wicked, or to overthrow the righteous in judgment. We must make judgments about sin based only on obedience to God’s word.
Deuteronomy 27:19 – Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow. Some folks take unfair advantage of those who are defenseless. They may cheat them in business or discriminate against them in judgment.
Leviticus 19:15 – You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.
Some in the Social Justice movement think justice requires favoring minority groups over majority groups. God says showing favoritism to minority groups is as wrong as showing favoritism against them.
We must make judgments based on right or wrong conduct according to God’s word. If people sin, we must treat them as guilty; if they have not sinned, we must treat them as innocent – no matter how close we personally are to them, and no matter how wealthy or poor, famous or insignificant. Have we learned to practice true justice?
Justice requires properly judging between right and wrong. And we must be consistent with other judgments. Consider some specifics:
Exodus 23:2 – You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. Sometimes we are convinced someone is right (or wrong) according to the Bible, but other people disagree. We may stand alone or nearly alone.
Preachers are sometimes pressured to condone what the Bible does not condone. People may threaten to cut his support or leave the congregation if he defends some Bible truth.
Our decisions regarding right and wrong must be based on God’s word, not on the pressure from others’ views. To treat someone as being wrong when they are really right, or to treat them as right when they are really wrong, either way would be injustice no matter what views are held by people we love or by large numbers of people.
(Matthew 7:13,14; 10:34-37)
Matthew 27:18 – Pilate knew that envy motivated the Jews to want Jesus to be killed. So envy led to one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in history. (Luke 23:39-41)
Sometimes our judgments of others are tainted by resentment of their advantages or status. Jealousy may lead us to accuse them of evil without proper evidence or to fail to defend them when they are right.
Some people claim “Social Justice” gives them the right to take what belongs to others when their problem is not lack of justice but just plain envy: they want what others have.
Proverbs 31:4,5 – It is not for kings … to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted. Alcohol or recreational drugs can cloud the judgment of rulers so that they make unjust decisions.
But all of us, not just rulers, should practice justice. If intoxicating drink hinders kings in making just judgments, it would have the same effect on us.
This reveals the basic reason why Christians should not use recreational drugs or alcoholic beverages common in our society. Such practices alter judgment and inhibitions so people fail to make proper decisions regarding right and wrong. This leads to many errors including injustice.
(Isaiah 5:22,23; 28:6,7)
Romans 2:1-3,21 – People are inexcusable if they condemn others for actions they also practice. You who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?
Condemning other people, when we are just as guilty as they are, is a form of injustice. We must teach others if they are really wrong, but we must not excuse and overlook our own sins.
People who loot, steal, or practice violence often justify themselves by claiming they have been mistreated. But they get very upset if someone steals or is violent toward them.
If a practice is wrong, it is wrong when we do it to others just as it is when they do it to us.
(Matthew 7:1-5; 23:3,4; Luke 11:19)
Deuteronomy 24:16 – Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.
Ezekiel 18:20 – The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
Treating people as wrong or right because of the actions of their parents, ancestors, or family members is unjust. A person is guilty or innocent only because of their own conduct.
Sometimes when a person is accused of error, family members immediately come to their defense regardless of the evidence. That is unjust.
There was a time when, if a white person (especially a white woman) accused a black man (or an American Indian) of a crime, the man was automatically considered guilty. That is unjust.
If so, then it is just as wrong to consider someone guilty just because he is any other color.
A document provided for teachers in Buffalo Public Schools states: “All white people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism.”* So, simply because you are white you are guilty of perpetuating racism. That statement itself constitutes racism and injustice.
Today if a woman accuses a man, many think the man is guilty because he is a man.
And the most suspect of all is a “white European male.”
Some in the Social Justice or Black Lives Matter movements think people owe them reparations because their ancestors were mistreated by other people’s ancestors. Many think “justice” gives people the right to take what they want by force or stealing. That perverts justice.
Assuming people are wrong just because they are of a certain race or gender is unjust. People are guilty or innocent only because of their personal conduct, not because of their parents, family, ancestors, race, nationality, or gender.
(Matthew 10:34-37; Deuteronomy 24:16)
Proverbs 17:15 – He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord. This verse clearly states the Bible principle of justice without using the word.
Justice is one of the weightier matters of God’s word. But another of the weightier matters is mercy. Justice demands that sin be condemned and righteousness rewarded. But mercy offers forgiveness to those who are guilty.
Mark 16:16 – He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. To receive forgiveness, each one must meet conditions.
When Jesus comes again, you and I will face a judge who will be absolutely just. Today, we can obtain mercy by receiving forgiveness by His blood. But we must do this now or face His justice at the judgment.
Have you been forgiven of your sins?
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2020; gospelway.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.