Friday, September 21, 2007

For September 23 - A Just God

I like this picture. The caption, which isn't here, is supposed to read, "Liberty loves Justice." May it be so.

The passage in Luke 18 (to the right) is almost always talked about as a story about prayer. How the poor old lady prayed her way into an answer at last. "Bug God with your prayers and he'll finally have to answer you" - that seems to the the lesson most often gleaned from the passage. Luke even tells us, at the start of the story, what we are supposed to get out of it. But wait a second...though there's a lesson about persistence here, Jesus' parable really seems to be about Justice. Four times in this short story, justice is mentioned. Jesus himself says the point of the story is that God won't put off justice for his people forever - because God is just.
The prophets are absolutely packed with teaching, challenges, and warnings about God's justice and what he expects of us (Micah 6:6-8).
Passages that speak of God's righteous judgments against injustice flow from the prophets: Amos 5:23-25; Malachi 2:17-3:5; Amos 8:1-8; Habakkuk 2:2-14, and countless others.
But in our comfortable churches and homes we care more about "just us" than Justice. I know I do most of the time. I have to get jarred out of my self focus to do much about the injustices I see.
Gavin S. took me to a great New Wine, New Wineskins dinner last night where my comfort was disturbed enough to get me off my butt and at least try to go do something this morning that I knew was the right thing to do.
My wife Ana is dealing with a situation at work right now where she has to "fight" almost daily for equal services to be provided to the ELL kids she teaches. All kids who are delayed in learning qualify for special help. But that special help doesn't go to the ELL kids because it's even more work for the school staff. So a small percentage of the delayed ELL kids get extra help while almost all of the non-ELL kids get extra. Justice calls for Ana to be a voice for those who can't cry out for themselves; to see that they are given a fair shake and equal services. But it's tiring, frustrating, and sometimes seems so very pointless. Justice isn't easy. What else is new? Your thoughts, your ideas - let 'em flow like justice!


  1. Remembering something from my teen years I am reminded of this song

    But if we are the Body
    Why aren't His arms reaching
    Why aren't His hands healing
    Why aren't His words teaching
    And if we are the Body
    Why aren't His feet going
    Why is His love not showing them there is a way

    Jesus paid much too high a price
    For us to pick and choose who should come
    And we are the Body of Christ

    by Casting Crowns

    I don't see what I did as a hero... just something that i was suppose to do

    My brother and I were at a youth group function, ya know at church, a safe place. Well I was about 14 and My brother wasa Sr in High School. Some of the other Sr. boys were teasing him because he has a huge huge studdering problem. I finally had enough of their teasing and told them that I thought they weren't acting very Christlike and and is this what Christ would want them to be doing to another Church member. I don't really know what else I said because I was so upset and mad.

  2. My guess is that everyone suffers injustice at one time or another as the result of being in a fallen world. I generally find it easier to stand up for others than for myself as far as injustice is concerned. In my line of work, it is not unusual to have to advocate for someone who is unjustly treated. One example to comes to mind took place in East Texas over 20 years ago, when a cardiac patient of mine (who was going for prostate surgery) had a total change in demeanor while I was away at dinner. He was reluctant at first to say what had happened. During WWII, he had to have an emerg. appendectomy onboard ship--and had a spinal, which didn't work. Sadly, when he shared this with the anesthesiologist assigned to him for the prostate surgery, the doc blew off his concern and angrily told him that if he wouldn't consent to the spinal, he couldn't have the surgery. Fortunately, through calls to the supervisor and the pt's cardiologist, we were able to give him reassurance that techniques were much improved from the war, and got an anesthesiologist with more compassion and PR skills.

  3. Leviticus 19, sometimes called the "holiness code", has some things to say about justice as well. Verses 15 and 35 both begin with the same phrase (although you can't tell it from the NIV), "Do not pervert justice."

    In verse 35 the focus is on honest and consistent weights and measures. A just society will have consistent standards. (One thing that comes to mind for me is having consistent admission standards for colleges for all races.)

    In verse 15 it warns against showing favoritism to either the poor or the great. In probably the vast majority of cases, it is the poor who are treated unjustly, and we need to recognize this. But this verse acknowledges that it's also possible to have injustice by favoring the poor.

    To me, an example of both of these in society is in our system of taxation. The Bible presents a system of taxation (tithe) in which each person pays a specific percent, a "flat tax" if you will. Our system of taxation charges a higher percentage on those with more money, essentially compounding the tax. On the other hand, there are specific cases of special taxes levied on groups of poor people (e.g. smokers) where they have to pay for benefits for people who are less poor.

  4. There seem to be two core meanings associated with justice in the Bible, and two different words used. They can be summarized as 1) judgment, discernment, and 2) righteousness, right. In the verses in the prophets the word typically used is (MiSHPaT) judgment. But in many cases this is paired with the word (TZeDaQaH) righteousness. In the New Testament the word for righteousness (dikey and cognates) is used in connection with justice more often. The word for judgment (krima) is used more often of condemnation.

    The lesson seems to be that justice involves both discerning good from evil (judgment) and pursuing the good (righteousness).

  5. I thought of another example of injustice in society. I have some experience in restaurant work. Waiters are supposed to declare their tips and pay income tax on them. For withholding purposes, the IRS assumes tips to be a minimum of 8% of sales, although usually it's closer to 12-15%. The vast majority of waiters declare and pay taxes only on the 8%, even though they made a lot more.

    It's not just employees, though. Owners of cash businesses, such as laundromats, will state their earnings a lot differently to the IRS than they will to a potential buyer of the business. To them, this is just the way the game is played. But it's the dishonest weights and measures of Leviticus 19:35.

  6. From Ward,
    The message about justice made me think about our first mission trip to El Salvador. One of my most vivid memories was our visit to the devastated landslide area at Las Colinas. There were many grafitti messages on the remaining buildings and I particularly remember one that read "FOR JUSTICE AND LOVE WE WILL REBUILD". I often wonder if any of the international releif that was sent to El Salvador for that earthquake was ever used to rebuild that area.

    Even though God defines justice for us and gives us examples to follow there will be no justice if we don't take action.


Thanks for posting!