Justice I

Biblical Justice as it is demonstrated towards the poor.  What’s that look like?  First the Old Testament:

  1. Historically we see the development of the children of Israel beginning as slaves in Egypt through the Exodus to their coming into the promised land.  No real class distinctions.
  2. Canaan/ Promised Land:  The land was allotted to every Israelite, which produced conditions which developed into social differences and classes of distinction.  With a concern to prevent permanent poverty, God gave specific commands to His people regarding care of the poor: those sold into slavery were to be released (Exod 21:2), gleaning of the fields was allocated to the poor (23:19,21) with instruction that the poor were not to be exploited (22:22).  God was the Protector of the Poor and by His laws sought social justice for the poor.
  3. The period of the Monarchy brought economic development and prosperity for some but poverty for others.  Things worsened and the prophets took up the cause of the poor decrying forced labour (Amos 5:11,12), enslaving of fellow countrymen (Jer. 34:8-11) and the depriving of widows, orphans, and the poor of their rights (Isa 10:1,2).  Those who were socially strong were guilty of oppression (Amos 2:7; 4:1; 5:11).  Hunger for land was driving the poor from their inheritance (Isa 3:15; 10:2;14:32)

 

God would not forget the poor (Ps 9:12; 40:17); He pities and comforts them (Ps 34:6; Isa 49:13), and is concerned for their well-being.

 

  1. Israel becomes more and more selfish, materialistic and self-centered.  The poor become increasingly oppressed by the rich (Prov 30:14; Isa 3:14); afflicted by the wicked (Ps 10:2; 12:5); subject to oppression and abuse (Amos 2:6; 5:12); were constantly in want or poverty (Prov 6:11; 11:24) and lacking the basic necessities of life (Job 30:3).

God speaks forth in Micah 6:8 “He has shown thee O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you.  Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before your God.”

Do Justice” – what’s that all about?  Here in my office, I am a 15 minute walk away from the Supreme Court of Canada.  When we think about justice we think of robed lawyers and judges making judgments that affect the lives of Canadians.  We think of decisions made passionately but passively in the halls of this great building.  Or perhaps we move east on Wellington Street to the Peace Tower and Parliament Hill where more judgments and decrees are pronounced.

Sound pretty complicated doesn’t it?  It’s not really that difficult at all.

Justice is something to be acted upon, an action word, a decision, it could be considered by some as a verb even.  Do Justice.  Do justly.  Do the right thing.  Treat people fairly.  Show the same respect to all.

Treat people equally and with fairness.

What’s so hard about that?

2 replies
  1. Sarah Lussier
    Sarah Lussier says:

    To treat someone fairly you must see them and consider them your equal first. Jesus identified with the poor and marginalized because he was just like them – homeless, a vagrant, abused and oppressed. Once we see Jesus that way, it is easier to see the face of Jesus in those people and it becomes possible for us to treat them fairly.

    Yet it is too easy to fall into the trap of saying, “what about everyone else?” in regards to the fair treatment of homeless people. As lofty as it is to take on as mission to change people’s minds about our poor and abused, we have to focus on our own treatment of the poor first. I find that though I fully adhere to the belief and theory of loving the least of these, when it comes to doing it, it is so hard to get up the courage to invite these people into our lives. It is so scary because they are so different. I don’t understand them and where they’re coming from. I can’t empathize, therefore what can I offer them? And sometimes they tell you that too. They push you away because they don’t trust you. There is a constant struggle between wanting to go to them and help, and feeling like an outsider and like there is not much we can do to help.

    Sure you can give money to those that do it. And you can pray for them and for the least of these. But somehow it feels like I am missing out. I want in on what these people can give me because they have so much to give! But it takes so much commitment and time on my part. And that is not easy to give.

    So how do I treat Martha the hooker and street friend fairly if I never encounter her? Do I only treat her fairly if our paths cross?

  2. ken
    ken says:

    Thanks for this Sarah. Your penetrating insight is exceeded only by your heart of compassion for those who are without. It really comes down to how we can change, help or influence one person at a time. When we look at the ‘mountain’ we call homelessness, it is overwhelming and foreboding. But when we see individual people, and reach out to individual people, and get to know individual people, then there’s a chance for change. Whether that person is someone who calls the street their home, or someone who lives in the suburbs, there is room for influence and change.
    You are right in that there is a wealth of experiences, stories, and wisdom in the people we reach out to, and you are also correct in that it won’t be forthcoming outside of personal relationship, time and energy. We go through seasons of our own lives where we may offer different things at different times, but the main thing is to want to offer, and make available whatever resources we can muster to help. We all need to find ways to amke a difference! In many of these areas, we share the same struggle. Thanks for your response.

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