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