Why Do Justice? Guest Post by Brian Bowe
Why Do Justice? We live in a world that is broken as a result of sin, and the Bible is fairly clear that we will continue to deal with our struggle with sin and sin’s effects until Jesus returns. Injustice and poverty exist in our world because of our sin. Jesus even tells us that the poor will always be with us (Mark 14:7, Mat. 26:11). So, if poverty is going to remain and we aren’t going to be without sin until Jesus’ return, then why bother seeking justice? It’s hopeless, right? Why spend all of that time, money, and energy if our efforts are just going to be corrupted again by sin. If a perfectly just society cannot be achieved, why work for it at all? It stands to reason that we should just tough it out and deal with the results of this broken world until Jesus comes back and makes everything better. If the point of doing justice is to achieve a society where everyone is financially stable, has equal rights, and equal opportunity; then this logic might be valid. Fortunately God gives us other reasons for being participants in seeking justice for this Earth and our fellow man.
Seeking justice here and now will have an impact that will last beyond this world. God created us for eternity. Our interactions with others have implications that will far outlast our current time and place. C.S. Lewis writes, “There are no ordinary people…It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit…” How we speak to, love, serve, and spend our time and resources on people could have profound effects on their eternal lives. This is why the Gospel must accompany justice.
Not only are we “immortals”, but God created us in his image and we should love and treat each other in a manner worthy of that. Another implication of this is that we have the opportunity to reflect God in ourselves. Human beings are precious to God so much that he bestowed his image upon them. He imparted his sacredness on us, giving every person dignity in that fact. In the book Generous Justice Tim Keller explains that, “there is something so valuable about human beings that not only may they not be murdered, but they can’t even be cursed without failing to give them their due, based on the worth bestowed upon them by God.” If God loves man and we love God and are of his image, perhaps we should love man as well. Is there a better expression of our love for God?
Another thing that I often lose sight of is the fact that we are stewards and not owners. Keller goes on to write, “If God is the creator and author of all things, that means that everything we have in life belongs to God.” In the Garden of Eden God entrusted Adam with dominion over all created things. This charge was not only to leadership, but also to stewardship. Stewardship applies to the things and resources we’ve been entrusted with as well. Multiple places in the Bible refer to God granting to some more than others. The parable of the talents jumps to mind. I have been realizing this truth much more recently and that what I have is much more a result of circumstance than it is anything that I have personally had control over. Keller expounds upon the practice of gleaning in the Old Testament. Gleaning was a command from God that land owners (those who had much) leave the outer portions of the fields unharvested. The crop along the edges of the fields was designated for the poor to collect. Keller writes, “part of the landowner’s harvest was ‘for’ the poor. That means in God’s eyes, it was actually theirs.” While most of us don’t own large farms, I think the principle stands that our money and resources are God’s and that God has designated a portion of that to belong to the poor.
The last reason for doing justice that I will address here is simply to help others, because God helped you. There is hardly a circumstance I can think of, when it comes to helping another person, which I can’t directly relate to a situation where God has done something similar for me. Giving money to someone who I suspect will spend the money on booze and drugs is markedly similar to God forgiving a sin that he knows I will probably need forgiveness for again in the next few days. Helping someone who is in need only because of their own bad decisions and misuse of resources is no different than how I came to be in a sinful state before God. It took years of searching, chasing after the vain pursuits, and going down the wrong paths before I found God. Throughout that process (and still today) God showed me patience, kindness, forgiveness, and grace; as well as providing challenges and providing resources that would ultimately lead me to him. These are all tools that we use when trying to help others in dire circumstances. Seeking justice is challenging and often frustrating. I think one way it can be so difficult, is that we see and are reminded of ourselves and our own helplessness in those that we try to serve.
I don’t think that we’ll ever get to a point of global. I don’t even think that’s the point. God doesn’t command us to love the poor because it’s better for society. He commands it because they are beloved to Him and created in his image. He doesn’t ask us to give our money away, because it’s truly His and we’re only stewards of it. Most importantly, He doesn’t ask us to do anything for others that He isn’t willing to do and, in fact, has already done for every one of us.