Justice, Again and Again

by Catherine McNiel on July 20, 2020

For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity;

—Proverbs 1:2-3 (NRSV)

I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,

—Proverbs 8:20

This past Sunday, our church reflected on justice—a topic repeated over and over again throughout the Bible, a topic near to God’s heart and central to His redemption, salvation, and kingdom. And, justice is a topic frequently found in our current book of study: Proverbs.

In fact, justice is so central to both the Biblical message and Proverbs specifically, that a few weeks ago I (Catherine) included justice in my devotions about parenting, of all things. I ended a week of reflection on how and why we teach the next generation the wisdom of God with words from the opening verses of Proverbs, which answers the question with this answer: for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity. Specifically, I quoted from The Westminster Bible Companion:

“Like good teachers of every age, the sages [writers of Proverbs] do not assume that their students necessarily begin with the necessary commitments. So indirectly they answer the question that is probably lurking in some minds, ‘Why should I care? What’s in it for me?’ The sages’ initial answer is ‘wise dealing’…that might mean nothing more than good business sense, success. But then they immediately specify that term further, with language that comes straight from the biblical prophets: ‘righteousness, justice, and equity’ (v. 3)….they are not just preparing their students for personal successes…these are all relational virtues; they are the elements of healthy community life. This is education for the kingdom of God.”

“It is apparent how countercultural was the educational perspective of the Israelite sages. Pursuit of ‘righteousness, justice, and equity’ does not guarantee personal advancement…nonetheless, the sages of Israel teach that those who would be wise must aim, not at power, but at goodness.” (pg. 26-27)

All throughout the Bible, there is a theme God repeats again and again: in the world He created (Genesis), and in the people He liberated from oppression (Exodus), and in the society He formed (Exodus–Deuteronomy), God will not tolerate injustice. God is redeeming Creation from sin, building a new people, a kingdom where His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. The old, sinful ways must pass away.

But of course, our sinful ways have not passed away, not yet. Our society falls far short of God’s standards for justice and right living. And so, God reminds us of His standards for “righteousness, justice, and equity” again and again.

I am struck by the life-giving invitation God offers us in the Bible to co-create this kingdom, to live our lives not for our own good but for the good of God’s creation and redemption.

Questions for reflection and discussion: Where in the Bible do you see God’s commands toward justice? Where do you see it in Proverbs? How does this impact your life as a Christ follower?

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