As human beings, we’re obsessed with the idea of justice. When faced with injustice, we want to see the guilty person punished for their crimes and we want to see it now! Sometimes, we don’t get the response we’re seeking and so we take matters into our own hands. We decide to mete out justice ourselves.
But there’s a difference between biblical justice and social justice. There’s a difference between the justice spoken about in the Bible and the justice that we or society metes out.
Is God’s Justice Real?
Movies and crime novels have given us the impression that justice is when the ‘bad guy’ gets punished for his actions. We expect that the things we consider evil will ultimately result in the punishment of those persons who are deemed responsible.
But the truth is, a lot of innocent people are punished for the crimes of others. We hear stories about persons who spent years behind bars for crimes they never committed and we get mad. “Where is the justice?” we may ask. “Where was God when the law was being misinterpreted? Where was He when evidence was being misconstrued so that the wrong person got punished? Why is God so unfair?”
I used to ask many of those same questions. I couldn’t understand why God allowed things like child abuse, incest, and murder of an innocent. It took a long time for me to realize that the sinful things that happen as a result of our decision to disobey God, hurt Him a lot more than it hurts us.
God doesn’t like it when bad things happen any more than we do. But a part of respecting our free will means that He has to allow the consequences of our actions to play out in a world that is hell-bent on running away from Him.
It’s for that reason, my friend that I want to remind you that God is a just God. In order for us to believe that we have to understand the difference between social justice and biblical justice.
Biblical Justice vs Social Justice
So, what’s the big deal about biblical vs social justice? The Oxford Dictionary defines justice as justness, fairness, the exercise of authority in the maintenance of right.
Just is defined as acting or done in accordance with what is morally right or proper, deserved, due.
In other words, justice is doing what is considered fair. The problem with that is a lot of times our view of what’s right is wrapped up in what we think is deserved. What we consider fair is relative. It shifts according to our belief system–what I was taught to be fair, may differ greatly from what you hold as justice and never the twain shall meet.
This is where God differs from us–His view of what is morally right is part of His character and is not determined by circumstances. God is the only being who has an intrinsic and unchangeable knowledge of what is right. His viewpoint is not shifty. His view of what is right is not dependent on anything outside of Himself.
What Does the Bible Say About Justice?
If we are going to understand the difference between God’s justice and ours, we’re going to have to take a look at what the Bible says about justice. Let’s start by looking at some Bible verses about justice and fairness.
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers (Proverbs 21:15 ESV).
When we practice justice, we experience joy. We benefit from being just as much as the person to whom we are showing justice to.
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him (Isaiah 30:18 ESV).
God is just. He longs to show His love to us. His grace, mercy, and justice are all woven together for our benefit.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you (Psalm 89:14 ESV).
The very nature of God is justice. Again, we see that love and justice are intertwined. But here we see another trait–faithfulness. God’s faithfulness is the aspect of His character that allows Him to keep the promises He has made to His people. Can you see it? God is all about justice and righteousness. We can’t talk about God without talking about His righteousness.
What does the word justice mean in Hebrew?
It may surprise you to learn that the Hebrew word for justice is also used for righteousness (it sure surprised me, but at the same time it made so much sense!). In the Old Testament, one of the words translated as justice was the Hebrew word tsᵉdâqâh (pronounced tsed-aw-kaw’). Tsᵉdâqâh could be translated as righteousness or justice. Here’s the first occurrence of tsᵉdâqâh in the Bible:
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6 KJV).
Is it any wonder that this word was first used in reference to Abraham? This is the man God called His friend (Isaiah 41:8), the father of many nations whose faith in God was counted to him as righteousness (James 2:23).
Stories of Justice in the Bible
Let’s go back to the beginning of time and look at the story of Cain and Abel. Abel was just going about his business when his brother killed him. Cain was the first guilty person who “got away with murder”. Even as I wrote those words, I cringed within myself because they seemed trite and this is a serious matter. But stick with me, I promise you, I have a point.
We live in a world where a convicted murderer gets life in prison or the death penalty. They are locked away forever from the things and people they love. Or else, they are released when they are too old to appreciate them. By those standards, though Cain was punished for his actions, he wasn’t punished enough.
If you’ve ever had that thought when you read or heard the story of Cain and Abel, you’re not alone. Did Cain suffer? I believe he did. Let’s zero in on Cain’s story for a moment:
And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me” (Genesis 4:10-14 ESV).
When God meted out justice, Cain was driven from the presence of God along with his parents and whatever family he had close by. He would only have his immediate family with him (his wife and children). He lost his job as a farmer. No longer would he be able to till the ground with pleasure.
And he had to live with the fear that someone would return the favor and take his life as well. But was that enough? Oh, I imagine there are persons who would still think Cain hadn’t suffered enough. In fact, if we were to look at all examples of justice in the Bible, there would be many instances where we would be tempted to believe that justice wasn’t served…especially when the meting out of justice is left to God. Why is that?
It’s because God’s idea of justice is very different than ours. Social justice loosely translates to punishment but God’s justice is intricately interwoven with His love–so much so that they cannot be separated.
How many times is justice mentioned in the Bible?
Justice is important to God-occurrences of biblical justice abound the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Tsedaqah occurs 157 times in the Old Testament but that’s not the only evidence of God’s justice that we see in the Bible. We see biblical justice in God’s treatment of Adam and Eve after The Fall. We see glimpses each time God disciplined His children or allowed them to face the consequences of their disobedience.
Even more importantly, justice and righteousness are an intricate part of God’s character. It’s who He is. That’s why it’s reflected in His names:
- Jehovah Tsidkenu The Lord Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6)
- Elohiym Tsedeq God of My Righteousness (Psalm 4:1)
God’s justice and righteousness are intricately interwoven with His love. He can’t change His character and expects us to act in ways that mimic Him.
5 Ways God Shows Himself to be Just
God is just and right. His justice is always right. It trumps our idea of justice every time. if you still have doubts about whether God is truly just, here are just five ways that God proves Himself to be fair
1. God expects mankind to be fair.
God asks of mankind that they are just/fair in their dealings with others. What I love about God is that He calls us to do what He Himself does.
A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight (Proverbs 11:1 KJV).
There is a practice among some grocers–they put a little extra weight at the bottom of their scale so that you never get the full weight that you pay for. Now, I’m sure they think they are being oh-so-clever when actually they are making themselves detestable to God. God is not pleased when we rob and cheat each other. He calls us to a higher standard. He wants us to be fair, even as we try to earn a living.
We are asked to display fair judgments:
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20 ESV).
God recognized early on that our sinful nature meant that we would be inclined to be partial and that’s why He warns us against it.
These two ideas are combined in Leviticus 19:35-36 along with the declaration ‘I am the Lord’ which I take to mean, “I don’t do it, so I hold you to the same standards I hold myself.”
‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt.’
2. God treats all humanity the same.
God does not show partiality to the rich over the poor. Neither does He discriminate based on class, gender, nationality, race, or any other creed.
There’s a song that became popular in 1988 following Hurricane Gilbert. In it, there’s a short reference to a Rastafarian who was sitting in his house watching the devastation of the storm. He became excited when the houses of the people who he believed had slighted him were destroyed. He took it to mean that Selassie (the Rastafarian god) was executing judgment on his behalf.
Everything was fun and games until the storm blew off his roof. At that point, he became convinced that his god had made a mistake. While it may be comical to listen to, that’s exactly the viewpoint that many of us take. We want God to wreak havoc on our enemies, but we want Him to show mercy to us.
We all get the blessings of rain though He is able to discriminate (Matthew 5:45). We all benefit from the shelter of the planet, the resources that are found here, and all the beauty available in nature.
If God treated us according to society’s definition of justice, we would have to prove our worth. We would have to compete for the world’s resources and somehow justify that we deserve them.
3. He forgives anyone who asks.
God is willing to forgive anyone who asks Him for forgiveness. One of my favorite promises is found in 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (HCSB).
This tells us that anyone can obtain forgiveness from God. All it takes is a humbled heart and a willingness to ask for it.
Sometimes we think that this provision, this offer of grace, became available after the death of Jesus. But it was always there. When we read the book of Leviticus, we realize that provision was made for the rich and the poor to offer sacrifices before God and receive forgiveness. Sure, the animal sacrifice was different than coming to Jesus and asking for help, but both required a contrite heart and willing sacrifice.
4. Jesus died for the sins of all humanity.
There were no conditions. He didn’t die for the sins of everyone born before 2027 or for people who had two parents born between the months of September and January or any such requirement. If we accept the gift of His life, we choose to believe in Jesus and confess that He is Lord.
Had this been a court of law, though we are presumed innocent until proven guilty, every attempt would have been made to demonstrate our guilt. Either that or an attempt made to discredit us hence proving that we were ultimately guilty of whatever it was that we were being accused of.
5. Justice is built into God’s character.
You know another thing I love about God? The way He continues to keep His promises long after we stop doing what was required of us or what we had promised to do.
Have you ever made a bargain with God? Like, have you ever said God, if you give me this then I will ______ (you fill in the blanks)? I have. Nine times out of ten, when God gives us what we ask for, we promptly forget about our promise.
One of the greatest displays of God’s faithfulness is the biblical account of the Israelites. God, through His servant Moses, outlined the requirements of being chosen by Him. God even went so far as to tell the Israelites the punishment for disobedience. The Israelites listened, acknowledged the words of the Lord, and agreed to abide by them.
Yet, a few years down the line, they did exactly what God told they would have done and disobeyed Him. But did God immediately execute the judgment that was in line with their crimes? No, the Israelites continued to receive grace despite their idolatry as God sent prophet after prophet to call their hearts back to Him.
God delights in being just. Today, we still receive grace despite our choices. Freewill is not overridden even when we self-hurt, destroy the environment and each other. Through it all, God continues to have mercy on us allowing us to live out our days.
So let me ask you the question: is God just? How has He proven himself to you? I found myself pondering the difference between humanity’s idea of justice and God’s as I read The Crushing Depths. There were a number of instances where characters felt the need to enact their version of justice and it was always severe. Not only that, it lacked the love that is an intricate part of God’s justice.
My Review of The Crushing Depths
Investigators for the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) are brought in to investigate the death of a man on an oil rig. There was a lot going on in this book, so much so, that it was sometimes difficult to keep track of all the various subplots. I understand that the writer was setting up future books, but it made this one hard to follow.
There were a few surprises for me in terms of who was responsible for some of the crimes that took place on the Dauntless. Ms. Pettrey did a good job of layering in the pieces of the mystery but the ending felt a bit rushed and things fell into place a little too easily.
Know God–many of the characters in The Crushing Depths had a personal relationship with God. I like how they prayed throughout the story for guidance, protection, and strength. It was a reminder that we ought to do the same.
God is available to us wherever we need Him, all we have to do is reach out to Him in prayer.
Know yourself–both Mason and Rissi had a traumatic experience in the orphanage where they spent some years together. I imagine that during that time they were told or made to believe a bunch of lies about themselves. Lies that they had to unlearn in order to fulfill the purpose God had for their lives.
Run your race–each of the characters in this story had a role to play. While they sometimes worked as part of a team, there came a time when they had to do what they were good at. This was especially true of the CGIS. The team tended to divide tasks based on the skills each team member had. This was a reminder to us that God intends for His people to work as a team. We won’t all be given the same skills but He has given each of us a skill to be used for the glory of God.
The Crushing Depths is the second book in the Coastal Guardians series and while it can be read as a standalone, deciphering the relationship between some of the characters may be more helpful if you read the first book in the series.
I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publishers through Celebrate Lit and NetGalley; a positive review was not required. Get your copy of The Crushing Depths.
About The Crushing Depths (Coastal Guardians Book #2)
Book: The Crushing Depths
Series: Coastal Guardians (Book 2)
Author: Dani Pettrey
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Paperback: 368 pages
When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker on the first drilling platform off the North Carolina coast, Coast Guard investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent to take the case. Tensions surrounding the oil rig are high and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the structure from being completed, while rumors are being whispered about ancient curses surrounding this part of the ocean.
Mounting evidence shows the death may not have been an accident at all. Was he killed by one of the activists or, perhaps more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only a plethora of suspects but also their own past and attraction to each other.
Just as the case seems like it’ll break open, worse news arrives. A tropical storm has turned their way and soon they’re cut off from any rescue–and right where the killer wants them. It’s a race to discover his identity before he eliminates the threat they pose.
About Dani Pettrey
Praised by New York Times best-selling author Dee Henderson as “a name to look for in romantic suspense,” Dani Pettrey has sold more than half a million copies of her novels to readers eagerly awaiting the next release.
Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance. Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s],” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today).
She researches murder and mayhem from her home in Maryland, where she lives with her husband. Their two daughters, a son-in-law, and two adorable grandsons also reside in Maryland. For more information about her novels, visit www.danipettrey.com
Why is Justice Important in Christianity?
I’ve already said it but it bears repeating: God’s justice cannot be separated from His love. As much as we love to focus on how much He loves us, we need to get to a place where we remember that at some point there will be a judgment. It means that each of us will be held accountable for our actions. As Christians, this is a reminder that we need to act right while we’re on earth.
While our actions don’t save us, we want to try to present a true witness of God. We testify of the God we serve, it’s our actions that will draw people towards our Heavenly Father. The examples of biblical justice exist to remind us that this current system of inequality will not last forever.
Someday, Jesus will return and we will fully experience God’s righteousness. Until then, we will continue to study what the Bible says about justice so we can learn more about God’s character. After all, to know Him is to love Him.
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