Justice in an unjust society 5

Each person alike is created in God’s context.  To do good to the other is to show love to God in whose image he or she is created.

Scripture

James 1:22-27

22  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26  If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Observation and reflection questions

  1. Summarise verses 22-25 in one short sentence.
  2. What is the “perfect law of liberty” which James refers to? (hint: mirror… Matthew 22:39)
  3. What does this “perfect law” have to do with visiting orphans and widows? (verse 27)
  4. How do you understand the relationship between passivity and self-deception in this context? (verse 22)

Personal reflection and application questions

  1. When it comes to “love your neighbour as you love yourself”, are you in the danger of “being a hearer and not a doer”? Why would you say so?
  2. If you were a homeless person, an orphan or a widow, what would you like others to do to you? Make a list.
  3. Do you know any widows, orphans or homeless people that are struggling? Or which orphanages, homeless shelters or old age homes are in your vicinity? Make a list. (Google it?)
  4. From your list above (point 2), what can you do to show love to one of these groups of people? When will you do it?

Prayer

Thank God for his love, and pray that you would be able to show his love to others – especially to those less prosperous and less powerful than yourself today.

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Justice in an unjust society 4

God powerfully identifies with the poor, weak and oppressed in our world and rewards every act of kindness towards “the least of these”.

Today’s reading will be powerfully enhanced with this song from Leeland:

Scripture

Matthew 25:31-40

31  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

34  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

37  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Observation questions

  1. What event is Jesus referring to in this text?
  2. Who is Jesus referring to by “the Son of Man”? (verse 31; refer to Daniel 7:13-14)
  3. Note the judgment of the King: what is the reason mentioned for allowing “these to inherit the kingdom prepared”? (verses 34-36)
  4. List the kindnesses shown by those who inherited the kingdom. (verses 35-36)
  5. How many kindnesses did the recipients of the kingdom have to show to receive this reward? (v40)
  6. Why are the recipients of this reward so surprised? (verses 37-40)

Reflection and application questions

  1. What are the key truths in this texts about (a) eternal judgment, (b) mercy / kindness, and (c) God’s identification with the poor, weak and oppressed?
  2. Can you recall one poor, weak, sick, or imprisoned person whom you have shown kindness in the past? What does this text say about God’s attitude towards your act of kindness?
  3. When last have you gone out of your way to show kindness to a weak, poor, or oppressed person?
  4. Pray for compassion and wisdom, then schedule time this week to show kindness “to one of the least of these”, as though you do it to God himself.

 

Justice in an unjust society 3

Jesus and the prophets continually rebuked God’s followers for fixating on religious observation but neglecting “the more important aspects of the law”.

Scriptures

Matthew 23:23 [NLT]  “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

Micah 6:8  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Zechariah 7:9-10  “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’

Observation and reflection questions

Regarding Matthew 23:23

  1. In your own words summarise Jesus’ message to the Pharisees of his day.
  2. Why would Jesus call these devout religious leaders “hypocrites” in the specific context of the verse?
  3. What do you think Jesus meant by these “more important aspects of the law”?
    1. Justice
    2. Mercy
    3. Faith

Reflection and Application

Consider the following three phrases which may describe what “living a life that pleases God” looks like?

  • Not sinning morally, reading the Bible and praying daily.
  • Participating in church worship activities and inviting others to church.
  • Living a life of faith and power through the Holy Spirit.
  • Caring for the weak, the poor and marginalized in society.
  1. Which of these statements would best describe contemporary Western Christianity’s view of “a life that pleases God”?
  2. Which of these statements best describe Jesus and the prophet’s view of “a life that pleases God”?
  3. How does your attitudes and activities line up with Jesus’ “more important aspects of the law”?
  4. What can you do this week to do “justice and mercy”? For whom will you do it?

Prayer

Pray for God’s compassion to well in your heart, that you may be “moved with compassion” to acts of mercy and justice, as Christ was moved.

Justice in an unjust society 2

Is God’s chief goal for society that everyone comes together to sing him songs of praise and pray to him?

Scripture

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15, 21-24

6  Seek the LORD and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, 7  O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!

10  They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. 11  Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12  For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. 13  Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time.

14  Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. 15  Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

21  “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22  Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23  Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

 

Observations and reflections

Notes: The Context of these verses is the warning of pending judgment on the ten Northern tribes of Israel (also called Samaria) because of the tolerance of injustice in their society.

In the ancient Middle-East, the city gate was a place of wisdom where the elders gathered to give counsel and judgment in difficult situations.

  1. For every verse, list the injustices present in Samaria in the time of Amos the prophet.
  2. Record and summarise what God desires from his worshippers in these verses.

Reflection and application

  1. Look at the “transgressions …and great sins” God accuses Israel of (verse 12). Which of these are present in our society, and even in your Christian community?
  2. Considering these verses above
    1. Why would God “hate the solemn assemblies” of corporate worship and fasting (verses 21-24)?
    2. What do you learn about the character of God and what really pleases him? Try to summarise your answer in your own words.
    3. What could you do today that will please God?
    4. How could you help your small group and church see what God truly desires from his worshippers?

Prayer

In your own words, pray for God’s justice to manifest in the court rooms, community and especially for the poor and needy in your society.

 

Justice in an unjust society 1

God personally identifies with the poor and the vulnerable in society, and he desires the same from his worshippers.

This song by Leeland will prepare your heart well for today’s devotion: Follow You by Leeland

Scripture

Isaiah 58:1-14

1  “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2  Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. 3  ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. 4  Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

5  Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?

6  “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

9  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10  if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11  And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

12  And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.

13  “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14  then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob… ”

Observations

Note: Corporate fasting days was commonly part of ancient Israel’s worship.

  1. Read verses 1-3 and 5 and note the level of religious devotion those who received this prophesy first. What can you tell of their devotion to God?
  2. Why did God not answer them in their fasting?
    1. What injustices were they committing? (What should they not have done?) [v3-4,9,13]
    2. What justices were they omitting to do? (What should they have done?) [v6-7,10]
  3. What would be their rewards for doing justice? [v8-14]

Personal Reflection and Application

God did not answer Israel in their prayers and fasting during their festivals because they treated their workers unjustly and closed their heart towards the poor – the hungry and homeless.

  1. What are the chief Biblical motives to treat our workers, the hungry and the homeless with kindness? [Hint: Why do we refer to such acts as “justice”?]
  2. Are you treating those who work with and for you in a dignified way? (verses 3, 9)
  3. What is your attitude towards the hungry and homeless? How do you feel and how do you respond when you see a poor and needy person? (verses 7, 10)
  4. Pray about your relationship with those who work for you, the homeless and the hungry.
  5. How will you respond when you see a poor man today?