We live in an old farmhouse. Part of it was a log cabin. The other parts are additions my grandpa and uncle added on to it. The newest parts were built “up to code” while the rest of the house doesn’t know what code is. As I go about the process of restoring this old house, there are many discoveries that I’ve made along the way. One wall was built 14” on center instead of the standard 16”. Multiple forms of old wiring connected to modern wiring. It’s fun times.
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about building codes. They’re kind of a pain. And building code inspectors have way too much power. But codes exist for a reason. Someday, someone else will be living in your house, and they deserve to live in a house that is safe. Right? It makes sense. 16” on center. The right gauge wire for the right amount of amps. Sufficient insulation to make the house more energy-efficient. Codes are standards for building. There is an international building code with the hope that houses will be built to certain standards no matter where you go.
This is, in essence, what justice is. Standards. But, as justice has been a pretty trendy topic for quite a while now and people are calling for justice for hundreds if not thousands of different issues, how do we navigate them all and know which ones to support and which ones to let pass by?
First, we need to know what justice is. Simply stated, justice is doing what’s right. It’s looking at a situation and doing the right thing. Sometimes, it’s intervening for others who cannot defend themselves. Justice is doing what’s right.
But who gets to decide what is right?
When you live in the era of “my truth,” justice is impossible. Justice is not just a moving target, but it’s millions of moving targets. If your truth conflicts with my truth, how do we do what’s right? If my truth says I am justified to murder anyone who doesn’t agree with me and you disagree with me about that, how do we decide?
Without the constant of God’s truth, there is no justice.
One of the primary metaphors the Bible uses to illustrate justice is scales. Scales were the cash registers of Bible times. 1 gram of this was worth “X” grams of that. Leviticus 19:35-36 gives a picture: “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” (NASB).
That was the beginning of Israel. Toward the end of the time before Jesus, things had changed. Micah 6:10-13: “Am I still to forget your ill-gotten treasures, you wicked house, and the short ephah, which is accursed? Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights? Your rich people are violent; your inhabitants are liars and their tongues speak deceitfully. Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, to ruin you because of your sins” (NIV).
God, speaking through the prophet Micah is saying, “Am I supposed to justify your dishonesty?” God does not justify anything that is outside of His plan, nor can He. He is holy, so to allow something that goes against His holiness would be to deny Himself.
Justice cannot exist in the absence of God’s truth. The standards and morals God built the world on exist so that we may thrive. What seems oppressive to us—because it feels like God is keeping us from what we want—is actually God loving us by protecting us from that which would destroy us.
So how do we determine if something is just or unjust? We let God decide. There is no justice without the constant of God’s truth. We have to know God’s truth; we have to know God’s desires in specific situations. God’s truth is the standard. God’s desire for humanity is the measuring stick. If we seek to understand His building code, then we know what’s just and unjust, right and wrong.
Without a standard, there is no justice. Without a standard, we are at the whim of popular opinion which is constantly changing. Without a standard, justice is subservient to the impulses of whoever is the most convincing.
Want to know what God sees as just and unjust? I have an idea about where you could begin…
Featured Image by Fleur Treurniet