Dig deeper into the message during the sermon, in your personal Bible study, or with your family or Community Group in application-driven discussion.
We often hear discussions of “social justice” combined with calls for equality, diversity, and inclusion. Christians care deeply about issues of justice—and we want to be involved. We want to know how to think and act biblically about these important topics. We assume that when folks use the same word, that we mean the same thing. Unfortunately, this is not true—and there are serious consequences to how we define words. Sometimes we vaguely sense that something has changed, but we may not know that these biblical words have been redefined with totally unbiblical ideas. This is dangerous. Not only are words defined differently, the actions which our culture puts forward as solutions to problems of justice and oppression—such as burning and looting—give us pause. We understand the anger, even the outrage—but are these responses justifiable? Our problems are not new (Micah 2:1–2). Throughout June we’ll be looking at the solution that one of Israel’s prophets, Micah, taught the people during his day. The ancient, biblical solutions to injustice are far superior to what’s being proposed by today’s social justice movement (Micah 6:8).
Jesus said that we can sort out competing and contradictory claims by observing the outcome of our beliefs and actions—“you know a tree by its fruit”. What results from current secular views of justice? Outrage, anger, factionalism, enmity, hostility, suspicion, entitlement, grievance, self-righteousness, or pride. Those are not good, godly outcomes. Jesus’ half brother, James, gives us insight into the source of these destructive ideas:
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)
Everyone claims to be right, to be wise—but real wisdom results in good, gentle behavior. True, godly wisdom is, first and foremost, “pure”; it is “undefiled by any fault”. It’s also “peaceable”—“quiet and tranquil; free from disturbance and agitation.” Today people proudly admit that their goal is to disrupt and agitate! James continued: the wisdom from above is “gentle” (moderate and willing to put up with provocation from others). Heavenly wisdom is “reasonable” (willing to yield to differing opinions, to compromise) and “full of mercy” (Luke 6:35-36). Whenever we fail, we want mercy for us—but we demand justice to be handed down on others! James warns: “judgment will be merciless to those who show no mercy” (2:13). Wisdom that truly is from God is full of “good, beneficial fruits”—in thought, word, and deed. More than that, it is “impartial”. The opposite of “impartial” is when we “show favoritism”; “us versus them tribalism”. James says that so-called “wisdom” is demonic! Now this is a shocking claim: James says that if your views result in “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition”, then the source of our “wisdom” is hell, not heaven; Satan, not God!
These biblical authors care deeply about injustice—and so should we. But we have to be careful that we define our terms correctly—biblically—and that the “solutions” we propose are not worse than the injustice and oppression they aim to rectify.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Care about justice—but care wisely.
- Learn to “know a tree by its fruit”.
- Read and discuss John Perkin’s testimony. (Last page of Talking Points / Walking Points)
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)