1 Timothy 2:1-7
Peace be with you!
Most of us live in the grayness of life – not completely in the light, but not in complete darkness either. We have fallen short of the glory of God several times over again. We have stolen, killed, not kept the Sabbath, lied, disobeyed our parents, ignored the needs of the weak and powerless, and [whatever else “it” is] we have done against God’s will. We are not worthy to enter the Kingdom of God.
The Old Testament and gospel readings are a tough pill to swallow. Both Amos and Jesus discuss the meaning of justice in the world and in God’s kingdom. Amos preaches when northern Israel is strong but is falling apart from the inside out due to greed and lack of pride. The Israelites complain, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat” (Amos 8:5-6 NRSV). The Israelites care more about making money than worshipping the Lord and tending to the needs of their neighbors. They were dishonest individuals who exploited the poor to become rich.
Amos warns the Israelites, “Be careful. The Lord is watching, and he will remember your actions and will judge you accordingly.” (Amos 4:7). The Lord will judge based on your dishonestly and your failure to live according to his ways. The Israelites in the north are falling apart, and no one is attacking them; they are broken in the inside.
On Working Preacher, Rolf Jacobson writes that Amos is calling to the Israelites to live according to justice. But what is justice? Jacobson describes five ways justice strengthens our relationship with God the Father. First and foremost, justice is God’s character (Isaiah 50:10), and therefore there is a demand on God’s people to practice justice (Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8; Isaiah 1:16b-17). Thank goodness, God’s character is based on justice; without it, we would not be able to enter the Kingdom of God because, without Jesus Christ, we are doomed. By the grace of God, we were saved and justified to be in a relationship with him. If we expect God to respond to us with justice, we need to practice justice with those around us. We are to care for our neighbors and respond to their needs out of love and grace.
Second, justice is a social order concept: the more order, the more life within a community. The people have to be actively working together for the good of all – not just the selected few. It is the individuals within the community caring for each other out of love. Within the social order concept, there is a call for special social concern for the powerless – the widows, the orphans, the foreigners, the needy, the poor, the disabled, the sick, the homeless, the psychosocially broken, and [whoever “it” is] who needs God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. This is includes everyone, because we are all broken individuals in some shape or form in need of God’s grace, love, and forgiveness.
Third, justice works within the legal civil laws. The civil laws give us a set of rules to live by so everyone is subject and bond to the same rules and regulations. This helps to determine what is acceptable and what is not acceptable within a country. Unfortunately, mere human beings control the legal system, and sometimes it fails individuals who have been victims of crimes and have been let down by the courts. It happens, but it is not a reflection on God’s will; it is a reflection of the corruption within the human race, thanks to the Devil.
Fourth, justice creates trustworthy markets where there is social prosperity and fair exchange between sellers and buyers. Amos attacks the Israelites for their unfair exchange practices. The merchants have false balances allowing them to sell one pound of wheat for two pounds. The markets are practicing injustice by exploiting the poor. The Israelites need to get it together before they self-destruct.
Lastly, justice names the Sabbath as a day to rest for the whole household – family, friends, slaves, and animals (Deuteronomy 5:14). The Israelites in the north are exasperated they have to take a day of rest (Amos 8:5), because they view it as a loss of income and they have to be nice to the poor (Exodus 23:10-17), much like today. We know people who refuse take a day to rest, because they may lose an important account or someone may beat them up the corporate ladder. We also know people who refuse to relax for a day because someone always needs help – they may die if they are left alone for twenty-four hours. Someone always needs our help; someone always has a problem we need to solve. After seven years, slaves are to be set free (Deuteronomy 15:12-18) and individuals forgiven of their debts (Deuteronomy 15:1-11). God knows we need the Sabbath to reenergize ourselves for the coming week, and at some point we need to be forgiven of our debts. We need to put our trust in the fact God will care for those entrusted to us when we take time for ourselves, even parents and guardians can call upon babysitters, nurses, and respite workers when the need a rest.
Yet Jesus says we can learn from those who are shrewd with their resources and money. He tells a parable of a manager who caught for misusing his boss’ resources by his boss (Luke 16:1-2). Before his boss has a chance to fire him, the manager who is too weak to dig and too proud to beg goes to his boss’ debtors and reduces their loans (Luke 16:3-7) in hopes they will find pity on him when he is no longer employed. Shrewd means you are wise or smart. Jesus commends the children of this age for being smart with the resources they have control over (Luke 16:8).
Therefore, if Jesus calls us to be shrewd with our resources and capital funds, then we are to use them wisely to help ourselves and others. We are called to practice justice to serve each other with love, honor, and respect. When we do this, we create relationships based on respect and loyalty. Jesus understands we have to live in the world, so he gives us guidelines as to how to use our given resources wisely; he also understands his disciples have given up their professions to follow and will have little when he leaves them. Jesus gives both us and the disciples a way to live in the world without giving up our identity as God’s children. We achieve justice by following the model of Jesus by having special social concern for the powerless, honoring the legal system, creating trustworthy markets, and respecting the Sabbath.
Finally, we receive the most wonderful gift of justice through Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. It is a gift that keeps on giving, because each time we sin and repent we die and are lifted up through Christ for the sole fact that God the Father wants to be in a relationship with us.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending Amos and Jesus Christ to teach us about justice. Help us to rethink how we use our resource to care for the powerless and to create trustworthy markets. Guide us as we go out into the world to practice justice and to share your love, grace, and forgiveness with others. Thank you for the gift of justice through Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection, so we can die and experience resurrection in our lives. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant located here.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How do you practice justice in your daily life?
2. What kinds of resources do you have control over? How could you use them differently to show others God’s justice?
3. Who told you about the gift of justice through Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection?
4. How do you die and experience resurrection in your life?