February 13, 2012

Justice for the Poor


The prophet Amos thundered warnings at his disobedient readers, reminding them that they trampled "on the heads of the poor" and that they denied "justice to the oppressed" (Amos 2:7). In many societies poor, helpless people are not treated with respect. They are ignored by insensitive leaders and victimized by greedy merchants.

This week's lesson emphasizes the justice of God. Because he is a God of righteousness, he expects his followers to advocate justice. The practice of justice involves treating all people with fairness and dignity according to the biblical revelation.

To practice biblical justice, we must correct inequalities. We also must strive to create a just society. In championing justice, we find four principles to follow in this lesson:

Realize God requires justice (Deuteronomy 32:3-4; Micah 6:8).

Deuteronomy 32:4 proclaims the righteousness of God's character. Because God is righteous, he requires his people to be just. Our faith shows itself when we produce justice (Micah 6:8).

Treat everyone justly (Exodus 23:6-9)

We should apply this to those who lack power or influence. We must not victimize the poor, immigrants or the helpless by using violence against them. Not only must God's people have just character, they must show justice in their actions.

The early church presented a moving example of justice when they provided food for widows in Acts 6:1-6. They treated a helpless, vulnerable group with respect and compassion.

Advocate the cause of justice (Isaiah 1:15-17)

We must not only practice justice, but we must champion the cause of justice. Isaiah promised that God would ignore the prayers of those who oppressed others (Isaiah 1:15-17). God wants us to fight for justice by such practices as encouraging the oppressed and helping the orphans and the widows.

Isaiah's words resemble the appeal of James for Christians to practice "pure and faultless" religion (James 1:27). God is pleased when his children show love and compassion for "orphans and widows."

Work to preserve justice (Psalm 106:3; Amos 5:14-15, 24)

The psalmist pronounced blessing on those who tried to "maintain justice" (Psalm 106:3). The prophet Amos encouraged his readers to "hate evil, love good" and "maintain justice in the courts" (Amos 5:14-15). God's people must give themselves over to a life of preserving justice for others (Amos 5:24).

See James 2:1-11 for an example from the early church of an appeal to preserve justice for the poor.

Because we serve a just God, we are to practice justice in all relationships. Practicing justice demands perseverance and vigilance. As we seek to live as lights in God's world, we must seek his guidance in promoting justice for all.

Verses referenced: Exodus 23:6-9; Deuteronomy 32:3-4; Psalm 106:3; Isaiah 1:15-17; Amos 5:1-27; Micah 6:8

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