If you’d like to join us in our journey reading all the way through the Bible this year, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be glad to email back a copy of the reading plan we are using.
Social justice. We hear the term all the time these days. Most often in the context of some strata or people groups in our society not receiving the same treatment as others under the law. A skewed system oppressing some, and elevating others. And to any reader of the Bible, God’s interest in justice can’t be escaped. Christians ought to be vitally interested in justice, and look to right wrongs when and where we can.
At the same time, a different sort of “injustice” can raise its head, and it too needs to be addressed. This is rooted in a misunderstanding about some passages of Scripture like vss. 7-8 in Psalm 113. We’ll look at that briefly today on Through the Word in 2020.
Along with Psalm 113 we have Colossians 4:2–18; 2 Chronicles 11:18–15:19 and Luke 6:46–7:10 to consider. But as I already mentioned, it is vss. 7-8 of Psalm 113 which catches my eye today.
“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of His people.”
Verses like these, and dozens of others throughout the Bible, are sometimes cited as proof that God has a special regard for the poor, the oppressed and the disenfranchised. And it is true. With, some necessary qualifications. Sometimes, what is true, is not the whole truth. And failing to get at the whole truth, can make a lie out of something true. So let’s note 3 things here.
In this passage, the poor being referred to are God’s people looking to God for the fulfillment of His promises to them. It is not a general statement about all the poor in every place and at all times.
2nd, some infer that simply being poor, disadvantaged or oppressed, somehow confers some sort of spiritual status upon them before God. Our relationship to Him is rooted only in Jesus Christ and the Gospel. We are not nearer and dearer to Him in terms of salvation on the basis of our life circumstances. Yes, He loves to be merciful to those suffering – but that kind of common grace must not be confused with saving grace. The rich oppressing unbeliever and the poor oppressed unbeliever are equally distant from God and both equally in need of the the saving grace of Jesus Christ through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus’s atoning work on Calvary to reconcile them to the Father.
3rd. The fact that God will pour out judgment on any and all who oppress others in this life, does not somehow mean that that the oppressed are not themselves still responsible for their own sins before God.
Being sinned against does not somehow mitigate my sin, any more than drinking a diet Coke cancels out the calories in the Snickers bar I have with it.
Yes, any and all who oppress others, take advantage of the disadvantaged and deny them justice, will answer for their sins. No doubt about it. But make no mistake, those who may find themselves among the poor and disadvantaged, will still stand before the judgment seat of God to answer for their own sins. No amount of being sinned against, erases my sin. Only the blood of Christ can cleanse us from sin. Nothing else. Nothing less.
Now we do not want to miss the fact that one day, at the return of Christ, justice, true justice, for all will in fact be finally meted out. We long for that day. And no one will be able to point to any advantage or disadvantage in this life as some means to escape that judgment. Which calls us all to flee from our sin and to Christ today – no matter where we find ourselves in our society. That we might be made the righteousness of God in Jesus.
I’m Reid Ferguson, and God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.