Tag Archives: Jesus

Taxes

Taxes have always been a controversy for preachers. Some people get upset when you talk about money from the pulpit, how much more so if you talk about taxes? Which is exactly why the Pharisees ask Jesus this question. They want to get Him in trouble. It is a trap.

Julius-Caesar-coinMark 12:13-17, “Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial taxto Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.”

 Jesus doesn’t do what most of us do (that’s avoid the issue), He answers the question. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Well, the Lord’s answer leaves us to ask a few follow up questions. “What is Caesar’s? And what is God’s?”

Let’s start with easiest question, “What is God’s?” The answer is obviously, “everything.” Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” It is all God’s. We are just stewards of His creation. All the things we possess – from materials, talents, to the breath in our lungs and the beat in our hearts –  are really His and we will give an account of how we used them on judgment day. Did we use all of our resources to glorify Him and expand His kingdom or not? (For further reading see Matthew 25:14-30, Parable of the Talents.)

So what does God require of us with these resources? Jesus summed it up nicely, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31.)  In the Old Testament, the prophet Micah put it this way, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)  Easy to answer, difficult to do.

Now, what is Caesar’s? What is owed to the government? I’m sure you’ve seen the bumper sticker, “If 10% good enough for God, good enough for the IRS.” This question is a bit trickier to answer.  In order to do so, we need to know what God has established government to do.

Romans 13:1-7. 1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.  6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

God establishes government for maintaining justice in society. Commend those who do what is right and punish those who do wrong. You see the Bible says that all of us are sinners. Left to ourselves we have a natural inclination to sin and do evil. We are not basically good. The Bible calls this condition of humanity original sin. (See Romans 7:14-25).

God gives us government for the benefit of society to bring order from chaos, provide the rule of law, and ensure justice is done among the people. We pay taxes to pay for the courts, police, prisons, salaries, maintain defense, roads, etc.   We must have structure to live together in peace and prosperity.  The preamble to the preamble constitutionUnited States Constitution gives us the reasons our founders established our government.  We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

God institutes government for these reasons and we owe Caesar for these services.  But that leaves me with this follow up question: Is that where our taxes are going?  In the next few posts I’m going to delve into the spiritual issue of taxes.  Jesus says to pay taxes, but what if our tax money is going for purposes that oppose God and limit liberty?  What if our tax money is going to things that are good, but God did not ordain government to do?  And more practically, what if some of those things just don’t work and bring harm rather than good?  Then what?

I’d love to hear your thoughts….

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A Case for “God, the Father”

God the FatherFather’s Day is coming up and I am thinking about what to preach.  Father’s Day should be a slam dunk considering God is our Father and all.  But it is actually tougher than I thought.  Father’s are not very politically correct.

I remember when I first heard that calling God, “Father” was offensive.  I was in seminary.  No, not offensive, that’s not right.  Calling God, “Father” was insensitive.  Yep, it was insensitive.  You see, so the logic goes, too many people have lousy, deadbeat, abusive (throw in your favorite negative adjective) fathers and if we refer to God as Father, they will be turned off.  They cannot relate to God that way.  Call Him Creator or Parent, but don’t use Father.  Too much pain associated with that name.

Now I’m all for helping people relate to God, but what if God has chosen to reveal Himself as Father?  You can’t read into the Gospels too far without noticing that Jesus constantly refers to God as Father.  (And rightly so, since He is God’s Son.)    But do we have the right to call God “Father” and if we do, can we refer to Him as Father without being insensitive?

Jesus refers to God as Father in the Sermon on the Mount seventeen times by a quick count.  Of the 17 times He uses the term Father, 1 is “my Father”, 1 is “our Father”, and 15 are “your Father”.  Jesus has no problem including us in the family of God.  Romans 8 is clear that we are adopted into God’s family and, in Christ, become His children.  Jesus teaches us to address God in prayer as “Father” so, yes, we have the right to call God, “Father.”

But should we?  Considering all the baggage in the world caused by bad dads, does God want to be associated with such a negative brand like “Father”?  Does it turn people away who have had a terrible father?  Can they, should they look to God as their heavenly Father or does the term create barriers and we should avoid it?

Jesus meets a women who clearly has issues with men in John 4. womanatwell Abandonment, abuse, immorality, manipulation, divorce, she has it all.  Statistics tell us that women like this generally have poor fathers and spend their lives seeking out affection from men to fill that gap.  Yet as Jesus talks to her about her past and confronts her present (how insensitive!), she begins a conversation about worshipping God.  And then it happens.  Jesus refers to God not once, not twice, but three times as “Father” in this conversation.

Here is a women that would be the poster child for people we’re afraid we might offend by calling God “Father” and yet Jesus has no problem doing it.  Why not?

One – because that is who God is.  Regardless of our experiences, God is our Father.  He wants to be known as our Father.  He instructs us to address Him as such when we pray.  Our experiences do not dictate who God is.  For a relativistic culture this is difficult to grasp.

Two – because that is who this woman needs.  She needs a father to love her.  Perhaps she never had one or never had a good one.  That doesn’t change the fact that she needs a good father.   She needs someone to protect her, provide for her, love her, spoil her, bless her, give her an identity, and claim her. 

The same is true today.  There are plenty of men and women who have had no fathers or terrible fathers.  And the results are devasting for them.  Bad dads are the most common denominator when it comes to poverty, crime, low education, drugs, and sexual promiscuity.  We need fathers.  We need good fathers. 

We have great news for those with no father.  We have great news for those whose picture of a father is lacking at best.  Psalm 68:5 says God is “a father to the fatherless.”  Romans 8:15-16 says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption.  And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’.  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are the God’s children.”

What a great Father we have!  What a great Gospel we have to share with a world that desperately needs a great Father!  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

Far from offensive is it to proclaim God as He has revealed Himself.  Far from insensitive is it to hide this loving Father from hurting people.  Oh the healing, the joy, the life, the forgiveness that is forfeited by not calling God, Father! 

Who do you know that needs a good Father?  This Father’s Day, be insensitive.  Share your Heavenly Father with them.

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Christmas: Why the Big Deal?

christmas_christ_mangerAs a pastor, I have a confession.  I’ve been a bit confused about Christmas.  Why is this event such a big deal in our culture?  Why have stores been ready for this since mid-October?  Why are streets decorated with lights, houses have live trees inside, people are wearing tacky sweaters?  Why do kids get out of school for 2 weeks?  Why are radio stations playing that awful Paul McCartney song over and over?  What is all the fuss about?

I could understand if it was about a fat man in a red suit with flying reindeer breaking and entering all over the world in one night leaving gifts and eating cookies.  That would warrant a fuss in our culture for sure.  But even if it was, what would inspire that plump person to such activity? 

I get that we celebrate Christmas because it is the birth of Jesus.  But why is our culture so willing to celebrate the birth of a man they exclude, separate from, and ignore for the rest of the year?  That is what I’m confused about.  Why does our culture celebrate someone being born when the rest of the year it is so threatened by His existence?

We don’t mention him in public settings.  We don’t mention him at work.  We certainly don’t bring Him up in a school.  And God forbid, we talk about Him in the same breath as the government. 

I’d love to hear some answers if you have them.

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Filed under Beliefs, Christmas, Life

The Favor of God?

At the risk of sounding like Joel O’Steen, how would you like to have the favor of God?  Would you welcome an angel to show up and tell you, “You are highly favored of God.”  That’s what happens to Mary.

mary and angelLuke records it this way, “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (1:26-28)

Many of us think that if we had the favor of God, our lives would be great.  That’s how we interpret our circumstances. When things are working out for us we feel like God’s favorite.  Good circumstances and we feel loved and favored by God.  Bad circumstances and we think, “why doesn’t God love me?”  Can you relate?  But if we actually examine that thinking in light of Scripture, we will find that our circumstances and the love and favor of God don’t usually go together the way we think they should.  Let’s take a closer look at Mary. 

“Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:29-33)

That sounds pretty great.  But look at the circumstances she is put in because she has found favor with God.  Mary is maybe 15 yrs old and pregnant.  She is engaged to be married so this is going be very difficult to explain.  Can’t you hear her parents and friends, “Sure you’re still a virgin, right.”   But explaining it is the least of her worries because being unmarried and pregnant is a capital offense.  The law says to stone her to death. 

She has become the best bit of gossip in town.  Everyone will be yippin’ about her.  She will be an outcast and probably carry a stigma for the rest of her life.

Her fiance gets cold feet (for good reason) and wants to call the whole thing off and has to have an angel show up to convince him to still marry her.  Talk about a shotgun wedding.  And then no marital benefits until after the baby is born.  You don’t think that caused issues for these newly weds?

It’s no wonder Luke tells us that Mary “hurried” and got out of town.  She spent three months with her cousin Elizabeth. And here is some favored circumstances – 2 pregnant women under one roof.  (God may have done Zechariah a favor by shutting his mouth until John was born!)

christmas pictures 005Mary finally goes home but 6 months later, the govt orders a census.  She’s in no condition to travel, but can’t stay at home because of her stigma.  So she walks/rides a donkey to Bethlehem.  That trip is going to put you into labor.  The whole way she has got to be praying for a place to lie down, a place to have this baby.  (Have you ever prayed for a parking space?)  She has to be thinking “This is the Son of God, I don’t need the Ritz-Carlton, but come on Lord, I know You are going to provide.” They arrive in Bethlehem and there is no place for them except a cave that reeks with animals.

“Greetings, you who are highly favored.  The Lord is with you.”  Are you kidding?  After all of this you can understand v.29 “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”  When we look at her circumstances we might question whether God really loves and favors her or not. 

 And it’s not just Mary.  The Bible is full of this kind of thing.  In the Old Testament,  Joseph dreams of ruling over his brothers, but his brothers sell him into slavery and later he is thrown in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  Moses thinks God is going to use him to deliver his people from slavery, but ends up spending 40 years as a shepherd on the backside of the desert before God calls him.  David is anointed King at the age of 12 or 13 but spends the next several years living in caves, running for his life.  And then in the New Testament, you’re not really doing your job unless you are thrown in jail.  Paul could give a prison tour of the Mediterranean.  And of course there is Jesus.  He suffered and died for our sins, while He was innocent. 

How many of you still want the favor of God?

I will be the first to admit I don’t like this.  I think the love and favor of God should mean that all my circumstances work out the way I think they should.  Isn’t there a verse in Romans, “And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him”?  Yes, yes there is 8:28.  But it seems my idea and God’s idea of “good” are two different things.

When my circumstances are not working for my good, I’m the first one to start praying, “I thought you loved me? I thought I was your favorite….ok, at least top ten.  Is this your favor? Lord, do me a favor.  Don’t do me anymore favors.”  We need to rethink what the love and favor of God look like in our lives, because it doesn’t seem that our circumstances give us an accurate view.

Maybe God has a bigger view of my life than I do.  Could it be that God sees a grander picture than I can imagine and is working for my good on that scale?  That He sees needs I am unaware of?  That He is working for my good because of circumstances I can’t or won’t acknowledge?  Isn’t that why Mary is pregnant to begin with?

Whenever we begin to doubt God’s love and favor for us because of our circumstances, whenever we don’t get the raise or promotion we deserve, or get into the college we dreamed about, or ride the bench for the season, we need to go to the Word of God.  I like Psalm 103 for such occasions.  JesusOnCross_011-219x300The Lord loves us and shows us His favor in ways we can’t possibly comprehend.  He sees our biggest need – to be freed from sin and all it’s consequences, especially death.  And so, in His love and favor for us, God gives us His only Son to die in our place and give us eternal life. 

But, this is where I have such a hard time because I feel and see my circumstances.  And it is so easy to let them determine my reality.  But the reality is my feelings and circumstances change like the weather.  They come and go.  They are a terrible guide for life.  In the midst of my feelings and circumstances, I have a choice:  Do I believe them or the Word of God?  Faith is choosing the Word of God over my feelings and circumstances.  In most cases, faith is choosing the Word of God in spite of my feelings and circumstances.

Gabriel declares the Word of God to Mary.  Jesus will be called “the Son of the Most High, He will reign forever, His kingdom will never end.”  “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34) She is saying, “I’m a poor girl in a nowhere town.  I’m not even married yet.  My circumstances don’t line up with what you are telling me.”

 “The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” (1:35-37).

“Nothing is impossible with God.”  Do you believe that Word of God in spite of your circumstances?  Will you believe that Jesus is the Lord reigning over the world right now in spite of the circumstances in the news?  Will you trust that God’s love and favor is upon you even when you don’t feel it? 

 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (1:38).  Mary chooses faith over feelings.  She chooses to believe the Word of God in spite of her circumstances.  That’s why she is highly favored.    And because she does, we receive God’s love and favor in the Son she bore on Christmas.  Merry Christmas!

Do you still want the favor of God?  Believe the Word of God over your feelings.  Let the Word of God define your reality, not your circumstances.  Allow God to show you the bigger, grander picture of your life and His love in Jesus Christ.  And when you do, like Mary, you’ll be bringing Jesus into a dark and dying world that desperately needs to hear and see the love and favor of God.

Psalm 103

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass,
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

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Inheriting the Land

I have found myself reading Psalm 37 this past week. It has been very encouraging in the last week of the election. It begins by saying, “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.” That in itself is worth a roll of Tums. But I have been drawn to the number of times this Psalm makes reference to inheriting the land. Five times in the NIV it uses this phrase. And I can’t help but think that is what is at stake in this election on November 6th. Someone is going to “inherit” the land and all that goes with it.

Listen to who will inherit the land: “Those who hope in the Lord” v.9. “The meek” v.11. “Those the Lord blesses” v.22. “The righteous” v.29. Those who “wait for the Lord and keep His way” v.34. It is clear that the wicked will be no more, their power will be broken, but the righteous will be delivered and saved.

We have a real hard time looking at the world in these terms. No one likes to refer to someone else as wicked. And honestly, apart from Jesus Christ, who can claim to be righteous? We just don’t talk like that and certainly don’t like to think we have to make choices between good and evil. We think that there is no black and white, just shades of grey. But the Bible doesn’t seem to have those hang ups. It has no problem calling things good or evil, black or white, righteous or wicked.

People on both sides of the issues agree that this election has starke contrasts. We are deciding between two completely different paths for the future of our land. Can I look at these paths and label one righteous and one wicked? Yes, I can. How can I? Is it based on my own preferences and opinions? Am I the final judge? No, not by a long shot. My opinions and preferences are simply mine and are not to be used to determine righteousness and wickedness. Then who gets to decide? What is the standard? Where is the scale to weigh these paths?

The Bible is the standard and the scale. And Jesus is the judge who gets to decide. So by looking into the Scriptures we should be able to determine which path is good and which path is wicked. But before we put these issues into the scale, we need to decide if we will abide by the outcome of God’s Word or rebel against it.

Facing us this election like never before are some clear cut issues. Your vote one way or the other will determine if people must violate their conscious and religious freedom and be forced to pay for abortions. Will marriage be redefined by the government? Will we continue to amass unstainable debt and pass it to our children and grandchildren? Will we continue to disregard the Lord in public life? To continue down this path is wicked. Not only is the future of our country at stake, this election will have eternal consequences.

There is a clear choice between good and evil this time around. I believe Mitt Romney is a choice for good. I’m not suggesting he is the “hope and change we need.” I don’t put my hope in a man and expect him to be my messiah. Jesus is all sufficient in that catagory. But what Romney stands for in this election is good in contrast to what our current president stands for. Never has the contrast been clearer. Which will you choose?

However the election turns out on November 6th, the truth remains: “The power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.” (v.17) I don’t know if November 6th will be a foretaste of the final victory this Psalm talks about or not. I pray that it will be. Regardless, how you vote on that day will be a good indicator what you might be inheriting on the Day that really matters.

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Your Bride Is Ugly

I keep bumping into this sentiment lately: “I like God, but I can’t stand the church.”  Or, “I’ll take Jesus, but I can do without Christians.”  It seems like even folks who claim the faith are taking their shots at the church.  Criticisms range from the church being too involved in politics to being irrelevant, from Christians being judgmental to not knowing what they believe.  Some people have decided that they are no longer going to call themselves “Christians” because it carries too much baggage.  “Christ-follower” is much more vogue and it gives one the option of following Jesus without being part of the church.

I wonder how that makes Jesus feel.  I think those comments are a kin to going to a bridegroom and telling him, “Dude I like you, but your bride is ugly.”  Honestly, how long do you think you are going to be friends?  Can you continue to have a relationship with the bridegroom and disparage the bride?  Do you think you are still going to get an invitation to the wedding reception?

I do not think that the church is above criticism.  In fact, when the bride is unfaithful to the bridegroom she needs to be corrected.  The Scripture is clear that judgment begins with the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17.)  But who is entitled to do the judging?  And to what standard is she being measured?  If the standard is other than the Word of God, then it is, at best, a distraction and, at worse, an idol.

Is there another institution that has done more to lift humanity out of the slim of history than the church?  Has government done more to restore the dignity of humanity to the elderly, the poor, the unborn?  Does Madison Avenue preach a message that gives people hope and peace?  Has technology been able to restore broken relationships, especially a relationship with God?  Can forgiveness be purchased on Wall Street?  Perhaps a little tolerance could be extended for poor coffee and hokey movies.

So why the hostility towards Christians and the church?  R.C. Sproul writes in The Holiness of God, “People have an appreciation for moral excellence, as long as it is removed a safe distance from them.  The Jews honored the prophets, from a distance.  The world honors Christ, from a distance.” (pg. 71)  Two thousand years later it is easy to admire Jesus, but get close to Him and you might find out why the prophets were killed and He was crucified.  The closer He gets the more our unholiness is revealed.  Sproul continues, “They feel crowded by holiness, even if it is made present only by an imperfect, partially sanctified human vessel.” (pg.82). Imperfect, partially sanctified human vessel is a pretty good description of the church.

Yet, the Church is the bride of Christ.  She is not perfect (not yet anyway), but He is the one who has called her.  Jesus purchased her with His own blood.  He washed her in His Word.  Jesus is preparing a place for her at this moment for eternity.  And Jesus is anxious to return and get her so that she can be with Him.  Jesus loves the church.  The church is His creation.  He will make her holy and pure in His time. 

The church has issues, no doubt.  However, Christians should be a bit more careful before throwing her to the curb the way the world does.  For there is coming a day (sorry, I don’t mean to fixate on end times) when those who “love Jesus but can’t stand the church” are going to be very glad they are counted among her.

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When Social Justice is Unjust

With the recent ruling on Obamacare and people’s attempts to declare mandated government action “compassionate” and “just”, I felt I would post this article again.  It was orginially posted in the summer of 2010 on Dale Tedder’s blog.  Thanks Dale for not deleting it.  I hate retyping things. – Mike

 The phrase “social justice” is thrown around these days like a buzz word on steroids.  Almost every problem faced in society from poverty, health care, environmental concerns, homelessness, etc are now labeled as “social justice” issues. 

 Now don’t get me wrong.  I am all for justice in a social setting.  But what exactly does this phrase, “social justice” mean?  Ask ten different people and you will get ten different definitions.  Ask them what the difference is between justice and social justice and you are more likely to get blank stares.  Why, then, with such ambiguity about what social justice is, do we use the term like a trump card?

 The term “social justice” has only been around for the past 75-100 years.  I believe people use this term because we can demand justice.  If something is unjust, we have a right, a moral obligation, and a duty to God to change the unjust situation.  There is power with a phrase like “social justice.”  And that is where the danger lies.

 Think of what we call social justice ministries today and you will most likely think of working with the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and taking care of the poor.  All of these ministries are essential, but they are not justice ministries.  They are, in fact, mercy ministries.

 People have confused justice and mercy.  Those who confuse justice and mercy would look at the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and surmise that Jesus is being unjust.  How can the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in the kingdom of God?  How can there be such inequality in talents given from the outset?  Is Jesus being unjust when he takes from the servant with one talent and gives it to the servant with ten?  No, the lazy servant did nothing, contributed nothing and therefore received nothing.  Justice was met.

 The classic definition of justice advanced by Thomas Aquinas is “the habit whereby a man renders to each one his due by a constant and perpetual will.” (Summa Theologiae II-II, q.58,a.1.)  To “give a person their due” is the broad definition of justice.  It works on all levels.  If the worker is due wages, the employer should pay.  If the criminal is due punishment, they should receive it.  If the employer is due satisfactory work, the employee should give it.  In short, justice is something that is earned.  When a person receives what is owed them, justice has been met.

 But by calling merciful acts “social justice” we run the risk of injustice.  When we mandate acts of charity, they cease to be charitable.  When mercy is demanded or owed, it is no longer mercy.  It becomes oppression.  We cannot force people to be loving.  Mercy and love must be freely given if it is to be mercy and love.  It cannot be coerced or required by men.  Only God can require it because mercy comes from the heart.  When we can demand mercy, we become tyrants and “social justice” becomes unjust.

 Micah 6:8 says, “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  In order to function properly, society needs both justice and mercy.  God has judged what is just and unjust.  He has determined the standard for right and wrong. We walk with humility by acknowledging that and obeying Him. 

 Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16.  In it the landowner is both just and merciful.  He pays the workers the agreed upon wage.  That is justice.  Those who worked less were not owed the same wage but received it.  They would be unjust to demand equal pay for unequal work.  They received it because the employer was generous and merciful. 

 We are to be both just and merciful.  To confuse the two takes a society towards oppression.  If we cannot define justice correctly, we won’t have any.

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