“At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
— MALACHI 3:5 (NLT)
Justice . . . what is justice?
There are 203 sovereign states and approximately 6,909 distinct language/ culture groups on our planet. If you were to ask two people from two different countries, you would discover that there are differing and even conflicting answers and practices to this question.
With so many conflicting ideas, how do we know what is definitively just and definitively unjust? One culture might choose to pay an employee more simply because he is of the same ethnic group. Another culture might find this unjust. Can we impose our value system on another culture?
To do business or missions globally, we are often encouraged to appreciate and embrace the practices, values, and worldview of other cultures. The world is truly becoming a “Global Village.” Internet, technology, access to affordable travel, and businesses that function in multiple countries have caused us to adapt to a “Global Culture.”
Culture is the behaviours, beliefs, and characteristics of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. Worldview is a collection of beliefs about life and the universe. Values are principles, standards, or qualities considered worthwhile or desirable.
God shows us in his Word the way to define what is just and what is unjust. This definition of justice transcends language and culture.
“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously” (Micah 6:8, The Message).
This doesn’t mean we have to do everything in the same way. But it does mean that we have to choose to apply to the culture we were born into the meaning of justice that God has revealed to us through his Word. When asked, “What is justice?” we can look to God’s Word for the answer.
SCRIPTURE TO REFLECT ON: MALACHI 3:5
1. What comes to mind when you think of the word “justice”? Ask several others what it means to them. How are your answers similar and different?
2. Can you recall Scripture verses other than Malachi 3:5 in which God defines what is just and what is unjust?
Colette Baudais is an International Worker in Guinea, West Africa. She runs a women’s community radio station and a rescue centre for abandoned infants. Colette has been serving in Guinea since 2000; she began these two compassion initiatives in 2006.