We’re in a new series called “Foundations” which builds off of Jesus’ metaphor in Matt 7: “A house built on sand will never be able to stand BUT a house that’s built on the rock will never be able to fall.”
This week, we’re in Practice #9: Go Do Justice. God’s righteousness and justice are a major theme in both the Old Testament and the New Testament because they are intrinsic to His own character. God’s people are to show the world who God is by being people characterized by righteous living and a pursuit of justice. In Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Moses instructs the leaders of the twelve tribes to make sure that there is justice at the highest level: “Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
If we fast forward several centuries, the people ruling at the time of Jesus are a sect of Jews known as the Pharisees. They’re highly regarded by the people and have a reputation for holy living. But Jesus exposes them as “white-washed tombs” - men who pervert God’s ways while pretending to be holy. Jesus instructs His disciples to do the opposite of the Pharisees. Jesus’ followers are to be characterized by justice and righteousness, in keeping with Moses’ words in Deuteronomy.
Let’s spend a few minutes examining the text in the Sermon on the Mount as a way to see what righteousness and justice look like when lived out in ordinary human life. Today, we’ll read from Matthew 5:21-24 (NET):
“You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. And whoever insults a brother will be brought before the council, and whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell. So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.”
Some questions and next steps:
- Humans often categorize sins into “bad” and “less bad.” But what does Jesus think about the difference between anger, angry words, and murder? Does God care just as much about our internal dispositions as our external behavior?
- God says judgment (justice) is coming for people who do what? Consider why this might be.
- How is Jesus contradicting the lifestyle of the Pharisees in this passage (remember, Pharisees pretended to be holy but really were self-seeking)?
- Spend some time in prayer, thanking God for his righteousness, and confessing the ways that you fall short of Jesus’ standard of righteousness.
Published on 11-23-2021 @ 4:48 AM CDT