There are people who think that they could never be pleasing to God, feeling perhaps that they lack the ability to be that good. Others, believing that God is arbitrary and capricious in His demands, complain that it is impossible to even know what might make God happy. Many use this sort of thinking to excuse the fact that they are not even trying to be pleasing to God.
Answering the question, what does God want from men, the prophet Micah, writing to the people of Israel, explained that the matter was not all that complicated. God was not asking men to do the impossible. Nor was God’s requirements for men all that unreasonable. Micah wrote: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8; ESV)
These three requirements are each equally important, and, it is suggested, interconnected with each other. But let’s break them down one at a time. In this article, we are going to deal with just the first of those things that Micah taught as being a requirement. If you want to please God, You must do Justice.
Some translations render the phrase here, “do justly.” Others use, “be fair,” and at least one reads, “do what is right.”
While the word justice makes us most often think of courts and the verdicts of law, biblically the word is actually connected to the word “righteous,” or “doing what is right.” In fact, in the Hebrew and Greek languages, in which the Bible is written, the words translated “righteous” are the exact same words translated “justice.” There is no difference between the two except a translator’s preference as to which is most appropriate for the sentence.
It is, of course, vitally important for courts to act with justice when rendering verdicts. The decisions of the court should always be based on proper application of the law in a fair way, without regard to persons or personal opinions. When we talk about justice in relationship to the courts, this is what we mean.
But Micah wasn’t talking about the courts exactly when he says to you, that you need to do justice. Of course, if you are a member of the legal community then you need to do justice within the context of the courts, but God is expecting each one of us to practice justice, or righteousness in our own lives, no matter what we are doing. There is a right way for you to treat others and there is a wrong way. God expects you to always strive to act in the right way, to do what is right.
And God has not left us in darkness considering what is the right way to treat one another. As Micah says, “God has told you, O man, what is good.” Where has God told us? The answer is: in the Bible.
Many years after Micah wrote, a man ran up to Jesus and wanted to know, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” That is, the man wanted to know what God was expecting of him. Jesus, in answering the question pointed the young man to God’s commands, saying, “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.” (cf. Mark 10:17-19)
Elsewhere, Jesus summarized these commandments with a simple sentence that has come to be known as the Golden Rule: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12; ESV) This Golden Rule is really just a rendering of another command, identified by Jesus as the Second Great Command of the Old Testament: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (cf. Matthew 22:39)
God cares how you treat other people. When you lie to them, steal from them, hurt them, or otherwise abuse them, then you are not making God happy with you. God expects His children to be better than that. God expects, requires even, that we actively and conscientiously tell people the truth, pay them fairly, be faithful and loving to them, and always treat them with the same sort of treatment that we would appreciate receiving from them.
If you want God to be happy with you, the first thing you need to do is do justly by your fellow man. And that is not really unreasonable, is it?
In coming weeks, we will look more closely at the other two things Micah lists as requirements to see what they mean for us. If you would like to learn more of what the Bible says concerning how to have a good relationship with God, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.