Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Hooray to Social Justice but Whose Justice?”
Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 (ESV)
Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
In the last decade, there has been a growing awareness and concern about matters of social justice. Many people assume that this is a positive trend, a sign that humanity is progressing into a kinder and gentler world. Yet, the book of Ecclesiastes presents a far more realistic picture of the injustice that is a part of our daily existence: Oppression is something that is deeply embedded into the very power structure of our societies and their governments. Solomon who had the resources of an entire nation at his disposal saw very little hope in seeing a just world in his lifetime. In the face of his own helplessness, he was left with two emotional responses to the situation: sorrow for the oppressed, and indignation towards their oppressors.
Solomon reminds us of our responsibility to do what is within our power to help the victims of injustice, but also to realize that the ultimate source of comfort comes from the hand of God; that He will one day wipe away all our tears.
Today, there are many models and paradigms of social justice that are being taught in our universities and by secular sociologists. And many of us think that any model of social justice that alleviates the pain and the suffering of individuals is good, whether it is secular, Christian, Buddhist, etc. But is important for us to consider that the only valid model of social justice is one that is centered around the teachings of Christ. A good starting point is to understand that our righteous acts are but filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).
Our concern for the poor and everything that we do for the underprivileged and the oppressed does not merit any sort of right standing before God or men. This is vitally important because I have met many people (Christians and non-Christians) who are caught up in the self-deception that all their good works somehow make them a better person. It is so easy to gain our sense of self-worth and significance from tackling these noble causes; and when we do these things for all the wrong reasons, we glorify ourselves instead of glorifying God.
The warning of Christ is clear: be careful of doing your works of righteousness before men and to not allow your left hand to know what your right hand is doing. In its essence, Jesus is teaching us that we need to be completely unaware of ourselves when we go out to feed the poor and clothe the naked. It is not about you and how good you are; rather, it is about God and how good He is.
Prayer: Lord, we confess that it is so easy to overlook the needs of the poor and the oppressed as we go through the daily routine of life. Help us to have a heart of compassion as we interact with those who suffer from an unfair system of wealth and power. Keep our hearts from being calloused so that we can minister with the same love that you showed to us. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 30
Lunch Break Study
Read Isaiah 58:6-12: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
Questions to Consider
- How is fasting and social justice connected?
- What are the spiritual benefits of caring for the poor and hungry?
- Think of ways you can personally participate in social causes.
- When you fast, you become acutely aware of the basic human needs- specifically the need for food and water. Fasting can be used as a reminder that there are many people who don’t have access to the basic requirements of life. To fast with no concern for others is a contradiction in terms.
- The blessings of having our prayers answered and causing His glory to fall upon us are the great rewards for living a life of compassion. As Jesus points out, we shine our light to the world through the good works that God has created for us to do, and as a result, we give glory to our Father in heaven.
- Personal response
Take time to reflect on this excerpt from the Lausanne Covenant on Christian social responsibility:
We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men from every kind of oppression. Because mankind is made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, color, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive.
Have you spent time praying for the injustices that you see around you? Pray for fellow Christians who may be going through difficult times, especially those in the persecuted church. Intercede on behalf of our missionaries in places like China, Vietnam, and Indonesia where the fight for human rights is a struggle.