This is a term we hear a lot these days. It’s a phrase that stirs most of us and causes us to take sides. Depending on our experiences and our worldview, the idea of social justice draws a passionate response. But before we consider the issues of social justice, let’s go back to defining the term. Words matter. There have been a great many social reformers through the ages, but who was the originator of the idea of social justice? It was God! Yes, the Bible addresses every concern of man, and His definition is the only one that really matters. God created all and His original intent is what we must seek in order to find the best solutions. If you think the Bible’s answers are archaic and out of touch with reality, let’s consider that doing things according to the world’s way has never produced the change necessary to solve the problems. If it did, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. As far as I can see, the world’s ways have only compounded problems through the centuries. Today, we find ourselves at the peak crisis point for most social issues. Maybe what we all need is a reset in our perception. Maybe we are the ones out of touch with God’s reality.
In the last post, we looked at Prov 8:20 which links righteousness to justice.
“I lead you into the ways of righteousness to discover the paths of true justice.”
As we pursue building our foundation of righteousness, we are aligning our hearts with the heart of God. We gain appreciation of His generosity toward us and we can begin to see social issues through the lens of a generous heart. Today, we want to further explore the Hebrew word Tzedakah. This word conveys the idea of philanthropy and actually can be seen as a form of social justice. It implies a responsibility toward our fellow man, but it is not something we do to someone, it is something we do with someone. It is a responsibility that implies relationship. It’s interesting to note that the Hebrew word meaning “to give” is Natan. Natan is a palindrome, a word that reads the same forward and backward, which reveals the symbiotic nature of the word. In all giving there is a receiving that takes place for both parties.
Another key phrase in Hebrew for the spirit of Tzedakah is Tikkun Olam which means “to fix the world.” In our own search for significance, we ask the question, “What can I do be part of the solution to the problems of the world?” Apart from God, we cannot do anything with eternal value, but from a foundation of righteousness, we can be part of the solution. Isaiah 58 outlines this struggle. The people cry out trying to blame God for their troubles. They offer their defense by making a case that they have fasted and humbled themselves but God didn’t respond. His rebuke cuts to the heart, accusing them of being hypocrites, they say one thing, but they do nothing in their actions to relieve the misery or suffering of the needy. They do not carry the heart of God who generously gave everything so that we could be reunited with Him through the Blood of Jesus. God invested Himself in us, He didn’t offer empty words or expect someone else to do the work. He was willing to stoop down to make us great.
He goes on to describe the actions of generosity – feeding the poor, giving shelter to the homeless, assisting family members that are suffering while you live in luxury. In verse 8, He then explains that when we align with His heart and care for the needy, the promises we have longed for will begin to appear. We will see God moving in our own lives. In other words, our giving releases our receiving. It is a glorious progression of blessing and then in the 12th verse, He says:
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins, you will raise up age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer or the streets in which to dwell.”
I suggest to you that the ancient ruins are the destruction of the age-old (archaic) foundations that were given to us by God at Creation. He is instructing us to return to the foundation of righteousness so that we can “fix the world.” We can be the agents of change that see our families, our cities and our communities restored. These things will not come from the knowledge of man, they will come from the Wisdom of God. As we seek His heart and act upon His ways, we will see change for others and change for ourselves. Throwing money at a problem has never fixed anything. Coming alongside another, caring for their heart and helping them regain their confidence, dignity and hope is what changes the world.
Shevat is a month of righteous that leads to justice. God is Just, He is a Just Judge. He judges wisely and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. We might be able to fool our neighbor, but we cannot fool God with our pious words. It is time for us to examine our foundation and shore it up, re-align with God’s heart and help those around us to do the same. As the month comes to an end, may we humble ourselves and be willing to embrace a new perspective that will allow us to see the Kingdom of God come forth in this decade. Glory to God!