And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:20-21)
Justice is something that nearly everyone thinks they understand. And to a certain extent that is true. But there is a significant distinction between the definition of “Justice” in general and the Christian skill of Justice. We commonly think of justice as the system of laws and enforcement that enables us to keep what is ours. That is to keep our property, relationships, and our life. We want justice because we want life, health, and possessions. But by this definition, justice exists almost entirely outside of us. We have little to do with it unless someone tries to take something from us or we try to take something that belongs to someone else. This understanding of Justice is weak, dangerous, and only a shadow of true justice. The more people live in this shadow of justice, the shadier they become. They gain in willingness to justify themselves when their fiscal indiscretions go undetected. They are quicker to see lawsuits as a way to enforce their will upon others. In the end, the shadow of justice may boil down to no more than who has the cleverest lawyers.
For Christians, the skill of Justice is an entirely different matter. For Christians, Justice is a daily activity. It is something in which they fully participate. It involves such activities as being honest with ourselves and others. It means telling the truth. It means that we try to see things from other people’s perspective so that we can negotiate the proper give and take in any situation. It means that we work hard to be kind because we respect our fellow human beings. It means that when we make promises we keep them. Justice includes all the activities that are required for fairness. By this we mean that Justice is the active pursuit of seeing that everyone gets their due.
To better illustrate how important justice is to Jesus and His Father, we will assert that the feeding of the five thousand was an actual act of justice on Jesus part. Now we are not used to thinking this way about the miracle. We tend to emphasize how it demonstrated Jesus power and mystery. But the feeding of the five thousand was also an act of justice. The crowd of people had followed Jesus. They were a long way from home. They were hungry and weak. Because he had the power, Jesus fed them. And they all ate and were satisfied. That is the central theme of justice. They ALL ate and were SATISFIED. The Christian skill of justice leads us into concern for “ALL” people. And that concern extends to finding ways for them to be SATISFIED.
If our only concern is only for our own satisfaction, then we are not practicing Christian Justice. It is abundantly true that we cannot individually fix all the world’s problems. But that should never be an excuse for failing to act. We need to look carefully for what we can do. We start with basic honesty, truth-telling, promise keeping, concern for the perspective of others, fairness, and kindness. We know how to do that, and it costs us nothing, because it is how God made us to act. But then we need to see where that takes us. When we get a chance to help other people, to share with them something that will help them to be satisfied, then we are practicing the skill of justice. We are doing Christian Justice.
We must be careful not to think of this in the abstract. It needs to take shape in specific actions. But each action must have its roots in the reservoir of God’s Justice, His determination to see that everyone’s need is satisfied. Then what we are doing will strengthen our own skill at Justice. Each endeavor will bring joy, purpose, and zest into our lives like nothing else. So, our practice of the skill of Justice is of vital importance for our own well-being as well as for that of our neighbor. And in this way, we move closer to the goal of “all being satisfied.” That is the true goal for the Christian skill of Justice.