Applying the Character Quality of Justice

Justice vs. Fairness

3 min

Justice is carrying out wise judgments based on the laws and character of God.

A primary Hebrew word for justice is tsedaqah. It conveys the idea of being right in a moral or legal sense. It is significant that this same Hebrew word is also translated in Scripture as righteousness. Righteousness is the perfection of the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. His righteousness is imputed to us when we receive Him as our own Redeemer. Through His death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled the just demands of the Law by substituting His sinless life for our sinful lives.

Justice is frequently used in conjunction with judgment. One Hebrew word for judgment is mishpat. It means “a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) … sentence or formal decree” in relation to human or divine law. “Keep ye judgment, and do justice” (Isaiah 56:1). (See also Psalm 119:121 and Proverbs 21:3.)

The Rewards of Justice

  • “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).
  • “… Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9:9).
  • “… The just shall come out of trouble” (Proverbs 12:13).
  • “… There shall no evil happen to the just …” (Proverbs 12:21).
  • “… The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just” (Proverbs 13:22).
  • “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again …” (Proverbs 24:16).
  • “The memory of the just is blessed …” (Proverbs 10:7).

The Requirements of Doing Justice

Justice is an active expression of the will and nature of God. Justice requires a person to verbally confirm God’s truth and carry it out. Therefore, the word do often precedes the word justice. Psalm 82:3 states, “… Do justice to the afflicted and needy.” “David … executed judgment and justice among all his people” (I Chronicles 18:14). The same point is emphasized in Romans 2:13: “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” In Ezekiel 18, God provides a detailed description of a just man.

Justice is an active expression of the will and nature of God.

“If a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, and …”

  • Has not looked to the false gods of his day.
  • Has not defiled his neighbor’s wife.
  • Has not violated commands of personal uncleanness.
  • Has not oppressed anyone.
  • Has not taken advantage of a creditor.
  • Has given food to the hungry.
  • Has provided clothes for the poor.
  • Has not gotten rich by high interest.
  • Has not engaged in iniquity.
  • Has carried out wise judgment between parties.
  • Has walked in God’s statutes and judgments.

“… He is just, he shall surely live, saith the LORD GOD” (Ezekiel 18:9).

How Justice Competes With Fairness

Most people demand fairness. However, absolute fairness requires that all get the same things at the same time. This is impossible; thus, we must look to God, Who is completely just.

  • Justice is based on the universal, unchanging principles of God’s Word; fairness, on the variable will of the majority.
  • Justice establishes guilt when God’s standards are violated. Fairness tries to remove guilt by lowering the standards.
  • Justice causes us to confess our failures and plead for mercy; fairness, to justify our failures so we think we need no mercy.
  • Justice is based on personal responsibility and yields revival. Fairness is based on personal rights and produces rebellion.
  • Justice expresses God’s wisdom. Fairness expresses man’s reason.
  • Justice is impartial and objective; fairness is partial and subjective.
  • Justice requires swift prosecution of criminals. Fairness results in slow punishment of criminals.
  • Justice limits the punishment of criminals. Fairness produces inconsistent punishment of criminals.

How Good Judgment and Justice Work Together

Proverbs was written to give “the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity” (Proverbs 1:3). The ability to judge wisely is given to the meek. “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way” (Psalm 25:9).

Judgment is acquired through a sequence identified in Psalm 37:4–6: “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.”

Personal Evaluation

  • Do you read God’s Law? Do you memorize and meditate on it?
  • When you deal with a matter requiring justice, do you find Biblical precedents on which to base your decisions?
  • Do you ask God for an understanding heart to make wise and just judgments?
  • Do you have a meek spirit so God can guide you in justice and judgment?
  • Do you understand the difference between justice and fairness?
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