Monday, June 1, 2015

Justice (Devotional) by Ron Shackelford

 Angel Trumpet blooming in the Garden of Grace.
 “Woe to you, Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices…but have neglected the more important matters of the law---justice, mercy and faithfulness.”  Mt. 23:23 NIV

Want to do the will of God? Here’s one of the most critically important verses in the Bible. If you ponder it and integrate it, you can’t go wrong. God desires three things: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. If these are “the important matters,” Jesus implies conventional religious practice can unconsciously “neglect” and even replace these. 

What did Jesus mean by “justice?”

The Greek word krisis is defined by conservative Evangelical scholar Dale Bruner in his Matthew, A Commentary:

"Almost all commentators agree that krisis is the concrete doing of justice, especially toward the poor and hurting, in the Jewish-prophetic spirit. (Old Testament commentator Schweizer tells us the primary purpose of Old Testament justice was protection, and therefore actually favored the weak.) To forestall the abstract interpretation and give the concrete sense of the word, I translated krisin as “social justice.” It is the presence or absence of social justice that will determine whether we have “real faith” at the Last Judgment’s separation of sheep and goats (Mt. 25:31-46 “I was hungry and you gave me food…as you did to the least of these, you did to me.”)"

Krisis can be translated today by the modern word “activist,” the people for whom righteousness, vindication and right conduct in the world seem painfully missing. I can actively pursue justice by tutoring those who didn’t have the same family, economic, or spiritual advantages I enjoyed. Justice and mercy flow at the Orange County Rescue Mission, where the unfortunate “least of these” are offered assistance to change their lives.

These are the weightier matters of the law        
In these three, there is no flaw:
“Justice, mercy, faith,” other than that
“Is swallowing a camel, straining out a gnat.” R.S.                     

It is impossible to respect Jesus’ first word, “social justice,” and then cater to the pleasure-seeking injustices of the rich. With the gap between rich and poor widening daily, I can speak against this systemic injustice and woeful imbalance. When Jesus encountered it, He quickly took action, as when he over threw the money changers in the Temple (they exploited the worshipers who were poor). He proactively touched lepers outside the city gates (there because of the “neglect” of “justice and mercy” of the religious establishment).    

If you want to major in the majors in pleasing God, Jesus should have your rapt attention when he makes this statement. He puts it in clear black and white letters. It is impossible to argue other matters, such as evangelism or following church tradition, are “the most important matters of the law.” To place undue emphasis elsewhere is to stray and risk “neglect” of what is truly important to God.

The only question that remains about the important matters is, “are we doing them?”

Decision for the Day
To put doing justice and loving mercy as higher priority than maintaining my comfortable status quo. 

Positive Thought

At its core, Christianity isn’t complicated.

About the Author: Ron Shackelford is a pastor (Honorably Retired) and licensed marriage and family therapist. He is the author of Married to an Opposite: Making Personality Differences Work For You. Other devotionals on this blog by Ron include The Vulnerable Bible, The Learning Man, Moved By Joy and Tomorrow's Troubles.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ron, I'm an LMFT in private practice outside Nashville, TN. I've published about a dozen books, and co-authored a series of books with Dr Gary Chapman who was my mentor in NC. The reason I'm writing to you is that I'm a big fan of your book "Married to An Opposite" and have recommended to many of my couples. I'm also writing to you because I'm disappointed to see that apparently the book is now out of print. The used copies are now increasingly rare and costly. I don't lend out my copy anymore because I'm afraid I won't get it back. I have to imagine that when the book went out of print that Praeger reverted the rights back to you, which enables you to self-publish and re-release the book. Ron, I strongly urge you to do that very thing. Heck, I'm glad to help. In the past two years I've transitioned from having an agent and using traditional publishing to self-publishing. I've been using CreateSpace. Ron, your book is too well-written, and it is too valuable & helpful for it to disappear; it needs to be given new life, self-published, and re-released. Again, I'm glad to help in any way I can. My email address is and my website is


    Dr Ramon Presson


Thank you for taking the time to encourage me with your feedback. Blessings.