As the Philippians 4:8 list continues, we are told to meditate on what is just. In the face of divergent definitions of justice, how are we to apply this?
In this series, we’ve seen how important it is to meditate on what is true and noble. Paul then tells his readers to think on “whatever things are just.” What better concept to add to truth and nobility than . . . justice? This can be hard to do in a world where injustice is more often the rule than the exception.
But, in a world where people constantly argue about what justice is and how to fix injustice, where do we even begin when trying to meditate on this topic?
What does it mean to be just?
Looking at Thayer’s and Strong’s concordances for the meaning of “just” in Philippians 4:8, we find a variety of words that can help us gain a better understanding of this word: equitable, innocent, right, righteous, rendering to each his due, one who is as he ought to be.
So, being just means being fair and doing what is right.
God’s Word and His law give true Christians a clear standard. We can objectively know what is just and right and what is unjust and evil.But based on what standard?
What is fair to one person can be unfair to another. One person’s good can be another person’s evil. Without an objective standard, people have been at each other’s throats for hundreds of years, trying to force their ideas of what is fair and what is wrong on others.
But God’s Word and His law give true Christians a clear standard (Psalm 119:172). We can objectively know what is just and right and what is unjust and evil.
Without a clear understanding of God’s Word and law, our world has relied on moral relativism to make these judgments, which has led to disastrous results.
Racists believe it is just and fair to treat people of certain races as inferiors. Islamic extremists think that jihad against people who don’t share their faith is just and fair. Several groups think that it is just and fair for sexual immorality to be celebrated and allowed to run wild without any limits. There are so many different ideas of what is fair and right that the list could go on and on.
To meditate on what is just means to think deeply about what God defines as just and right with the goal of aligning our thoughts with His. Christians must look to God for what is just and fair and what to do about it.
Let’s look at some ways to think and speak what is just.
1. Thinking what is just
To think what is just, strive to avoid:
- Justifications for bad behavior, justifications for injustices committed, excuses for not doing the right thing, and musings that abdicate responsibility for actions (1 John 1:9-10). To think what is just means to know what is fair and right according to God, not man.
- Relying too much on our own ideas of what is just and fair in situations, since people have a terrible track record of figuring it out on their own (Jeremiah 10:23). If we think something is just or unjust, but haven’t checked it against what the Bible says about it, we’re setting ourselves up to be wrong.
To think what is just, strive to embrace:
- The example of Jesus Christ’s life. The way He lived showed what is just and good. He should be our primary guide in this area of life. For example, Jesus was not a respecter of persons. He openly pointed out the hypocrisy and partiality of the religious establishment. He didn’t let them “off the hook” because they were wealthy, powerful and influential. (At the same time, neither did He dismiss them just because of their status.) He also spent time with the outcasts and downtrodden, healed the sick, and taught people how to live. His life was characterized by compassion for others and wanting them to understand and live justly.
- Stories of when justice is practiced. In our world, sometimes the oppressed are freed and given their basic rights. There are leaders who really want to serve instead of oppress. Families who have lived in poverty for generations sometimes get the help they need to break the cycle. People who commit heinous crimes are sometimes justly indicted and sentenced. It can seem like these situations don’t happen very often, but they sometimes do and can give us a small taste of how the righteous Judge will bring true, righteous justice when He returns (2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 16:5).
2. Speaking what is just
To speak what is just, avoid:
- Public dissertations about sins we particularly disdain, while ignoring and avoiding discussion about sins that don’t bother us as much. All sin carries the same penalty—death. It’s dangerous to be super opposed to one sin, while thinking others aren’t as bad (James 2:8-13). If our social media and conversations are full of rants against the sins we feel most passionately about, while ignoring other sins, we could be guilty of hypocrisy and partiality.
- Letting the opinions of our favorite politicians or celebrities shape our ideas of what is fair and just. In reality, these ideas are always changing and not always for the better. Much of the time, secular causes that are considered to be just have nothing to do with the Bible, but have only to do with man’s ideas. Remember that everything of this world comes from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
To speak what is just, embrace:
- Speaking God’s words and truth with tact, gentleness, love and concern. If we believe that God is love, then love should be the guiding force behind our words and actions. Christians shouldn’t verbally revile (rail against) people who do evil and injustice because the Bible considers reviling a sin (1 Corinthians 6:10). We should stand against sin—all sin—in a spirit of concern and with a desire to see sinners repent and change.
- Being a beacon of light in a dark world of arguing and bickering (Philippians 2:15). Rise above all of that. When someone asks if you lean left or right on an issue, point them to God’s position. Don’t let your thinking on justice be skewed by the views of liberals or conservatives—because both are wrong on many things according to God’s standards. Speak what is just and fair, not what a worldly ideology tells you to say out of a false sense of loyalty.
Do what is just
If we don’t show it in our lives, what we think and say about what is just won’t mean much. We must do what is just and not simply hear it (Romans 2:13).
Imagine a person showing partiality in small, subtle ways, but verbally assuring everyone that he or she isn’t prejudiced. Imagine a friend who tells you how much he or she loves others—but responds in a way that is far from loving when another driver cuts him or her off in traffic.
Actions speak louder than words and reveal who we really are (Proverbs 20:11). God looks at both our hearts and actions to see if we really live in a just manner.
Meditate on what is just
Thinking, speaking and doing what is just means we care about God’s view of what is just and unjust. It means we deeply care about being just—and living our lives striving to model what is right and to stay far away from what is wrong.
When we think and live justly, we will grow in encouraging and building others up instead of tearing others down. But to live like this, our thoughts must become pure. It just so happens that meditating on “whatever things are pure” is the topic of the next blog post in this series.
Here are the links to the rest of this series:
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are True”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Noble”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Just”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Pure”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are Lovely”
- Meditate on These Things: “Whatever Things Are of Good Report”
- Meditate on These Things: “If There Is Any Virtue”
- Meditate on These Things: “If There Is Anything Praiseworthy”