Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Three Kinds of Justice

From what I can tell, Job classifies the wicked into three categories in chapter 24: the oppresive indifferent, the secretive evil, and the mighty pagan. I'll tackle them (figuratively of course, it's getting late) in reverse order.

The rulers of this world finally got their due, Job reasoned, in that they are finally brought low by the relentless gravity of death. Whatever power, whatever prestige they may have amassed throughout life, it vanished when they died.

The middle group of sinners is ostensibly the worst. They're the ones who know they're doing wrong and therefore do it beneath the safe cover of darkness. They're the murderers, theives, thugs, and adulterers, the Ten-Commandment breakers (or the breakers of the five commandments everybody knows). But these evildoers, Job claims, get what's coming to them. These are the people who inherit the judgments of plagues and pestilence and ruin all Job's friends love so much. 

But the first group is different. These people are identified most by the plight of their victims. Sure, there are those who falsify their property lines and run away with stolen goods, maybe shortchange the needy here and there. But the bulk of the passage describing them (vv. 2–12) focuses on the needy, the homeless, the hungry, the dying. Their oppressors aren't identified by name, and I think that's Job's point. The people most responsible for their suffering are never charged with any crime. When does God call them out? By Job's count, never.

So here I am, reading this. And I feel called out. I'm not so sure I'm doing anything to help these people, and I very well may be contributing to a system that prolongs their need. I'd say it's time for me to be convicted about that. It's time to do something, not to clear my name, but to help people in need.

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