Christian Believers Should Care About Social Justice Because It’s a Form of Worship God Commands and It Results in Blessings
By: Margaret Knight
Last week, we looked at Isaiah 58:1-5 and saw how God is displeased with people’s religious practices when their hearts are not completely devoted to God. This week, we will see what kind of religious acts and sacrifices God actually requires of His followers. In Isaiah 58:6-8, God says to Israel:
6. Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
7. Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8.Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Verses 6-7: God delights in believers taking care of the afflicted and needy
God reveals to the Israelite the type of worship that He desires. God wants His people to worship Him by standing up to those who practice wickedness and injustice, feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, covering the naked, and investing in the lives of those people who surround them.
Verse 8: When believers care for the afflicted and needy, their light shines and their witness to the world is strong, there is healing, and righteousness abounds
Light: Jesus tells his disciples that they are the light of the world and that their light is like that of a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. He commands them, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Your obedience to care for the afflicted and needy magnifies God and, because of your obedience, people will glorify your God.
Healing: From the first few verses of Isaiah 58, we know that something must be going wrong in Israel for them to be earnestly seeking God’s help through fasting. Other prophets speak of God’ s judgment and danger to those who do not follow only God and take advantage of the poor and vulnerable. The following two verses from Habakkuk and Micah demonstrate this:
“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence” Habakkuk 2:12 (my emphasis added).
“Woe to those who scheme iniquity, who work out evil on their beds for it is in the power of their hands. They covet fields and then seize them, and houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, a man and his inheritance” Micah 2:1-2 (my emphasis added).
Israel was experiencing God’s judgment because of their disobedience to Him. One way their disobedience manifested itself was in their mistreatment of the poor. The prophet Hosea tells Israel what they must do to escape God’s judgment: “Return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually” (Hosea 12:6). Before the people observe kindness and justice, they must return to their God. Their return to serving and loving only God will lead them to exercise justice and, as a result, healing will come to a nation that is suffering because of their iniquity.
Righteousness: The New Testament says again and again that God makes us righteous through our faith in Jesus Christ (i.e. Romans 3:22). Salvation is a free gift given by God out of grace (Ephesians 2:8). However, Jesus says we will know true believers by their fruits (Matthew 7:16) and James boldly claims, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18) (my emphasis added). When we receive the Holy Spirit because of our faith, we become a new creation, a different person (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit helps us live lives in obedience to Christ. Caring for the afflicted and needy and serving others are commands Jesus issued to his followers. If we love God, we will obey Him (John 14:15). As a result, righteousness will abound in our lives.
Next week, we will end our discussion about why Christians should care about social justice by looking at verses 9-11. These verses show that our personal relationship with God grows stronger when we care for the afflicted and needy.
Margaret lives in Indianapolis where she is a law student focusing on Criminal and International Law. After graduating from law school, she wants to be an advocate for those who are suffering from injustices, most specifically human trafficking. Margaret enjoys learning how to cultivate a hospitable heart, traveling to new places, and growing in knowledge about God through His Word and life experiences. She has volunteered as Ascent 121’s social media and blog manager since March 2015.