17 March 2006

measures of justice

measures of justice

For Friday, March 17, 2006
Proverbs 16:11

A just balance and scales are the LORD's;
all the weights in the bag are his work.

According to the Larger Catechism, Scriptural justice requires "rendering to every one his due" and thereby refraining from all "unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him" (Q&A 141 and 142). The virtue of justice, moreover, extends also to our "own estate." Thomas Aquinas would add that the genuinely just person acts as a matter of "constant and perpetual will" (Summa Theologiae II-II.58.1).

In the wider context of today's proverb, dealing with kingship and rule, it is likely that "a just balance and scales" refers not simply to weights and measures within the marketplace, but stands in also for the entire carriage of justice within a society. If so, the point seems to be that when a human community, in all its various relations, is characterized by true justice, then this is a expression of God's own work, the very presence of Yahweh himself.

Few of us likely have much say in the weightier issues of monetary policy or the conduct of our court system, both of which, in any case, may lie beyond our competency. We do, nonetheless, have ample opportunity each day to render to others what is due to them, especially fellow believers: attentively listening to their needs, thanking others for their hard work, showing respect and kindness, giving generously to those in poverty, encouraging faithful diligence, praising a job well done, rebuking the errant in love, and granting responsibilities to capable individuals.

Moreover, with regard to our "own estate," we ought graciously and humbly to recognize the gifts and talents God has granted us, accept thanks from others, take up responsibilities given over to us, receive the blessings that others shower upon us, concede our own faults and shortcomings, and share in the joys and sorrows of those around us.

In all these ways, we are knit together in Christ as the people of God and bring God's blessing to our wider communities. When we weigh ourselves and our relationships in justice, we liberally measure out the gracious presence of God.