The weights of justice
“A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; All the weights of the bag are His concern.” - Proverbs 16:11
The lack of justice in the world is a cause of great anger and despair. We see injustice in world leaders, in the workplace and at home. We see it among the most desperate within society and within the most privileged. No matter what form it takes or what the stakes are, injustice always grieves.
The problem of injustice is a popular platform used by atheists to argue against the existence of God. If there is an all-powerful, loving God, how could He allow things like this to happen? The children suffer, the wicked prevail, and the righteous are stifled. It isn’t just!
The Nuremberg trials are an interesting case study. Nazi Germany committed unimaginable acts against men, women and children. When their leaders were tried for crimes against humanity, they developed an interesting defense. They were only following the orders of their dictator, besides, who determines what is right and what is wrong? As a sovereign nation, shouldn’t Germany be able to decide for themselves? Through these trials, the conclusion was drawn that there is a higher law than the laws created by a state. Even if these officers weren’t breaking any laws under the Nazi government, they were breaking a higher law.
Western civilizations have the Bible to thank for their legal framework. The collection of laws found in Exodus chapter 20 are perfect. If a society could follow these commandments, we would see heaven on earth. No need to lock your doors at night, no need for locks at all, and you wouldn’t have to worry about loosing your keys, there would be no need for them! Obviously, God knew what He was doing. The problem? We break the law. And when a law is broken, there is alway a price.
Dr. Timothy Keller used the following example; If you were at your friend’s house and you accidentally broke his lamp, no matter what happens next, there is a price to pay. You could offer to pay for a new lamp, your friend could pay for a new lamp himself, or he could go without. No matter what anyone does, there is a cost to be paid.
Our idea of Justice
We look at Lady Justice and see her blindfold, her scale and her sword and we think we have a pretty good idea of what justice is. That scale is supposed to weigh the strength of the opposition and the support of a given case. When there is an injustice, a crime is committed, a law has been broken, the scales of justice will ensure that the wrong is righted.
The vast majority of people I speak with about heaven and hell think that there is some kind of cosmic scale out there in the universe, and all of their good deeds and their bad deeds are going to be weighed. If the the bad outweigh the good, look out. But, if the good outweigh the bad, then you are home free. People don’t want to think about their impending death, but if they are forced to, they often comfort themselves with this kind of thought. After all, when we look at ourselves, we don’t think we are all that bad. We can always find someone worse to compare ourselves with. You probably aren’t a murder, and even if you are, you’ve probably done some really good things to compensate.
But is this justice? Those scales are supposed to weigh the strength of the support vs. the opposition in a given case. In other words, the scale is there to determine guilt or innocence. This is a big problem, because we are all guilty! We have all broken the law. Are there extenuating circumstances? There usually are, but we are talking about justice, not compassion.
In regards to pure justice, the only thing that matters is whether you are innocent or guilty.
Some people might look at God’s law’s and say, “I’m innocent, I’ve kept these laws since I was a child, I’m good!” Jesus dealt a fatal blow to that kind of thinking in His sermon on the mount. He said, “I didn’t come to destroy the law and the prophets, I came to fulfill them.” This was a Jewish idiom that meant that Jesus was about to teach the law correctly and completely, which is exactly what He did next. Read Matthew chapters 5 through 7. God’s law judges the intents of the heart. If you break God’s law in your heart, you are guilty. “People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives” (Prov. 16:2, NLT).
The Apostle Paul said we have all sinned. That is bad news, but it gets worse. The wages of sin is…death. Here are some facts; God is perfectly Just. Anyone who breaks one of His laws must pay the price (Death). If God would let us off the hook on account of our good deeds, or for any other reason, then he would no longer be just, and He would no longer be worthy of being called God. The price must be paid.
This is the part where people get delusional. They think that God will compare them with other sinners. No, that is not the case. The only judgment God has to make is whether we are guilty or innocent. Easy job.
If God is Just, (which He certainly is) and we are all guilty, (which we certainly are) then we are all in trouble. We won’t have a word to say in defense on judgment day.
Justice means a price must be paid, and the price is death. People often say that they could never believe in a God that would sent people to hell. This just means that they don’t understand justice. It’s not that God hates sinners, he loves them so much that He died for them. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, took upon Himself the punishment of sin, He paid the price.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NKJV)
The gospel shows us how God maintained his trait of perfect Justice (Romans 3:21-22) and at the same time, atoned for our sins. He did this because of His grace towards us. Its a gift. All we have to do is believe it, and if we believe this good news, then we will turn away from our sinful desires and follow Christ instead.
When we see the children suffer and the evil prevail and the righteous stifled, we cry out for justice. But when we recognize the true condition of our own souls, then we cry out for grace. Thankfully, God is a God of Justice, and He is a God of Grace.