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From The Chaplain's Desk
From The Chaplain's Desk: Justice

By Charles Dimmick, CT State Grange Chaplain

  September 1, 2019 --

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 

If one remembers that loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself are the two great commandments, then it follows naturally that seeking Justice is a corollary to them. In the above quote the Hebrew word Mishpat is translated as Justice. Another word for Justice in Hebrew is Tzedakah. Sometimes both are used in the same sentence, as in Deuteronomy 32:

his work is perfect,

for all his ways are justice.

A God of faithfulness

and without iniquity,

just and upright is he.

In the above “just” is Tzadiqh, an adjectival form of Tzedakah.

Mishpat normally refers to legal justice, making sure that everyone gets a fair shake, that the workers are justly rewarded for their labor, that no punishment is more severe than the offense, that property is not taken without due process and just compensation, that weights and measures are true. Tzedekah goes further, and requires that justice must be tempered by compassion. Once could also say it means, “doing the right thing.”

Tim Keller, in an August 2012 article in Relevant Magazine explained the difference thusly:

These two words roughly correspond to what some have called “primary” and “rectifying justice.” Rectifying justice is mishpat. It means punishing wrongdoers and caring for the victims of unjust treatment. Primary justice, or tzadeqah, is behavior that, if it was prevalent in the world, would render rectifying justice unnecessary, because everyone would be living in right relationship to everyone else. Therefore, though tzadeqah is primarily about being in a right relationship with God, the righteous life that results is profoundly social.

Both kinds of justice are necessary if we are to make a more perfect world. The prophet Amos says: “but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” And in Matthew we hear Jesus say: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

Finally, remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you, and do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.



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