Blessed are they that do His commandments... Rev. 22:14
Faith without works is dead. James 2:14-26
The Heart of God
I have wondered for years just what the Bible means when it refers to righteous judgment. I felt like it went beyond just being fair, but I couldn’t really put my finger on it. Now I think I am beginning to see how our obligations as Christians to do the Word, to judge the cause of the poor and the needy fulfill the requirement for righteous judgment.
Have we really understood what we are to be doing as the Body of Christ? Or has religious tradition locked us into a mindset that has moved us further and further away from the real message of the Gospel and the heart of the Father?
Throughout the Word of God, the heart of God is revealed, a heart of love, a heart of giving and a heart of mercy and grace. Clearly, God wants mercy and not sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22-23), that mercy manifested as helping the poor, the widow, the orphan, etc. It is all over the Bible in such verses as the discourse in the first chapter of Isaiah:
Bring no more offerings of vanity... Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts My soul hates... even though you make many prayers, I will not hear... Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes! Cease to do evil, learn to do right! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, and correct the oppressor. Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow... (verses 13-18)The acceptable fast in Isaiah 58 is to loose bands of wickedness, to feed the hungry, take care of the poor, etc. Yet we have been thoroughly religion-ized into thinking that our service to God simply involves showing up for church services every week and dutifully paying our tithes so the church itself can dole out the money left over from expenses to do what we should be doing ourselves.
There is no real sense of satisfaction in just sitting back and letting the administration of the system take care of our obligations to care for the needy. And the way we do things now just creates a whole population of Christians that are lazy and willing to pass the buck. The biblical model for giving in the New Testament is not one of religious obligation to a formula. It is one of giving directly to those in need according to ability and with a willing heart. James makes this very clear:
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone... for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:14-26)
Hear and Obey
Granted, doing things God’s way takes some effort on our part to first, hear from God and learn to be led by His Spirit, then actually doing what He says to do. But isn’t that the principal part of being a Christian- a relationship with God, a relationship that goes much further beyond just accepting salvation, then doing some religious duty to an institution?
Jesus practiced righteous judgment because He heard from God and obeyed. He wasn’t obedient to His own will, but to the will of the Father. So righteous judgment involves hearing from God and seeking His will:
I am able to do nothing from Myself- independently, of My own accord- but as I am taught by God and as I get His orders. [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision.] Even as I hear, I judge and My judgment is right (just, righteous), because I do not seek or consult My own will- I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose- but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me. John 5:30 Amp.
But he who practices truth- who does what is right- comes out into the light; so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are, wrought with God- divinely prompted, done with God's help, in dependence upon Him. John 3:21Our works have to be dependent upon Him and divinely prompted. We are not to have a “herd mentality” where we do things because everyone else does it, or because “this is the way we’ve always done things”. Traditions make the Word of none effect (Mark 7:13). The Word is living; our relationship with God should also be a living, active relationship that is solely dependent upon His direction. And when we are obedient to seek His will and do His promptings, then we will be obeying the command for mercy rather than sacrifice.
Manifesting the Love of God vs Tradition
It seems to me that our giving has become a mechanical, habitual, unspiritual, religious ritual with no life in it.
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 (Jer. 9:24; 22:16)
He judged the cause of the poor and the needy and it was well with him. Was not this to know Me? Jer. 22:16THIS is righteous judgment, and this is to know God- judging the cause of the poor and the needy. The fulfillment of the law is found in the royal law of love, according to James 2:8. In that discourse, James speaks of having respect of persons, favoring the rich over the poor:
Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor... If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well; But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors... For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shown no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (James 2:1-13)We are to show mercy. We are to judge righteous judgment and judge the cause of the poor and the needy. THEN it will be well with us. THEN our light shall shine as the morning and our healing shall spring forth speedily (Isaiah 58:8).
We have been hiding from the command to judge the cause of the poor and the needy. We have hidden in our “ceiled houses” of worship. The prophet Haggai calls for us to consider our ways:
Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? ... You have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways... (Haggai 1:6-7)We have not done things God’s way, and His house lies in ruins while we all hide away in our beautiful buildings and ignore the cries of the needy. The house of God is not the building, it is the Body of Christ that builds itself up in love, not in selfishness. Those of us that have sat under prosperity preaching for years may be wondering why we just keep giving into these systems and yet don’t see that promised 100 fold return. It is because we are not doing things God’s way. We have been building fancy buildings and paying paid staff rather than being obedient to God’s call to judge righteous judgment.
When we give according to the biblical pattern- as God leads, with a willing heart and according to ability, that is where the blessings are. There is no real blessing in giving according to tradition and according to formula and certainly not according to arm-twisting from the pulpit.
Is it any wonder church membership is dropping? Is it any wonder Christians are hungry for more than what they get on Sunday mornings? Is it any wonder we have not seen the blessings of God as we should?
The Divine Plumb Line
Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies and waters shall overflow the hiding place. (Isaiah 28:17)Righteous judgment will be the deciding factor. Have we judged righteously in judging the cause of the poor and the needy? Or have we been hiding ourselves in a refuge of lies? a refuge of ceiled houses, traditions and buck-passing?
Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats:
...Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels; For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited me not... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:31-46)
Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)Can we rely on our dutiful giving into a church system that gives to the poor to count as our being obedient to the command to judge the cause of the poor and the needy? I for one am not willing to count on it. We need to manifest the mercy, grace and love of God to those around us as He leads us. It is the Body of Christ doing the Word that will change the world.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed... Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:25-27)Plumb line is free image from Wikimedia Commons.
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