Wednesday Reflection – September 25, 2019
Justice and only Justice!
Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 16:20
As I read this verse, I recall that I did a reflection very recently on a text in the context of today’s Watchword. At a quick review, I recognized that it was only on September 11 that I reflected on Deuteronomy 16:19. Moses continues his teaching to the Israelites as they were on the brink of entering Canaan. Judges and officials were to be appointed for each tribe in every town. I believe that these judges were to be put in place for every tribe so they could adequately relate to each other in the administration of justice. I think too that the judges and officials were to be in every town so they would be readily available and accessible to deal with the judicial affairs.
Yet, the reality of the judges being appointed for every tribe and town posed obvious challenges. Two major challenges were their immediate access to people, including those of their own tribe, who may want to pervert the court of justice by offering bribes, and the temptation to show partiality to those of their own tribe. It is no wonder then that Moses emphasizes in today’s Watchword, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
Today’s text helps us to understand how to live in response to God’s love and serve others through our work. Underlying all the themes in Deuteronomy is Israel’s covenant with the one true God. Everything in the book flows from the keystone of the covenant, “I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before me”. When people worship the Lord alone, good governance, productive work, ethical commerce, civic good, and fair treatment for all will generally result. When people put other motivations, values, and concerns ahead of the principles of God, life and work are under threat and usually results in unnecessary grief. Moses’ charge to judges and officials is especially important when it comes to work. Without impartial justice, it would be impossible to “live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you”.
Modern workplaces and societies are no less susceptible to bribery, corruption, and bias than Israel was. International bodies believe that the greatest impediment to economic growth in less developed countries is lapses in the impartial rule of law. Interestingly, the emphasis of this command is on those who have the power to demand bribes and not against those who pay. Many times those who pay bribes are at the mercy of those who have the power to determine our fate and future. Yet, both those who receive and those who pay are charged to desist, because justice is sacred to the Lord.
As we go about our daily lives, may we be careful to honour God through our words and actions, by ensuring that we promote justice and fairness. The words of Jamaica’s National Anthem rings out, “Justice, truth, be ours forever…”