Justice and Benevolence

The Bible talks a lot about justice. Justice can be most accurately defined as the way things are supposed to be. If something is wrong, that is injustice. Implementing justice means establishing what is right. Therefore justice is good. Justice is restoring things to the way God had created them to b in the first place.

God is completely and totally just. He has to be. Since justice is good and God is good, God has to be just. God is so good that he cannot even be around sin. Sin requires a punishment. Sin requires judgement. Sin is an injustice that must be brought to right. God cannot let sin go unpunished. Most of us can probably recite Romans 6:23 from memory. Yeah, yeah, sin’s punishment is death. Whatever. And God gave us the gift of eternal life through his Son. We know this is true, but when was the last time we took the time to fully understand it? God is perfectly just and cannot let things go unpunished. So then why does he not punish us when we are so deserving but rather gives us eternal life? The answer is benevolence. The dictionary defines benevolence as “the desire to do good to others.” God is perfectly just but also perfectly benevolent. At times when justice requires punishment to make things right, it can seem contradictory to benevolence. But God is completely both. He had to punish sin, but since he wanted the absolute best for us, he sent Jesus to take the punishment for us. This is where the gift of God spoken about in Romans 6:23 comes in. We have a choice if we want to accept it or not. Those who accept it escape God’s judgement through the substitution of Jesus Christ. But for those who do not accept it, God will still punish them. Thought he wants the best for us, he has to punish those who sin and refuse to accept him. Their judgement will come later. God’s mercy and benevolence is seen even more in the fact that he holds off his judgement and gives those who reject his gift every last chance to take it. The Bible makes it clear that their punishment will eventually come. 

Since God is perfectly just, he also wants us to establish justice. Amos 5:21-24 says, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” As Christians, we often get caught up in the religious “duties” and the ritualistic part of worship. Often times we ignore justice. We ignore the way things are supposed to be and try to please God using meaningless, flashy shows of faith. God does not desire this. He would rather have us actively enacting justice than performing showy acts of worship to God with an empty heart. Worship is only acceptable to God when justice is a part of it. More than that, this verse shows that justice is an act of worship. We are giving glory to God when we do our best to set things right.

One translation for justice in the Hebrew language is “shalom.” It can be translated as both “justice” and “peace.” Loosely, it means wholeness and restoration. By this definition, justice is also about restoring relationships to what they were intended to be. We were created to have a relationship with God. Since the beginning, human beings were supposed to be on a personal basis with God. Adam and Eve actually dwelled with God in the Garden of Eden. But when they ate the forbidden fruit, that relationship was forever damaged for all human beings. The same is true for us. When our sinful nature gets in the way of our relationship with God, it is damaged. According to the definition of “shalom,” justice is the restoration of relationships, including our intended relationship with God. So when our relationship with God is broken, this is injustice.

Overall, God is perfectly just and benevolent. He calls us to be the same in our everyday lives, our worship to God, and our relationship with him.



2 thoughts on “Justice and Benevolence

  1. I would say that justice and benevolence can co-exist because both of these factors are apart of God. I also would think that they exist in our current world. You can have a leader who is both benevolent but also just. It needs to be a combination of both. In fact if a leader wasn’t both, they’d either be a cruel dictator (no benevolence) or easily being able to get taken over and they don’t follow through with laws or rules (unjust). A good leader would use both ideas to rule.


  2. I love how you push us to reread Romans 6:23 and really grasp the full meaning. Jesus being our substitute is purely an act of grace showing the benevolence of God. It’s important to note that this works because Jesus takes on the wrath of God brought on by his justice. God is not contradicting himself, he is still acting justly, or at least more justly than if he were to just pardon us with no substitute. The verse you brought up from Amos is also great, and a great reminder to our charge as image bearers of God and Christ. We ignore justice, the things that matter, because we are distracted by things that maybe at one time brought about justice, but have been tainted.


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