Evil men (Evildoers NIV) do not understand justice,
but those who seek the Lord understand it completely. (Proverbs 28:5 ESV)
This verse intrigues me. In regard to understanding justice, the comparison is between evildoers and those who seek the Lord. Two questions come to mind:
- What is Justice?
- How does seeking the Lord give one a complete understanding of Justice?
Justice comes from the Latin jus, meaning right or law. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the “just” person as one who typically “does what is morally right” and is disposed to “giving everyone his or her due.”
- Aristotle said it is what is lawful and fair.
- Augustine said it requires we try to give all people their due.
- Aquinas said it is the mean between opposite sorts of injustice.
- Hobbes said it is the voluntary agreements of the social contract.
- Hume said it is the means to protect property.
- Kant said it is respecting others’ freedom, autonomy, and dignity, so long as those do not violate others’ rights.*
Laws change, what is defined as right or fair in this world are relative terms. Therefore, without a moral standard, justice is also subject to alteration.
According to the Bible, God is the Righteous Judge (Psalm 7:11), who dispenses perfect justice with no partiality toward persons (2 Chronicles 19:7). He is the original law-giver, establishing right behavior and the consequence for the breach of that behavior.
Justice is rooted in the very nature of God ( Isa 40:14 ). He even-handedly rewards good, and does not ignore the sins of any ( Psalm 33:5 ; Psalms 37:6 Psalms 37:28 ; 97:2 ; 99:4). **
How, then, can an evildoer administer or even understand justice?
If what is right becomes distorted, it follows the scale of justice rebalances – what was once considered wrong behavior begins to become less wrong. For example, most of the world considered murder as evil behavior at one time. But in certain situations, taking the life of a person has now become merciful behavior if that person is suffering. It is allowable if the person is not yet out of the womb. Murder has been redefined.
With God, however, these alterations are not permissible. His laws are unalterable, as is his standard of holiness. He established an eternal moral standard. A transgression of one of his laws, is the breach of all of them (James 2:10).
The bad news is we’re all guilty of breaking the law of God and deserve due punishment. The good news is God, himself, took the penalty of our lawbreaking upon himself.
From the divine perspective, Jesus’ death satisfied God’s justice ( Rom 3:26 ). Thus God remains a righteous judge even as he justifies those sinners who believe in Christ ( Luke 18:14 ; Gal 3:11-13 ).**
Returning to Proverbs 28:5, those who seek the Lord, seek to understand his justice, his authority, his deliverance. They’ve experienced God’s mercy. They understand the purpose of justice as a means of reconciliation.
I’m grateful for God’s holiness and his grace.
I would love to hear your thoughts regarding this verse.
*Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://www.iep.utm.edu/justwest/
**Bible Study Tools, https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/justice