Practical Justice, Mercy, and Humility

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This morning, while I was reading through Micah 6 again, I couldn’t help but focus on how consistent this message of justice, mercy, and humility is throughout the entire Bible. It’s amazing to me that all of these different books, written by different people in different countries during different centuries were able to create a cohesive theme and message—the Holy Spirit was clearly leading these people as they wrote!

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)

We’ve been camped out in this verse for a while now, focusing on what justice, mercy, humility, and walking with God mean. I have learned so much by diving into this verse, but what I saw this morning was how this is the basis for another verse that I have grown to love over the years.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27 (NIV)

This verse in James, to me, feels like the practical application of Micah 6:8. When we look after those who are less fortunate, we are doing justice and showing mercy to those who have most likely been the recipients of injustices. In Biblical times, widows and orphans were the most vulnerable populations who were just ripe to be taken advantage of. They could easily end up in a situation where their land or money could be taken away from them due to unjust practices by those in power.

While we live in a very different society today, we still have plenty of opportunities to help those who are less fortunate. Today, when we care for the marginalized, those who are taken advantage of, and those without any power or influence, we are doing what James commands us to do. When we see the distress of another and respond to them, we are acting justly and showing mercy to those who need it.

James ends this verse by stating that we are to keep ourselves from being stained by the world. When we are walking in humility with God, we will naturally not live like the rest of the world. I think that many well-meaning people have taken this verse to mean that we are supposed to isolate ourselves so that the world doesn’t get any of its gunk on us. But I think this is a wrong interpretation of this verse.

When we are walking with God and walking in a way that honors him and who he’s called us to be, we will naturally respond differently to situations. When we choose to put on humility daily, we don’t have to respond pridefully or insecurely like the world does, but we can be a light in the darkness.

I’m so grateful that none of these things that we’re commanded to do in Micah 6:8 or James 1:27 comes from our own striving. We don’t have to muscle our way into serving another or acting like Jesus, but it’s a natural product of spending time with him. As we allow him to remove the junk that we’ve accumulated in our hearts and minds, making us brand new, we can live these out. We will never be able to perfectly care for others, do justice, love mercy, or walk humbly, but we can become more and more like him each and every day. And I fully believe that God is actively excited when we take the steps toward him. Let’s take a step closer to him today!

What does James 1:27 mean to you?

How can we live out both Micah 6:8 and James 1:27 today?

To go Deeper: Read James 1: The Perfect Companion to Proverbs, Season of Darkness
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