Christian Living

The Gospel, Justice, and the Character of God

Lance Lewis

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8–9

While I can’t remember the first time I read this passage, I do remember its effect on me. Passages like this introduced me to an aspect of God’s character I hadn’t heard in church, from the radio teachers, or theology books I read. Even as I progressed in my walk with the Lord, it also wasn’t addressed in my seminary education or theological conferences.

Growing up in West Philadelphia, the issues raised in the above verse were impossible to ignore. These issues, connected with cyclical poverty, included lack of opportunity, job and housing restrictions, poor education, and ongoing injustices. All these affected our lives, and caused many of us to wonder just where God was in all of it.

Back in the Day

When I was a sophomore in high school, as I walked home from a bowling outing with two friends, I witnessed this firsthand. The bowling alley was in a different neighborhood than ours, but instead of waiting for the bus, we decided to walk home. It was a nice day and we were all in good shape. As we made our way back home, a police van pulled up in front of us as we prepared to cross the street. The police demanded we stop, and firmly questioned us regarding our presence in the neighborhood. After ordering us to get home as quickly as possible, we were allowed to leave.

Interestingly enough, I had regularly traveled back and forth through this neighborhood for school since I was in the third grade. At the time of the incident, I was a high school sophomore, and on any given school day, would have walked home alone or with a group of classmates. And we were never bothered.

But that day was different. It wasn’t a school day, which supposedly meant I had no official reason to be there. I was not carrying a book bag and walking with a group of other students that would identify me as student of Robert E. Lamberton public school. That day I was one of three black teens, and possibly the only black people, walking on the main avenue of this neighborhood.

God Cares

At first, I didn’t think the Bible spoke on these issues, apart from our Lord Jesus’ declaration that we’ll always have the poor with us and Paul’s command to refuse to feed those who refused to work. But I continued to come across passages like Proverbs 31:8–9 that challenged me to consider that the living God is interested in the issues communities like mine grapple with on a regular basis. These passages make a strong case that God truly cares for the poor and the needy.

Series’ Goals

Prayerfully, this series of articles will help to equip God’s people for discussion of the issues affecting the poor and needy from a Scriptural point of view. I hope to encourage those believers who are currently working on behalf of the poor and needy, and kindly challenge those who aren’t to consider doing so. Along the way, we’ll examine important biblical themes such as justice, work, oppression, compassion, the kingdom of God, and the Gospel.

Proverbs 31:8–9 will serve as our series theme passage, and it serves us well for a number of reasons. First, it ties together the theme of biblical social justice, and thus cements the truth that pursuing justice for the poor and needy is one of the central elements of a life of godly wisdom. Secondly, it calls God’s people to literally speak up on the behalf of the poor. This tell us we should be aware of the issues that affect them, and then be willing to “go to bat” for them.

Thirdly, like the rest of the passages we’ll investigate, the text calls for God’s people to adopt a particular attitude toward the poor and needy. We are not to see them as drains on our society, problems that need fixing, or a group of people who just need a strong kick in the pants so they can “get it together”.

Rather, God commands us to view them as people made in his image who are to be loved, respected, and treated kindly. Lastly, the passage underscores the biblical teaching that the poor have rights which are to be preserved, promoted—not denied.

By God’s grace, our brief journey through this subject will give us some insight into the character of God, the nature of Christ’s kingdom, and the potential we have for a relevant and powerful witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Disclaimer: RAAN is an organization committed to providing a variety of Reformed voices a platform to share their content. While our contributors subscribe to the basic tenets of Reformed thought, they offer a diverse number of opinions on various topics. As such, our staff members may not share our contributors’ opinions and publishing this content shouldn’t be viewed in such a way.

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