[forthright] Whatever Is Just

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From: Forthright Magazine <ba@...>
Date: Mon, 04 Oct 2004 16:58:13 -0500
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

Today's prayer: For the children

COLUMN: Final Phase

Whatever Is Just
by J. Randal Matheny

Good manners or etiquette is concerned with doing
the proper thing in the proper place at the proper
time. More important than good manners is right
conduct before God. Doing the right thing. This is
a part of what the Bible calls justice or

The word "just" translates the Greek word
"dikaios," meaning "upright, just, righteous"
(BAGD). It also includes what is right or correct,
applied especially to one's conduct.

In our series on Philippians 4:8, let's think on
these five passages that encourage us toward what
is just and right.

1. What's just is integrity (Matthew 23:27-38).
Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes for
their hypocrisy, for making themselves appear
"just" (our word "dikaios") before the people, but
not being right with God on the inside. We must be
right with God inside and out, not just for show.
Instead of impressing people, we should please

2. What's just is making peace (Luke 12:57-59).
The Jews were good short-term weather forecasters,
but couldn't recognize the Messiah when he came.
So Jesus says, "And why do you not judge for
yourselves what is right?" ("Dikaios" again.)
Their "accuser" carrying them to court is Jesus
himself. They'd better change their minds (see
Luke 13:1-9) before it's too late.

So first of all, being right is making peace with
Jesus. Making sure we let him define himself and
his mission. Surrender our stubborness and
admiting our concept is the wrong one.

Then, that extends itself to others as well.
Instead of insisting I'm right (when I may well be
wrong), I should be willing to place restoring
relationships above winning a point. Especially
when I may wind up being the loser and find myself
in prison until paying the last red cent (which
means never!).

3. What's just is obeying God (Acts 4.19). Before
the high Jewish council, Peter and John refused to
bow to pressure to quit preaching Jesus. "Whether
it is right ("dikaios") in God's sight to listen
to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we
cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen
and heard."

We had best be concerned with what God thinks is
right rather than what man concludes or demands.
After all, the Lord will be our final judge, not
"mortals, who have only breath in their nostrils"
(Isaiah 2:22).

In Acts 4, by obeying God, Peter means continue
preaching Christ. The principle applies to ALL
God's commandments (see Luke 1:6), but in this
context obedience has to do with proclaiming
salvation in Jesus' name, even when it's not
convenient. That's right!

4. What's just is thinking the best of people
(Philippians 1:7). The good Philippian church had
stopped sending money to Paul. He was in prison.
He could have imagined that they were ashamed of
his imprisonment or had decided to apply their
funds to a more worthy cause. But no! He believes
God will complete their good work of faith.

"It is right ("dikaios") for me to think this way
about all of you, because you hold me in your
heart, for all of you share in God's grace with
me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and
confirmation of the gospel."

Paul insists on thinking the best about the
Philippians, believing, truly, they "had no
opportunity to show" their concern for him (4:10).

Like Paul, we might do well (what's just!) to
think the best of others' motivations, actions,
silences, and words.

5. What's just is honoring the Lord by caring for
reputation (2 Corinthians 8:19-21). You don't see
these verses read often before the offering. But
they apply there and everywhere.

Titus, the "famous brother," and the "tested
brother" would accompany Paul and others to take
Gentile donations to the needy Jewish churches.
Paul's principle is this:

"We intend that no one should blame us about this
generous gift that we are administering, for we
intend to do what is right (not "dikaios" here,
but "kalos"*) not only in the Lord's sight but
also in the sight of others."

Why such extreme caution? Because in the previous
verse, Paul explains the reason for "administering
this generous undertaking:" "for the glory of the
Lord himself and to show our goodwill." He wants
to reflect glory and attention to the Lord, and
build between Jew and Gentile stronger links of
Christian love.

So it is right to care for one's reputation, as a
means of recommending the Lord's honor. We don't
want any barrier to keep people from glorifying
God. The only "obstacle" to getting to God is the
cross of Christ. Woe to us if we raise one through
our careless actions.

So there's safety in numbers, Paul says, more men
to carry the gift mean a greater safeguard to
honesty and transparency in ministry. That's a
good and just thing for us to think about as well.

These things are just. And these are exactly the
type of things we should think about. And do.

*In this context BAGD defines "kalos" as "morally
good, noble, praiseworthy, contributing to
salvation." Significantly, Moulton and Milligan
quote Hort that the term "denotes that kind of
goodness which is at once seen to be good."

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