Based on my understanding of mishpat and sedaqa, it seems the biblical “righteousness and justice” couplet is a call to set things right by returning them to their originally intended state.
“Justice and righteousness” applies to individual situations and relationships, but it also speaks to the desired condition of the world as a whole.
As Gerry Breshears commented on Saturday’s post, the originally intended state of the world was lost when Adam and Eve broke away from God in the Garden of Eden. Before that, all of creation existed in right relationship with the rest of creation and with God.
There was complete righteousness – everything was fully what it should be. There was peace, order, and harmony. There was shalom.
Bryant Meyers defines shalom as “justice, harmony, and enjoyment of God, self, others, and nature.” He goes on to say shalom is “to live fully in the present in relationships … that allow everyone to contribute. And to live fully for all time.”2
Imagine being able to fully live every day as the person God created you to be – sharing your gifts, expressing your opinions, and knowing your God face-to-face. Imagine that doing so never provoked anger, resentment, jealousy, or pain in others, and imagine celebrating others living fully as who God created them to be as well.
If you’ve ever experienced deep, faithful, nurturing community…if you’ve ever heard and welcomed the voice of God…if you’ve ever felt for a single moment that all was right in the world…I believe you’ve glimpsed shalom.
And I believe shalom is what God wants and is bringing to the world. It is why He demands justice and righteousness from all people.
1. Christopher J.H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 255.
2. Bryant Meyers, Walking With the Poor, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1999), 51.