What does God want from us? In the Bible, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we see individuals struggle to please God, often failing to understand what He wanted from them. In the prophet Micah’s day, God’s people asked (with sarcasm) what more He could possibly want from them. The Lord responded, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8). In the New Testament, Jesus castigated the Pharisees because they were obsessively nit-picky about tithing even their spices, yet they “neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23).
While most of us don’t rely on animal sacrifices or tithing our mint and dill to appease God, we may be tempted to think that God will be pleased with us when we fulfill certain religious requirements: attend church on Sunday, give money, or read our Bible. While these are not bad things, today’s Proverb that “to do what is right and just” is “more acceptable” (v. 3). It’s helpful to look at the verse that comes before it: “A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart” (v. 2). God sees not only what we do but also our true intent.
The Bible is clear what doing righteousness and justice looks like: caring for orphans, widows (James 1:27), the poor (Deut. 15:7), and the foreigner (Ps. 146:9). It means extending God’s love to those in society who are vulnerable. And it means loving our neighbor like ourselves. The Bible’s call to justice and righteousness requires more from us than church attendance. God has called us to follow Him wholeheartedly and sacrificially, not just to add more religious activities to our lives.
>> Have you been tempted to rely on religious rituals to ensure your rightness with God? How can you, today, follow God, deny yourself, and practice righteousness and justice?
Oh, the wheedling appeal of legalism! How easily we believe we can achieve righteousness by wearing the right clothes or avoiding the wrong media. In truth, only You impart holiness. Teach us righteousness on Your terms.