November 27, 2007:
God has been speaking to me about justice and hope.
Do a concordance check on the word justice in the Bible (go to unboundbible.com). So many scriptures stress how important justice is in human interaction. It is closely tied to righteousness. Several Greek and Hebrew words translate as both just and righteous.On Monday, I had an incredible conversation with my friend Matt about numerous things. At one point, he was contemplating how he might need to alter his participation in entertainment that depicts images of violence against human beings, based on the question If I am to love human being then. I wondered where I need to change my activities if I’m to love people.
In that same conversation, he spoke on a scripture that is hugely significant to him Psalms 42 which says,
”1.”Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
2. “He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
3. “A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
4. “He will not be disheartened or crushed
Until He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”
Matt commented that that the church should be seeking to establish justice in the nations. Where there is injustice, we should be responding.
Later that night at home, I felt prompted to pick up and read the bible that had been laid open to no particular spot. It was opened to Amos. I read the introduction to the book and then read through the whole book. It spoke on justice. Amos had been sent to warn Israel of the consequences they would face if they didn’t change their ways. I expected that I would read about them worshipping other gods, as Israel had done many times during the rules of the kings. Well outwardly at least, they were doing acts of worship to God. Very extensively.
But God did not want their acts of worship because they were acting unjustly toward the poor and powerless.
As I read, one of the scripture got me right between the eyes.
Thus says the LORD,
“For three transgressions of Israel and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they sell the righteous for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals.”
This how you are being unjust, Brandi, those words said. (At least one of the ways) I have been placing a higher importance on getting what I want and getting it cheaply than the humane treatment of other human beings. I have been neglecting the oppressed for the sake of my own material gain. The reference to the sandals in the scripture is figurative. However to me, it was specific example of my lack of love to my neighbor who is exploited.
I’m looking for a new pair of black slipper shoes to replace the ones I’ve worn threadbare. I place a high value on getting these shoes inexpensively. That price tag comes at the expense of another human being who is being exploited so that the company can market those shoes at a price attractive enough to win my patronage.
The thing is, I know better. Maybe most Americans don’t make the connection between the sale price and the means at which it was obtain. But at that moment, God used the knowledge that I’ve had of the problem of unfair labor conditions and said, ”It is time to make a decision and take action;” because God loves justice and He desires that His children bring justice to the nations. I am called to love my neighbor and He gave me a very specific way to do so.
He has spoke to me about this in the past and I had responded in little ways I learned about fair trade. I felt good about buying something at a local fair trade store.
I’ve been receiving information from the organizations International Justice mission and Free the Slaves, which work to expose and stop slavery, including forced labor for businesses whose products are marketed in the states.
In June I was reading on the spiritual discipline of simplicity- living simply- in the book “Celebration of Discipline.” It was quite a beautiful chapter. At the end he gave some suggestions on ways we can live out a life of simplicity. (I strongly recommend that people read it)
He suggests: ”reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.”
He notes ”this is one of the most difficult and sensitive issues for us to face, but face it we must. Do we sip our coffee and eat our bananas at the expense of exploiting Latin American peasants? In a world of limited resources, does our lust for wealth mean the poverty of others? Should we buy products that are made by forcing people into dull assembly-line jobs?”
That idea came to mind Monday night with the thought, ”it is time to act on that. Fully.”
I have since been chewing on this. The how is fairly simple (though, admittedly, not necessarily easy in practice.) There is a variety of resources I can utilize to find out what businesses and products contribute either to fair labor or oppression. I plan to share those resources I encounter with others in order to make it simple for them.
It’s a matter of taking to those steps.
It will necessitate a change in lifestyle.
It means being willing to give up stuff.
(Through my prohibition of companies that do unnecessary animal testing, I found that I really didn’t lose much personally, as I had found much better products that I would not have bothered with, had I stuck with the old tried-and-true items I’ve since avoided)
This decision, at the surface, challenges my value for frugality. It has long been cemented in my mind that it was important and virtuous to spend as little as needed on a particular item. It’s one of the reasons I love thrift stores. It seemed a waste that people would spend a lot of money on pricey clothing and other items. That money could be used for more important things, including the benefit of people in need. And one, practically speaking, can get more for their money.
I’ve subconsciously tied saving money with being able to help people more, even though I realize that I didn’t necessarily use my saved money for others. Frugality is good. It’s just that my practice of it has to change.
I thought, Well God, that means everything I buy will cost more money.
And I got the response: Buy less.
“It’s going to be a huge inconvenience, God. I may not even be able to buy some things locally or even directly at a store.”
What’s more important?
I looked up shoes under fair trade. I found a pair that most closely matches what I’m looking for at the lowest cost I found. $55. I’ve never spent that much on shoes. The proceeds go to help AIDS orphans in Africa.
What’s more important?
I’ve got so much to learn.
I will even more gladly continue to patronize thrift shops. It is a great way to contribute to the ministries they support, support the recycling of resources, and save money.
I encourage others to seek God regarding this issue.
One thing I’ll need to be wary of is pride and self-righteousness. I had a good conversation with my friend Stephanie Seitz and my mom about it. I want so much for God justice to “flow like a river.” I fear that in writing this for public viewing there may be pride, pride fishing, or whatever.
Why am I writing this? I’m excited about the hope in this. I want, and expect, to see this result in change. To see corporations finally respond to the demands for fair labor practices. For owners of cacao plantations to cease using child slave labor.
The church in America (with all believers) is called to respond to the message of Amos and seek justice for the oppressed. I want to be a part of encouraging the body.
To inspire poeple to seek God in this.
There is so much creative potential.