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Wisdom and Justice

November 25, 2009

Yesterday morning I got up for my usual devotional time and read 1 Kings 3.  The classic story of Solomon and the two women claiming one baby was theirs.  Clearly one was lying so Solomon threatens to cut the baby in two.  This real mother is revealed by the two women’s reaction to Solomon threat.  The verse that struck was the last one in the chapter, “When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.”  They observed he had “wisdom from God to administer justice.”  Justice in this case I think is simply doing what is right.  In the case before him, Solomon made a decision to help discern between a fake request and a real one.  Justice was done because of his decision.  I prayed that morning that God would grant me wisdom to discern how to administer justice not knowing I would soon need it.

One of the expectations of a pastor is to discern the need of people coming to the front door asking for assistance, usually monetary.  Not two hours after I read 1 Kings 3:28 did a man and his son come to the door asking for a place to stay until Dec. 1.  Then the money would come through and they could get back into an apartment, he, his wife, and their two teenage sons would be off the streets.  I have already learned not to give money on the spot but to buy time to see if the need is legitimate.  I asked if there was a way to contact him and potentially tomorrow something might be available.  He had an email address, provided a reference, which later checked out, and we made a decision to open a home to them come tomorrow morning.

There were certain rules though.  Knowing God issue the 10 commandments after he had a relationship with Israel and delivered them from Egypt.  As Andy Stanley says, “They are confirmation of relationship not a requirement of relationship.”  So, I decided we should set up some stipulations for the grace being offered.  This morning he returned with his son in hand and we presented the offer of a place in process of being fixed up to for rent but they would receive no key and need to respect the property.  Wisely, one of the elders of the church was with me and asked the man to go and return with the rest of his family and we would show them the place.  He said they would return in two hours.  Two hours became 3.5 before word came again.  The word, via email, was someone had offered to pay for a hotel for a week and they no longer needed our services.  Even more intriguing was that five minutes before the email arrived the family member who served as a reference the night before called asking for the address of the place we offered.  As I like to say… “Interesting.”

This is the a part of what it looks like to do ministry.  God entrusts us to use what he has given us so that we may administer justice wisely.  One of the things that became more clear to me than it had been before was the need to create hurdles.  Solomon offered in part what was requested but the way he offered revealed the intentions of the two women.  In the event we cannot fully investigate the case, we do as Solomon did, create hurdles to reveal what is just.  Those with legitimate needs will jump the necessary hurdles.  Only a fool hands over money without questioning its recipient.  As much as it is injustice to not care for the needy it is also injustice to provide it to those who are undeserving.

Even in our ministry to the poor we must administer justice with wisdom.  We must remain gospel centered.  I am reminded by tests like these that the gospel is always our guide.  God’s grace extended to all came through the hurdle of the cross.  Administering justice with wisdom may often look like something as a simple request to demonstrate one’s case is true before giving assistance.

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