I don't know about you, but I am a person who likes simplicity. If you throw a lot of information my way at once, my mind is overwhelmed with the effort to keep it all organized, which makes sense. I have an analytical mind and whatever I hear is evaluated and connected with other ideas. Too much all at once means I don't have the time I need to evaluate and connect. Sometimes, I come to the Bible with this kind of feeling, that there is so much to take in and implement in my life that I get stymied, worried that I can't even figure out what is required of me.
There's so much information in the Bible about what we would should and shouldn't do. Now, I am the first person that will tell you that the Bible is not a rule book--it's about how to have a relationship with God. That relationship is what leads to righteous living. It is precisely because I have a relationship with God that I desire to know how to live a life pleasing to him. We are blessed that God doesn't let us wallow around trying to figure out what pleases him. He gives us all the instruction we need. But with all the instruction in the Bible, I sometimes feel overwhelmed, worrying that I can't do it all or I'm missing something.
Recently, I read a verse I hadn't read in a while. When I read it, my heart calmed and my mind stilled, for in this verse was simplicity. It's actually easy to know how I can please God. The answer is found in Micah 6:8: "He has told you, O man, what is good ; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah has said it so clearly. What does God require of me? 1) Do Justice 2) Love Kindness 3) Walk Humbly With Your God. It's that simple...well, kind of.
Turns out, what God asks of us is simple to state and simple to remember. If I am doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God, I am living a life pleasing to him. These three simple descriptions bring the clarity I need to direct my life in a godly way. It may be simple to state, but I don't think it's always easy to follow. What does it mean to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly?
Walk Humbly With Your God
So, yeah, I'm starting out of order. The reason is that, in scripture, it is clear that walking humbly with God comes before doing justice and loving kindness (there is a reason for the order Micah used which I'll explain later). There is another place in scripture that also states what God requires of his people:
"Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?" (Deut.10:12-13)
These verses give a perfect description of what it means to walk humbly with God. Walking humbly begins by fearing God, by recognizing his sovereign control. Recognizing his right to rule puts me in a position of humility, knowing that God is God and I am not. Since he alone knows what is best, he alone has sovereign knowledge, I trust his will and give my love to him. I serve him with all my heart and soul.
To love God is to walk in his ways, i.e. to obey him. I display my love for God by doing what he instructs. Deuteronomy 11:1 says, "You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments." Why is love tied to obedience? Let me use an analogy. A father gives his life to his child, training his child to be a person of moral character. The child leaves the father and denies all that he has been taught, living and reveling in evil. In this act, does the child show love to the father? No. The child is showing selfishness, pride and arrogance, declaring the father's authority void and his commands worthless. But if the child listens and applies what his father has taught him and recognizes his father's authority, the child is in a relationship of love and trust and humility. This is the same with God. In obeying God's commands, our love for him is revealed.
Now, some may wonder if any of this truly applies to Christians today. After all, the verses above are addressed to Israel, not us. And Christians aren't under the law, so loving God isn't equated with following commands, right? But yes. Two verses from Jesus make this clear:
"And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment" (Matt. 22:37-38).
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
Jesus himself tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all we are. Jesus is God. In loving Jesus, we love God. How do we reveal this love? Jesus makes it clear in John 14:15: our love is revealed in our keeping his commands. Once again, to love is to obey.
To summarize, to walk humbly with God is to recognize his sovereign rule, to trust his sovereign knowledge, to love and serve him by obeying his commands. Then, what are his commands? Are we back to a whole list of confusing rules? Not entirely.
I started with walking humbly with our God because this is the foundation for the other two requirements in Micah: to do justice and love kindness. After loving God, all the other commands God gives relate to other people and all those commands fall under these two headings: to do justice and love kindness. How we treat others directly reveals the state of our relationship with God, if we are loving him or not. Remember what Jesus added right after he said loving God was the greatest commandment? "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39).
Part of loving others is doing justice towards them. The reason Micah lists doing justice and loving kindness first in his list is that the context of this verse is the sin Israel had committed that God was judging. God's number one indictment against Israel was its lack of being just. Justice in Hebrew is mishpat. Mishpat means fair judgment. The Israelite courts of the time acted primarily in the interests of its leaders. They were corrupt, unfair courts.
If we are to do justice, we treat others fairly. God most often mentions orphans, widows, foreigners and the poor as those who need justice. In other words, we are to treat everyone, from the leaders to the least with fairness. We can do this today in grand ways as we lend our support to third world countries, go on mission trips, sponsor poor children, etc. But we can also do this in simple ways at home, treating our spouses, children and friends with fairness, not gossiping about them and being honest with them.
The Hebrew term for kindness is chesed. This term is actually translated in various ways in different Bible versions because it holds a deeper meaning than English can grasp. Chesed incorporates kindness, loyalty and mercy all rolled into one. It is often translated as lovingkindness, a term most used to express God's love for man.
People display chesed when they treat others kindly and gently, as they put aside anger and selfishness and seek the good of another. People display chesed when they are loyal, preserving the honor of others. People display chesed when they act in mercy, not holding offense against someone who has hurt them.
The commands in the Ten Commandments that involve people are all expressions of chesed: honoring our father and mother, not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing, not lying against others, not wanting what others have. The majority of the commands in the Bible involve treating others with chesed.
In doing justice and loving kindness, we obey God's commands, showing we love him. Why does God command these? Because this is who he is. What God asks us to be is a reflection of him. Just as a child reflects a father, so we should reflect God. "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You" (Ps. 89:14). God's character is just and kind. God commands us to be as he is.
To evaluate my life is simple. I only need to ask three questions of myself. Am I doing justice to others? Am I loving kindness? Am I walking humbly with my God? All other issues can take a backseat to these three. We worry so much about exactly what God wants us to do when he's already given us the answer. His will is found in his Word. It doesn't matter if your role in life is as a housewife or an employee. It doesn't matter if you stay home or go overseas. It doesn't matter if you are a garbage collector or a CEO. The issue is how I live--walking humbly, doing justice and loving kindness. That is what God requires of those who choose to follow him.