LifeWay Explore the Bible Series for May 17: Corruption: A path to nowhere

LifeWay Explore the Bible Series for May 17: Corruption: A path to nowhere focuses on Micah 3:1-2, 5-7, 9-12.

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Is there any justice in the world? Every culture in the world, from time on end, has erased, propagated or ignored injustice born by its constituency. In recent years, the U.S. government and the international community have taken a stand for human rights and justice for all people.

But answers are few, and millions of people suffer from the tyranny of disrespect, greed, hatred, arrogance, and racial and religious profiling. Injustice can be viewed standing on any street corner of the world, even in the pews and hallways of the church.

Corruption and collusion indicate and imply the failing character of a culture, of a nation, of people in general. Injustice is the violation of the rights of others, unfair treatment, and inflicting pain or loss when there is no wrong doing. Fairness is a just value but expecting to be treated fairly because one is a good person is a combination of contradictions.  The good and righteous often are the butt of the harshest persecution.

Injustice may result from systemic failure of the best of human effort. Often, there are complicated mixtures of moral issues that define, defend, reprimand and justify oppression of homosexuals, immigrants, homeless, criminals, women and the poor in our culture. It is impossible to create enough laws to cover all of the loopholes, and also impossible to perfectly rule on the guilt or innocence of a person for justice’s sake.

In our “eye-for-an-eye” world, those treated unjustly often react with unjust revenge. Tyranny is usually limited by the extent the mistreated are willing to fight back. Based on force and fear, the unjust approve and engage in the oppression of others.  

Even a trivial understanding of the depravity of man would conclude that injustice will never end, though hopefully improve because of the efforts of compassionate friends of the oppressed. Injustice is, partially, the result of spiritual apathy as well as systemic failure.

The relevant question, from the earliest of times. was asked by Cain, after injustice toward his brother, Abel, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Because Cain refused to be a brother to his brother, he was “placed under a curse” to wander restlessly across the land. No culture can endure for long without being our brother’s keeper and our brother’s brother. Not to do so brings a self-inflicted curse upon all of us.

Injustice threatens all life, everywhere. Though we fiercely reject the attitude of Cain in our church Bible studies and sermons, we go to church with a weak and faltering apathy and sentimentality toward those suffering injustice in our society. We make ourselves comfortable though thousands around us go to bed hungry, lack the necessities of life, are mistreated because of race, gender or social status, beg for an opportunity to be loved, and suffer the pain of being oppressed. Injustice storms around us and will eventually enter our own doors. The exploiter becomes the target of the exploited.  

 I serve on the Child Welfare Board of my county and my wife on the board of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), where we address the needs of victim children taken from abusive and neglectful parents, families or caretakers. Innocent children do not deserve the treatment they receive from unfit parents who place their own selfishness before the needs of their siblings.

Cries of injustice are heard from ethnic groups, the poor, the homeless, criminals, children, aged, women, teenagers, the employed and the unemployed, property owners, corporations, families, law abiding citizens and the list goes on.   

Sensitive to the heart and mind of God, Christians should pay heed to the voice and wisdom of Micah, the prophet of the eighth century who speaks timelessly to America today.

Act on what is just and right (Micah 3:1-2)

Micah’s first problem was the corrupt leadership of Israel. From God’s viewpoint, and Micah’s, there was no justice in Israel. The sin not only was injustice but the perversion of justice. All the agencies of government and royalty were corrupt.

The system established to provide justice was being used to oppress. The courts, the administrative authorities, the leaders chosen to bring justice were in cahoots with each other to defraud, steal, exploit and ravage the citizens. Political advantages provided the judicial opportunity to express the dark side of human greed and selfishness. Creating a system contrived for their profit, these leaders became rich at the expense of the unfortunate, uninformed, unwise and underprivileged.

Unethical corrupt practices feathered the pocketbooks of Israel’s rulers and the nation was being destroyed because of the power of a few who hated good and loved evil (v. 2). Micah asked the  moral question, “Listen … should you not know justice … ?” (v. 1) when he entered Jerusalem and the high courts of the land. The system of justice was interlocked in the hands of the upper class who used the system to act like wild animals “to tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones” and like a butcher to “chop them up like meat for the pan” (v. 3).

How could it be that trusted leaders had become shepherd-wolves feeding on their sheep? Sin is insidious by nature. Once the finger comes out of the dike, the flow of evil increases and intensifies.

The fat cat rulers grew plump from their crimes and extracted more and more. The more they could, the more they would devour the little people they were supposed to protect and guard.

Micah was the spokesman for the common people with a warning of judgment and a message that called the leaders of Israel back to God and to restore justice for the people of Israel. Hear also the same message from Isaiah, “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:16-17).

A time of judgment would soon come because of the eternal truth that you reap what you plant. When the unjust seek justice for themselves, there will be none “because of the evil they have done” (v. 4).  

Avoid the lure of materialism (Micah 3:5-7)

The second problem was that of the corrupt prophets. These supposed men of God, the prophets, preached what the perverse wanted to hear. Prophets complemented the injustice of their time. The lure of riches rather than rebuke, affluence rather than influence, cash rather than conviction, great possessions rather than godly proclamation, ease rather than exhortation was the order of the day. Rather than calling for justice, the prophets looked away from the injustice without confrontation or correction. They led their people astray and would not bite the hand that paid their salary or bribe. The preacher and church became an integral part of the collusion of corruption to exploit others for themselves.  

To deliberately lead people astray has both earthly and eternal consequences (Luke 17:1-3). These prophets were the sordid sort and led their listeners astray for money. In contrast, Micah, forthrightly, declared himself to be “filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might” (v. 8) and denounces the transgressions and sins of the prophets and Israel. These false prophets of God who deceived their listeners would experience darkness, shame and disgrace. When they needed guidance, there would be “no answer from God” (vv. 6-7).

Would you not agree, that such demeaning of preaching is happening in the pulpits of America and in the podiums of television and the internet? Preacher-prophets pretend to be spokespersons for the living God but rather serve the god of wealth and their own lavish needs. Are not affluence, prosperity, convenience and ease obvious reasons for the underachieving churches and apathy of Christians today?  

Affront the false sense of security (Micah 3:9-12)

The leadership that “despise justice and distort all that is right,” had the blessings of apostate prophets whose teachings were bought for the right price and who “told fortunes for money” (v. 11). These not only deceived society but deceived themselves into thinking that God was good because of their devious achievements. Micah said, “they lean upon the Lord and say, ‘Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us’” (v. 11).

Apparently, there was a sense of wrong being right and that wealth was an affirmation of the blessing of God, even though obtained by questionable means and processes. Proverbs 14:12, clearly understands the truth that: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

Micah confronts this false sense of security: “Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets” (v. 12).

The wealth of America subtly contributes to the demise of the church—its diminishing impact, its conspiring complicity, its insipid institutionalization, its haughty arrogance, its cold blindness, its compromising purpose, pathetic apathy, and the tipping of the hat to the injustice of our world. All that Micah confronted is present in our spiritual or unspiritual world.

The founders of our country were wise to build our government on the rule of law with three branches of government, each to be a check on the other. The principles of justice are at work though constantly in need of the watchful eye of God, ethicists, preachers and commissions of government.

The rule of law with all of its flaws, to the church’s discredit, seems far more effective in battling injustice than Christian evangelism, missional transformation, and moral conscience. Character is a very individual thing. Transformation of the sinner who acts with moral responsibility and brings those standards to the decision making bodies of our world is an effective way to challenge the injustice of our country and world.

The tendency to rely on our legal system is a drastic mistake, a flaw in our strategy, and brings a holy indictment upon the failure of our mission to share the gospel throughout the world. Neither Jesus nor Paul attacked injustice through the systems of government but through the transforming message of salvation through Christ, the resurrected Savior, focusing on the common element of all: people’s sinful nature.

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