Good manners or etiquette is concerned with doing the proper thing in the proper place at the proper time. More important than good manners is right conduct before God. Doing the right thing. This is a part of what the Bible calls justice or righteousness.
The word “just” translates the Greek word dikaios, meaning “upright, just, righteous” (BAGD). It also includes what is right or correct, applied especially to one’s conduct.
In our series on Philippians 4:8, let’s think on these five passages that encourage us toward what is just and right.
1. What’s just is integrity (Matthew 23:27-38). Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy, for making themselves appear “just” (our word dikaios) before the people, but not being right with God on the inside. We must be right with God inside and out, not just for show. Instead of impressing people, we should please God.
2. What’s just is making peace (Luke 12:57-59). The Jews were good short-term weather forecasters, but couldn’t recognize the Messiah when he came. So Jesus says, “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” (dikaios again). Their “accuser” carrying them to court is Jesus himself. They’d better change their minds (see Luke 13:1-9) before it’s too late.
So first of all, being right is making peace with Jesus. Making sure we let him define himself and his mission. Surrender our stubbornness and admitting our concept is the wrong one.
Then, that extends itself to others as well. Instead of insisting I’m right (when I may well be wrong), I should be willing to place restoring relationships above winning a point. Especially when I may wind up being the loser and find myself in prison until paying the last red cent (which means never!).
3. What’s just is obeying God (Acts 4.19). Before the high Jewish council, Peter and John refused to bow to pressure to quit preaching Jesus. “Whether it is right (dikaios) in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
We had best be concerned with what God thinks is right rather than what man concludes or demands. After all, the Lord will be our final judge, not “mortals, who have only breath in their nostrils” (Isaiah 2:22).
In Acts 4, by obeying God, Peter means continue preaching Christ. The principle applies to ALL God’s commandments (see Luke 1:6), but in this context obedience has to do with proclaiming salvation in Jesus’ name, even when it’s not convenient. That’s right!
4. What’s just is thinking the best of people (Philippians 1:7). The good Philippian church had stopped sending money to Paul. He was in prison. He could have imagined that they were ashamed of his imprisonment or had decided to apply their funds to a more worthy cause. But no! He believes God will complete their good work of faith.
“It is right (dikaios) for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
Paul insists on thinking the best about the Philippians, believing, truly, they “had no opportunity to show” their concern for him (4:10).
Like Paul, we might do well (what’s just!) to think the best of others’ motivations, actions, silences, and words.
5. What’s just is honoring the Lord by caring for reputation (2 Corinthians 8:19-21). You don’t see these verses read often before the offering. But they apply there and everywhere.
Titus, the “famous brother,” and the “tested brother” would accompany Paul and others to take Gentile donations to the needy Jewish churches. Paul’s principle is this:
“We intend that no one should blame us about this generous gift that we are administering, for we intend to do what is right (not dikaios here, but kalos*) not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of others.”
Why such extreme caution? Because in the previous verse, Paul explains the reason for “administering this generous undertaking:” “for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our goodwill.” He wants to reflect glory and attention to the Lord, and build between Jew and Gentile stronger links of Christian love.
So it is right to care for one’s reputation, as a means of recommending the Lord’s honor. We don’t want any barrier to keep people from glorifying God. The only “obstacle” to getting to God is the cross of Christ.
Woe to us if we raise one through our careless actions.
So there’s safety in numbers, Paul says, more men to carry the gift mean a greater safeguard to honesty and transparency in ministry. That’s a good and just thing for us to think about as well.
These things are just. And these are exactly the type of things we should think about. And do.
*In this context BAGD defines kalos as “morally good, noble, praiseworthy, contributing to salvation.” Significantly, Moulton and Milligan quote Hort that the term “denotes that kind of goodness which is at once seen to be good.”