“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers… whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich… the wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” Proverbs 21:15, 17, 20
Keller’s May 23rd devotional entry pits gluttony with justice, writing: “the wise find their joy in justice rather than in sensual pleasure (gluttony).” This statement bewilders me: if the opposite of black is white, of dark is light, of wisdom is foolishness, then the opposite of gluttony is… justice? Frankly, this makes little sense. How is “justice” opposite to “gluttony?” On one end, Keller defines “gluttony” as the domination of pleasurable physical sensations, but providing no clear definition for “justice.” What then, could Keller possibly mean?
It is crucial to clarify that there is no way of knowing what Keller really meant, so I took it upon myself to investigate the meaning of the word in its original context and consult the text itself. Upon closer inspection of Proverbs 21:15, the word “justice” is derived from the Hebrew word, “mišpāṭ.” Dr. Strong, the esteemed biblical lexicographer, defines two aspects of the word: the proper meaning, being a judgment or legal verdict, and an abstract meaning, being a right or privilege. Regarding the latter, in Deuteronomy 18:3, the Bible describes God’s covenantal requirements concerning the allotment of the priests. I paraphrase: “and this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice… and they shall give unto the priest (various body parts of the animal sacrifice for priestly consumption).”
Surprisingly, the Hebrew word for the priest’s “due” is also the word “mišpāṭ,” the same word used for the word “justice” in Proverbs 21:15. Interesting, indeed!
I assume most English-speaking Americans have a general understanding of the concept of “justice,” associating the word with law, fairness, and truth. But in the Hebrew context, it appears that “justice” carries a more nuanced meaning, both a verdict and a privilege. Again, Proverbs 21:15 writes “when justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”
Now, if justice is not only a verdict, but a “privilege,” then whatever privileges does the righteous have that brings them joy? And what privileges does the evildoer have that brings them terror?
This begs the question: what privileges do the righteous have? We first must clarify our theology: if only God is righteous, who imputes righteousness upon His elect, then the “righteous” are the true Christians. Our question transforms to a more important one: what privileges does the Christian enjoy?
The privilege of God Himself.
Let’s examine Keller’s statement again: “the wise (or the righteous) find joy in justice rather than in gluttony.” Suddenly, Keller’s statement makes perfect, complete, and total sense. Gluttony leads to flesh, while justice leads to God.