“Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”
These verses speak to me on a couple of levels.
First, the idea of justice.
Ezekiel talks about the Israelites complaining that God’s justice, or the balance of the universe, doesn’t fit their idea of justice. I’ve written before about this and the fact that my idea of justice and someone else’s idea of justice are probably two different things. And so the Israelites say in verse 17, what most of us say today when something happens to us, or others, that we don’t understand. We say, “There is no justice” and then question God and even God’s existence. We do this on the basis of things not going the way we thought they should go. We look to blame something outside of us for what happened.
God answers these petty accusations very effectively:
…when it is their own way that is not just.
Ezekiel and God are talking about personal responsibility, and each of us owning up to and realizing that we are responsible for our actions. We must face up to the fact that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. The perceived injustice of the world, is the injustice we have created and served upon ourselves.
God does not inflict grief upon man. Man inflicts grief upon man.
In verses 18 and 19, Ezekiel speaks of God’s balance. When the righteous do evil they suffer their grief. There are no mulligans, or a reserved bank account of good deeds to excuse the evil act and eliminate the consequences. And vice versa.
Second, each act stands on its own.
This is the third time I have written about this. This truth is conveyed a number of times in the writings of Ezekiel.
Each act, each decision has its own consequence based on the act. Every act and decision stands on its own. If a plane makes 1000 trips without incident, that will not eliminate a catastrophe if the pilot makes a bad decision. The 1000 safe and non-eventful flights do not somehow make the laws of physics and aerodynamics over look this lapse in judgement. The consequences of a bad decision will be experienced.
Every action stands on its own. That is what God and Ezekiel are telling us in verse 20.
I will judge each of you according to his ways.
This is personal responsibility. They are telling us that each of us stands alone, every one of our actions stands alone. If you do twenty wonderful and righteous things during the course of the day and then do one evil act, the twenty do not cancel out the one. The consequences of the evil act will still be suffered.
God and Ezekiel are letting us know we are responsible for our actions. Each and every action is judged by itself.
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