An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

If Epicurus was teaching that viewing justice as an ideal disconnected from the actual choices of life makes the notion of justice a sham, I agree with him. It seems, however, that Epicurus argued (and my friend with him) that there are no principles of justice that reign over human affairs. Rather, human choices determine what is just and what is unjust.

I believe Epicurus was drastically wrong in this view, and I’m thankful for that.

As Moses handed down laws creating the guiding principles of justice for Israel, he led with this question: “What does the Lord your God require of you?” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Justice is something that God sets before us, not something we set before ourselves (Deuteronomy 10:18). His justice sits in judgment over our actions. His truths and ways instruct us to conform to them. Justice is God’s making, not ours.

The changing whims of human logic and the fickle affections of the human heart are not enough to withstand the ongoing history of human violence and oppression. A constant refrain in the human story is the insidious presence of our greed and self-interest. If there is no judge over us and if right and wrong exist merely by our own choices, we’re kidding ourselves if we believe our morality can provide a clear and unequivocal answer to those who are abusive and violent.

The God of justice, however, rules over the earth, and we’re told to obey Him (Deuteronomy 10:13). This is good news.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Jeremiah 38:1-13