Being just

Passage: Matthew 1:18-25 — The Immaculate Conception

Key Verse: Matthew 1:19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.


The word just comes from the Greek word dikaios, which can be rendered either just or righteous. Righteous is not a word we use every day. Its basic meaning is to do right by God and right by people. When I was growing up, the rapper MC Hammer did a Pepsi commercial and after taking a swig of Pepsi he looked into the camera and declared it righteous, but that’s a perversion of the word — it does not mean to be delicious and refreshing (like the Junior Mint!). A Pepsi cannot be righteous — it cannot do right by God and right by people. But people can.

In today’s verse, we read that Joseph did right by Mary and right by God. At first, this doesn’t make sense because, according to the Old Testament, someone who committed adultery was supposed to be made a public example, which appears to me to be a euphemism for a public stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). However, v. 20 tells us that God spoke to Joseph in a dream and told him that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and Mary was innocent of any immorality.

One lesson we can draw from Joseph is that we should do right by people regardless of how the outside world views things. Everyone in Joseph’s circle must have thought that Mary committed adultery or that Joseph and Mary “knew” each other before they were married, but, nevertheless, the truth was contrary to popular opinion. The same is true in our own lives. For example, the world believes that man evolved from the ape, but the biblical witness is that man was made in the image of God from the dust of the ground and thus man is ultimately responsible to God. That view of man is not popular today, but nevertheless, regardless of what everyone else believes, this is the truth of God, just as Mary’s miracle conception was the truth of God.

Again, from the passage, it is also important to do right by God and do right by people. This call to be just convicts me to walk my dog, Beau, even when I don’t feel like doing it. Somedays I am so tired the last thing I want to do is walk the dog, but there is a tacit contract between the owner and his dog, in which the owner provides the four things a dog needs: food, water, exercise, and love, and when we do not provide those things we are not being just.

For a long time while suffering from IBS I wanted to go back to work as a software engineer but decided not to. I think there was a good possibility that I could get through the interviews and be hired somewhere, but I realized that I could not work a complete day — I could only work three to four hours and some days I could not work at all, and this would not be fair to my employer — this would not be just. So, I never interviewed and I never went back to work.

Prayer: Lord, please give me the strength, energy, and courage to be just with people and with you. I confess that I cannot do it on my own strength; I confess that I often take the easy, not righteous, path. To be just, I need your divine help.

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