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The difference between human and divine justice


by the Elder (Saint) Paisios

Source: Excerpt from the book “The Elder Paisios”

by Hagiorite Hieromonk Christodoulos



In the excerpt below, the blessed Elder (now Saint) Paisios (1924 -1993) gives us in a simple but charismatic manner the difference between human and divine justice.

Divine justice is the opposite of human justice.  Human justice is about measured equality because it provides justly to every person, without deviating in any way or discriminating, when meting out what is fair.  Divine justice however does deviate, and it gives itself with sympathy to everyone; justice does not torment the one who is worthy of punishment, and it gives every good thing to the one who is worthy of praise.

One day, a pilgrim asked the Elder what divine justice is, and he replied, with a charming example:

Well, let’s imagine there are two people who are sitting at a table, and on the table is a plate with ten apricots.  If the one person eats seven of them out of gluttony and leaves only three on the plate for the other person to eat, then he is being unfair and is doing an injustice to the other person.

Now, if he says “look, there’s two of us, and the apricots are ten; therefore we should each have five” and he does indeed leave five for the other person to eat, then that person is applying the human notion of justice.  That is why quite often we rush to courts in order to secure what is just.

But, if that person happens to find out that the other person likes apricots, then he pretends he personally does not like apricots very much and he eats only one (just to be convincing),  then says to the other person “here, my brother, you eat the rest of the apricots because I really don’t like them so much”, then he has the sense of divine justice, by which he prefers to be “wronged” according to human justice.  But according to divine justice, he is rewarded for his “sacrifice”.

The Lord was the first to apply this form of justice: 

Even when He was accused, He did not give excuses for Himself.

Even when they spat on Him, He did not protest.

Even when He was tortured, He did not threaten anyone.

He suffered everything patiently and silently, without reacting at all. 

But most importantly, He did not seek any support from human laws.

On the contrary, He gave excuses for His persecutors to His Father, and He prayed that they might actually receive forgiveness: 

«  34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do….»  (Luke 23:34)

The righteousness of God always reigns supreme.  That is why our Lord exhorts us, telling us that our notion of justice should be more than the justice according to the Pharisees, because they aspired to human justice.  And that is also why they would punish, condemn, incarcerate, quarrel, defend their rights, and were unable to accept the snatching away of their possessions or any other form of injustice that was to their detriment. 

The Lord however, reassured each one of us that :

«  20 unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven….»          (Matthew 5:20)

It is wise, for us also to endure the injustice of those who want to wrong us, and we should pray for them, so that they can be relieved of the misdemeanor of their avarice, through repentance. 

That is the only thing that God’s sense of justice requires of us: to eventually restore the avaricious person (not the material “benefits”), so that he might be freed of his sin, through repentance.



    Translation:  A.N. 

Article created:  31-07-2018.

Updated on:  31-07-2018.