In our American society, and also around the world, the essential cultural question has changed. A century ago, the question was, “What is true?” That question morphed 50 years ago to, “What is genuine?” Those questions are both valid and answerable in Christ, but the major discussion today is, “What is good?” In addition, the younger generation, Gen Z, see the world in terms of power and corruption, victim and oppressor. This also heightens the importance of this verse. God and Scripture respond to this clearly. In fact, Micah 6:8 literally uses the phrase: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Therefore, this scripture is timely for us to help people answer the questions of the culture with God’s revealed Truth.
Context of ‘Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with Your God’ in Micah 6:8
Micah (“who is like God?”) was a prophet during the late southern kingdom of Judah and the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, under these kings of Judah—Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah —around 700 B.C.
As is common through the major and minor prophets, Micah expresses the coming judgment of God on Judah and Israel because of their sin. A noteworthy theme is the failure of leadership, that the kings and leaders did not fulfill their calling to rule with justice. They hated what was good and loved to do evil (Micah 3:2).
God, however, will redeem His people. His judgment isn’t final. Out of Bethlehem (little among the thousands of Judah), the Lord promises to send a new ruler. He is from eternity and will Himself be peace (Micah 5:2).
In light of the judgment, God addresses what repentance should look like. Is it burnt offerings or even giving their firstborn (a fascinating reference to Abraham and the Christmas story connection above)?
That’s not the answer. It’s not a religious activity.
He has shown what is good. God hasn’t hidden it.
Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.
Today, in our world exhausted by the emptiness of religious activity, God gives a genuine framework on what is good.
And since each depends upon the one previous to it, we will discuss them backwards.
What Does it Mean to ‘Walk Humbly’?
God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
Bethlehem, as mentioned above, is a humble town. Jesus, as our example, is humble. When He came to earth, He did so humbly, seeking to serve.
We can do nothing of ourselves, powerless to do good (John 15:5). We are dependent on God. Within Him, we move, breathe, and have our being (Acts 17:28). Pride in our own abilities, therefore, puts us at odds with God and leads to our destruction (Proverbs 16:18).
We are told to walk in humility – the constant recognition of the reality that we absolutely need God. Walking implies direction, intention, consistency, activity. It isn’t passive.
Our active faith must be exercised in walking humbly WITH God, relying on His wisdom and direction in every moment and decision. In that active relationship, we gain a greater understanding that we have nothing without His mercy.
What Does it Mean to ‘Love Mercy’?
Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
But God. Those two words are among the most comforting in the scriptures.
Despite what we deserved, completely justified, God chose to send His Son to provide a way—to BE the way—of reconciliation to the Father (John 14:6). Through Christ, we are born again as children of the Father and citizens of the eternal Kingdom of God (John 3:3-16).
All of this happened because of God’s love. His mercy.
We who have been such recipients of overwhelming mercy, now love mercy (Luke 6:36). In experiencing that undeserved mercy, we don’t seek judgment. Jesus came not to condemn the world but that it would be saved (John 3:17). As His Body, our heart in the Spirit is the same.
Condemnation and destruction will come for those who don’t respond, but we seek to show God’s mercy out of His love in our hearts.
Without our understanding of our desperate need of Him in all things (humility) and the saving power of mercy, we cannot hope to participate in the justice of God.
What Does it Mean to ‘Do Justice’?
God does things differently. His peace isn’t like the peace of the world (John 14:7). Neither is His hope. The world could never understand those great and abundant realities.
God’s justice is the same. We shouldn’t confuse His justice with our own.
If it was up to us, justice would be simple punishment. Someone breaks a moral law; they should be punished with jail or death.
Thank God His justice is not punitive. If it were, He never would have sent Jesus. There are consequences for sin and our decisions, but punishment isn’t His goal. His goal is reconciliation. His purpose is redemption.
One of my favorite definitions of the Kingdom of God is “life as God intended it to be.” This is the Heavenly reality.
When we hear of a young girl kidnapped into sex slavery, we are outraged. We hear of a young man dying senselessly in violence and cry out in anger and confusion. There are millions of these tragic examples.
But why does it upset us? With daily examples of these crises, shouldn’t we think it is normal? Why does it shake us?
It’s simple. That’s not how God designed life to be. And we intrinsically know it. Death, sickness, oppression, racism, violence, corruption, perversion, sin. It’s not what God intended. Every personal and collective sin can be simplified to an abuse or perversion of how God designed life to work for our good and the good of others.
Every command of God is to maintain a right relationship with Him and others (Matt 22:37-39).
God’s justice, therefore, is His plan and promise to reconcile all things to the way they were intended to be, if not better than ever. That is God’s standard—the Heavenly reality—and He will correct all creation back to His best. Even creation longs for it (Romans 8:22).
All that is wrong, h\He will make right.
Understanding this, we do two things. One, we “do justice.” We don’t just talk about it or share it on FB, but we participate in His justice. Not to punish the guilty when they deserve it (we didn’t get what we deserve, remember?) but to work for something higher—the redemption of all people back to right relationship with God and others (1 Cor 15:24).
Second, if we love others, we call them to the same, even as a warning for their good (1 Cor 5:11).
This is how we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). As an example, God loves both the rich and the poor. We tell the rich to give to the poor not to punish the rich. It isn’t evil to have wealth. The woes to the rich are that when they saw the pain of those in need (starving, the dying, the oppressed), they did nothing (Luke 6:24).
If we love all people, on the one hand, we warn the wealthy of the consequences of disregarding their neighbor. At the same time, our highest calling is for the rich to give to be reconciled in relationship both to God and others. Love warns and calls for what is best for their good. So people won’t perish but have everlasting life.
This is what I call Redemptive Justice. A great video on the topic can be found here.
When we see the pain in this world and act from compassion—we feed the hungry, stand against racism and abortion, work to rescue people from the cycles of poverty, and countless more examples, not thinking about what people deserve but loving generously, we are first participating in the purpose of God. It is such a part of God; He receives it as if done to Him (Matt 25:40).
Second, we are expressing the reality that there is a Kingdom. That it is good. And that there is a God that is merciful.
These are good works on Earth that preach an eternal, loving reality (Matt 5:16). That is God’s justice.
3 Practical Ways to Carry Out Micah 6:8
When we walk humbly with the Father and love mercy over judgment, we can do the work of God’s justice.
For those asking, “what is good,” this is what they need to see from God’s people. Not a political or punitive justice but a Redemptive Justice born of love and mercy for all people made in God’s image. A justice that calls people to be reconciled to God.
With these things in mind, how do we move forward? Here are three practical ways.
Get personally involved
We should give money to churches and ministries doing good and preaching the Gospel. Even more biblically, we should choose an outlet to serve where we are the hands and feet of Jesus. The core of our redemption is reconciliation to relationship, right? That takes being intentional and showing up.
No, we can’t be involved in every injustice or meet every need. Pray to God and seek His will, but often it is as simple as what we are passionate about and the opportunities in front of us. Begin there.
The Good Samaritan (Jesus’ example of what it meant to love our neighbor) didn’t call on an agency or ministry to take care of the guy left for dead. He got personally involved, at his cost (Luke 10:25-37).
It will take a sacrifice of time and money, but we must get personally involved.
Be intentional to begin relationships with those you serve
All humanity is made in God’s image, and He loves us all. No matter our race or nationality, our ability or inability, Jesus died for all (1 Cor 5:15).
Getting personally involved includes beginning relationships with those in need. Jesus didn’t keep His distance with us (He touched lepers); neither should we. It’s not complicated. Learn and remember names. Ask people their stories. Make friends. To “do justice” should never be impersonal.
This also means finding areas to serve where you return on a regular basis.
Go back to the same homeless shelter or home for abused women every week or month. Relationship is a genuine need people have, often greater than the external one.
Invite others along on the journey
Jesus sent them out by two (Mark 6:7). Saul and Barnabas were called together (Acts 13:2). Jesus didn’t invite His disciples to a building but to a walk of life where they healed and gave generously (Matt 4:19).
Invite others along for the journey. God invites us along with Him. So should we.
For a culture asking “what is good,” this might be the best evangelistic tool we have. “Come feed people dealing with homelessness with me and my church this Friday” gives a great lesson on the heart of God.
Bringing others along is a gift to them, an opportunity to see faith in action. People will also see and experience God’s people walking humbly, loving mercy, and doing good. Then maybe the words of preaching will possess more power (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
Photo credit: ©Sparrowstock
Britt Mooney (with his amazing wife, Becca) has lived as a missionary in Korea, traveled for missions to several countries, and now lives in Suwanee GA as a church planter that works bi-vocationally with Phoenix Roasters, a missional coffee company. He has a podcast about the Kingdom of God called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author with Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture’s context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God’s Word in relation to your life today.