What God Really Requires from Us

A sermon idea based on Micah 6:1-8.

Micah 6:1-8 NRSV

[1] Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. [2] Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. [3] “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! [4] For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. [5] O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” [6] “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? [7] Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” [8] He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?


The relevant topic I would be addressing, based on this text…

We all have a belief about what God expects from us and we make decisions that align with that belief, but God has made his expectations known. He requires us to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with him.


The heart of the message, a potential outline, key truths to share, special notes for interpreting the text, etc.

The biggest question you’ll ever face in life is this: What does God expect from you?

We all have different ideas about the answer to that question, and our ideas have come from various sources – our parents, our culture, our religious tradition, our friends, etc.

God once used the prophet Micah to bring an indictment against his people, the nation of Israel. He had seen that they had fallen quite short of his expectations, so he sent a messenger to clear things up.

What is absent from Micah’s message about God’s expectations is as important as what is included. For example:

  • God’s primary requirement for us isn’t hard work or productivity. We don’t have to produce to align with his purposes. Hard work is a virtue, but it isn’t the primary thing God desires from us as his children.
  • God’s primary requirement for us isn’t self-discipline. We often hear that the secret to success and happiness is diet, exercise, rest, rhythm, etc. But the disciplines, valuable as they may be for creating our capacity for health and holiness, aren’t the end-all-be-all of what God wants from us.
  • God’s primary requirement for us isn’t right theology. Obviously we should seek to understand God as well as possible from the ways in which he makes himself known to us, but being wrong or uncertain about any number of doctrines isn’t our biggest problem.
  • God’s primary requirement for us isn’t pious behavior. We sometimes assume that moral perfection is the ultimate goal God has for each of us, but behaving ourselves isn’t the point of life, either.

God has demonstrated his love for this fallen world through the sacrifice of Jesus AND by equipping us to extend his love and his redemptive work to the world around us.

So Micah gives us a trinity of values to guide is in how we live life and how we relate to the world.

1. God requires us to do justice.

Justice has two sides. First, justice is bringing down the oppressor and holding people responsible for treating others with fairness. We live in a world constantly in need of correction in this area. Fallen, sinful humans tend to grab power and protect privilege, even at the expense of others.

Justice also means lifting up the oppressed. It means freeing those enslaved, giving a voice to those disenfranchised, and working to make opportunity for thriving truly available to all equally.

DOING justice means taking action and doing the work to correct any imbalance in our own hearts as well as in the systems operating in the world around us.

2. God requires us to love kindness.

Justice without kindness is cruelty. Having the desire to make sure that everyone around us gets what they deserve for all of their wrongs and mistakes while failing to see our own need for mercy leads us to become cold and indifferent to the struggles other people endure.

And kindness without justice is temporary and powerless. Sometimes we show kindness and mercy for how it will make us feel or look to others with no intention of putting our energy into actually helping correct injustice.

Kindness and mercy have to do with developing and cultivating an intense desire for others to experience God’s goodness through us. In other words, kindness begins in our hearts, but it works its way out through our hands.

3. God requires us to walk humbly.

Without humility, we’ll never be balanced. We will execute justice because we will see ourselves as closer to God than others. Or we will consider our own goodness to be enough without regard for the need for justice for the oppressed.

It is humility that keeps it all in balance. So what is humility? Humility is not looking down on ourselves and disregarding the goodness and wonder with which God has created and shaped us in his own image.

Humility is having a realistic understanding of who we are as God’s creatures in need of his life and life-sustaining goodness.

And how do we pursue humility? I see two keys, both of which relate back to the trinity of values for relating to the world:

First, we see our own need for both justice and kindness. Seeing our need is the beginning of a proper posture before God. That means recognizing we don’t have it all together. We don’t have all the answers. We aren’t all-powerful or all-seeing or all-knowing. We need God.

Second, we see the value and potential in others to do justice and love kindness. Every person you will meet today was created by God in his own image and, therefore, has value to offer their world. Humility includes realizing that I will never be more or less valuable than another of God’s creatures.


The big call-to-action in the message…

Ask yourself if you’ve been off balance. Do you want the guilty punished (which includes all of us) but have no compassion or empathy for those in need of mercy (which also includes all of us)? Do you want people to be better off but without a desire to actually work for justice? What is usually missing is humility. Remind yourself who God is, who you are as one made in his image, and just how valuable every other person you will ever meet is as well.


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About the Cover Art: Photo by Mad Rabbit Tattoo on Unsplash.

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