Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.Acts 28:1-6
The apostle Paul had been arrested because of false charges against him. After a couple years of being imprisoned for no reason, Paul appealed to Caesar–his legal right as a Roman citizen. However, on the journey from Caesarea to Rome, his ship was mercilessly battered by strong, early winter storms in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Shipwrecked and exhausted, Paul and the other 275 people on board swam to shore on the tiny island of Malta, located just 80 miles south of Sicily, Italy.
The people there were hospitable to the haggard sailors, passengers, and prisoners, building them a fire as they came ashore. Even Paul pitched in to help build the fire. Yet when a venomous snake, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on Paul’s hand, the pagan islanders assumed that it was the work of the goddess of Justice [called Dike (pronounced “dee-kay”) in the Greek pantheon of gods and Justicia in the Roman pantheon of gods].
It’s clear that their understanding of justice was very different than the justice we see implemented by God in the Bible. The activity of the goddess Dike (Justice) was more like a combination of vengeance and karma. If something bad happened to you, then it must be because of some wrong you had done. This kind of thinking is what we find in the modern concept of karma. Only for the ancient Greeks, this kind of karma was the personified vengeance of the goddess Dike.
So when Paul was bitten by a venomous snake after having been shipwrecked, the assumption was that he did something really, really bad (like murder). Justice (the goddess Dike) was getting her revenge on Paul. The only problem was that, as they waited for Paul to die, nothing happened. He suffered no ill effects from the snake bite. So not only was he saved from the Mediterranean storm and shipwreck, but now he was miraculously unaffected by the venomous snake bite.
Because of their warped view of justice, the pendulum now swung completely in the opposite direction. Not only was the goddess Justice not getting revenge, but Paul’s survival could only mean one thing: he was a “god” himself.
In this story I see our own culture’s obsession with “justice” and how misunderstood biblical justice really is. Yes, our God is a God of true justice, but our culture has severely warped any sense of real justice. Instead of worshiping at the feet of a God who delivers biblical justice, our culture bows down to the goddess Dike, the goddess of Justice who favors karma over grace and vengeance over restoration. “Cancel Culture” is the bastard offspring of Dike and her demonic ideology of warped justice.
The Bible is clear that the pantheon of pagan gods were not just fictitious mythologies, but instead were dressed up demonic forces who gained power by having humans worship them.
Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.1 Corinthians 10:19-20
So the goddess Dike (or Justicia) is a demonic entity that loves to distort proper, biblical justice. The demonic Dike loves to enforce karma and enact vengeance and call it justice. Isn’t our culture, especially “cancel culture,” rife with this warped understanding of justice? And how many hundreds of action movies pretend to seek “justice” for some wrong that was done but are essentially bloodbaths of vengeance. Dike and her demonic minions are running rampant in our culture.
True biblical justice doesn’t come from worshiping Justice herself, but comes as a byproduct of worshiping the One True God, Yahweh, The Lord Jesus Christ. True biblical justice always comes seasoned with grace, redemptive consequences, and restoration. The prophets of the Old Testament regularly called for true justice yet always left room for the return of Israel, the redemptive process of discipline, and the restoration of a people.
Shame, guilt, condemnation, and violence are never the final word when we’re operating in true justice. Instead, they are tools of the demonic goddess Dike and her karmic vengeance. If we worship Justice, we’ll never actually attain true justice. When we build an idol out of anything, including justice, it will inevitably be warped and hijacked by the enemy.