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desperate to understand what it means to have justice while I’m in this world
I am currently in the middle of reading Generous Justice by Tim Keller and man oh man has this book rocked my understanding of justice. The Hebrew word for justice is “mishpat”, which means giving people what they are due. The justness of a society is evaluated on how it treats its vulnerable groups. How does God see the vulnerable and how should I see them? It’s clear that He has a deep concern for those who are experiencing oppression.
Who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin
This book has challenged the way I see the poor, oppressed, lonely, and lost. To be honest, my first thought when I see someone standing on the side of the road asking for money or food is either a) why aren’t they trying to get a job or something or b) it’s their own fault they are where they are. Rarely do I ever see them and think “I should do them justice because they are created by God”. Poverty is so complex and can be caused by many things such as oppression, calamity, and personal moral failure so it is absolutely not fair for me to judge them (Keller). Besides, Jesus has saved me despite my sin so I cannot assume that I am better than those in poverty.
Matthew 25:31-46 illustrates the ways Jesus sees poverty and that helps us discern what it looks like to love those in need.‘And the King will answer them, Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40)
[ provide emergency relief, welcome migrants/immigrants into your home, clothe the homeless, visit prisoners ]
But how much quicker I am to provide a need to someone when it won’t cause sacrifice or how much easier it is to give out of my own abundance. Or how I am quick to turn away from needs if I know it will cut into how I live my life. Jonathan Edwards explains how bearing one other’s burdens requires sacrifice. We are supposed to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Oh Jesus, help me to bear others burdens because you have ultimately borne ours.
Some of us might say, “But people in poverty are unkind or ungrateful”. Okay yes that might be true, but think about how many times we have sinned against Jesus and how he always accepts us over and over and over again. We should do justice because we are all image bearers of our Creator.
Tim Keller quotes Martin Luther King:
Every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity
Jesus help me to see all people as your creation, to love them, to meet their needs, to give up my selfish ambitions, and ultimately to love them as not as a means to an end, but just because.
Keller, Timothy. Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York, NY: Dutton, Penguin Group USA, 2010. Print.