…when justice for the poor is connected not to guilt but to grace and to the gospel, this “pushes the button” down deep in believer’ souls, and they begin to wake up. – Tim Keller Generous Justice
I have been reading recently books and articles on the subject of justice and helping the poor. It has come out of a desire to understand the church universal’s role biblically in the face of a cultural mindset that seeks the answers in government institutions. I have wrestled with what I think about that – I want to know what the right course of action is – thus the readings.
But I have also found in me a desire to be more generous on a personal level. One would think that two years on the mission field in Peru, working with some of the poorest in the world, I would have a a heart of generosity. Unfortunately, the opposite happened – as a result of my experience in Peru, I found myself hard, calloused and cynical. How could that be? Well…
I forgot the gospel.
I forgot how poor I am.
I was offended by the bad behavior some of the poor would use to get what they needed.
I wanted them to be honest and grateful and, in some way, earn my generosity.
I forgot that I am just like they are.
Poor in spirit. Poor in heart. Self-protecting. Self-justifying. I will do whatever I need to do to get what I think I need.
I also am poor – not in the same way – but poor nonetheless.
Tim Keller, in his little gem of a book, Generous Justice, calls believers to consider those suffering poverty and injustice, just as God considered us – as poor and in need. As Jesus so eloquently states to the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”(Luke 5:31-32) It is because we were shown generosity from God the Holy One, condescending, becoming “poor” in more ways than just taking on flesh, in order to rescue us from the slavery of sin and death, that we would overflow with grace and generosity for others, especially those who are suffering day to day, moment to moment, just to survive without basic needs. Not out of guilt, as the quote above suggests. Not out of legalism – we HAVE to love the poor because that’s what we are supposed to do. Not out of a political agenda that seeks to manipulate the weak for it’s own uses. Not out of a feeling of superiority – pride – I’m so good I even look after the poor….
We do it because we know that we are just the same. There are many ways to be poor. Our Lord Jesus became poor in every way that one can – financially, relationally, physically, and yes, even spiritually – that He might raise us up with him in glory. It is the gospel that enables us to do the same for one another of mankind.