Generous Justice

If there’s one thing we Americans do not do well, it’s handling money. We lose it. We spend it. We don’t like giving it away. Those of us who actually do handle money well tend to have the wrong attitude about it (pride much?), putting us back at square one. We typically forget that our money is not really ours at all. It’s God’s. We also tend to neglect what we are supposed to be doing with God’s money. Not only that, but we are supposed to be dealing with all of our resources, including time and possessions, in the same manner. This is where Generous Justice comes into play. Did you know that how you handle your money and things tells about how you understand the Gospel? Oh, how this book packs a punch. The kind that sends Mike Tyson into Build-A-Bear.

At first glance the cover may come off as being about penal substitution or something, but this book entails something much simpler yet deeper. God’s “justice” is more than just punishing the bad guys. Tim Keller takes a theological dive into Deuteronomy and unveils that true justice (called mishpat in Hebrew) is also about doing the right thing for the people as is due, like serving widows, feeding the poor, and providing for the needy. Keller uses Scripture to show that God expected Israel to leave no one behind in terms of material need, and that same provisional love extends to Christians today.

Using a combination of Scripture and anecdotes, the author paves the way on how to do social justice God’s way, not the political way or any other. The whole premise of the book is founded on Christ’s love for us. Keller asserts that a Christian should be able to look at a homeless person and feel love that causes them to provide for the person’s needs, because on a spiritual level we are all poor like the homeless man. We had no hope, and God showed us His grace, thus providing us with what we need (God’s justice). After experiencing God’s grace as such, we treat people in need with that loving justice as well (hence the subtitle, “How God’s Grace Makes Us Just”). In other words, if you aren’t generous with your time and money, that means you may not really understand the Gospel. Big words.

My favorite parts of this book were the practical ones. Tim Keller talks bluntly about the difference between numbered donations and actually getting your hands dirty in your community. In the last third of the book the author wades through many practical issues: what generosity looks like as a Christian individual, how the church works out this concept of being generous, and how the church can play a role in fighting corrupt local policies.

All in all, Generous Justice tackles a subject many Christians shy away from in an easy-to-read manner. This book really resonated with me as I feel that being generous (namely with money) has always been a bit of a struggle for me. I definitely recommend this to everyone, but if you have a hard time giving at any level you especially need to get your hands on this thing. You’ll how the heart of God goes out to those who society has long left behind.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just

Visual Dungeon

Everyone at some point in life has either heard or said the phrase, “I need to see it to believe it.” Sure, it’s a cliché statement, but it reveals a lot about how we operate in society and perceive reality around us.

Sight is one of the five senses, but we give it a ton of credence today (too much, actually).

Look at the porn industry. Is it not booming?

Have a conversation with people about God. Most conversations end up talking about evidence and why we don’t see God. Hopefully, though, those conversations don’t stop there.

But even though we are immersed in a society of sights and consequential feelings with our latest technologies and the like, have we turned a blind eye to the damage or the insignificance of it all? Willingly, even? Yet, with our huge dependence on media for information about everyday things, it seems we are trapped.

In Why Johnny Can’t Preach, T. David Gordon indirectly mentions this very subject (specifically TV) as well as some reasoning behind it:

“Everything about it [television] is trivial… Because its pictures must move, it captures best those things that are kinetic, that have motion. Yet few of the more significant aspects of life involve much motion: love, humility, faith, repentance, prayer, friendship, worship, affection, fear, hope, self-control. Most of what is significant about life takes place between the ears, as we make sense of life, of our place in it, and of our failures and successes, our joys, our sorrows, our fears, our loves.”

Gordon may be talking about TV, but this really applies to most of our other forms of media as well. And I completely agree with Gordon.

Many people honestly believe everything must be seeable to be true or believable, but what about a marriage in trouble? How will a couple work an issue out, or even know there is an issue, without talking and communicating about it? Obviously, a husband and wife will notice problems in how the relationship looks, but what about hidden sins and secrets?

It takes time and listening. Not just in human marriage, but in reading, friendship, and all the other stuff Gordon mentioned. If we are too busy trying to find out what the latest news story is or the next big thing Steve Jobs will announce, we won’t be able to hone in on the more important fundamentals in life (again, like what Gordon mentioned above).

When we look to see what God says about it, he says the same thing.

Deuteronomy 4:11-12 – “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.”

In the verses after that passage God tells the Israelites not to make physical, visual idols.

The reason why God wants kids who hear and obey, not see and obey, is a matter of being different. God is different than anything else this world or any religion has to offer. No image can confine him, and doing so would only open the image up to human corruption like so many idols before.

There is a certain hint of intimacy to this. Those who still insist sight must be apparent for validity would do well to realize they did not start out this way. They say in the mother’s womb, it takes only  a matter of weeks for the baby to know its mother’s voice. Then when it is born, the child’s eyes confirm what it already knows to be true in its heart.

It is the same way with Christians as we are the children of God. He doesn’t imprison us in a visual dungeon. He frees us to something greater, where love, a subject of infinite more value than anything fathomable by the eyes, conquers all.