Saturday, January 1, 2011

Generous Justice

The first book I've read in 2011 is "Generous Justice" by Timothy Keller, link

This was a powerful, inspiring and thought-provoking book. You could tell I think so by checking out all the highlighted sections and dog-eared pages. When reading something like this, I want to post all the great ideas of the book on my blog, but my fingers just get too tired. So here's one idea from the book to share.

According to Keller, there are three root causes of poverty found in the scriptures, oppression of the rich over the poor, natural disasters and personal moral failures.

"Multiple factors are usually interactively present in the life of a poor family. For example: a person raised in a racial/ economic ghetto (factor #1) is likely to have poor health (factor #2) and also learn many habits that do not fit with material/ social advancement (factors #2 and #2). Any large-scale improvement in a society's level of poverty will come through a comprehensive array of public and private, spiritual, personal and corporate measures. There are many indications that scholars are coming to have a more balanced, complex view of poverty and are breaking through the older Right-Left deadlock." pg 35

"In both the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus delivers a famous discourse, which is usually called the Sermon on the Mount. For centuries, readers have acknowledged the beauty of its high ethical standards. What is not noticed very oft...en is how Jesus weaves into a whole cloth what we would today call private morality and social justice. Along with the well-known prohibitions against sexual lust in the heart, adultery, and divorce there are calls to give to the poor (Mat 6:1-4) and to refrain from overwork and materialism (Mat 6:19-24).
In Western society these sets of concerns have often been split off from one another. In fact, each of America's two main political parties has built its platform on one of these sets of ethical prescriptions to the near exlusion of the other. Conservatism stresses the importance of personal morality, especially the importance of traditional sexual mores and hard work, and feels that liberal charges of racism and social injustice are overblown.
On the other hand, liberalism stresses social justice, and considers conservative emphases on moral virtue to be prudish and psychologically harmful. Each side, of course, thinks the other side is smug and self-righteous.
It is not only the political parties that fail to reflect this 'whole cloth' Biblical agenda. The churches of America are often more controlled by the surrounding political culture than by the Spirit of Jesus and the prophets. Conservat...ive churches tend to concentrate on one set of sins, while liberal ones concentrate on another set. Jesus, like the OT prophets, does not see two categories of morality. In Amos 2:7, we read, 'They trample the heads of the poor; father an dson go in to the same girl.' The prophet condemns social injustice and sexual licentiousness in virtually the same breath (see also Isaiah 5:8ff). Such denunciations cut across all conventional political agendas. The Biblical perspective sees sexual immorality and material selfishness as both flowing from self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness.
Raymond Fung, an evangelist in Hong Kong, tells of how he was speaking to a textile worker about the Christian faith, and he urged him to come and visit a church. The man could not go to a service on Sunday without losing a day's wages, ...but he did so. After the service, Fung and the man went to lunch. The worker said, "well, the sermon hit me.' It has been about sin. 'What the preacher said was true of me - laziness, a violent temper, and addictions to cheap entertainment.' Fung held his breath, trying to control his excitement. Had the gospel message gotten through? He was disappointed.
'Nothing was said about my boss,' the man said to Fung. When the preacher had gone through the list of sins, he had said, 'Nothing about how he employs child laborers, how he doesn't give us the legally required holidays, how he puts on false labels, how he forces us to do overtime...'
Fung knew that members of the management class were sitting in the congregation, but those sins were never mentioned. The textile worker agreed that he was a sinner, but he rejected the message of the church because he sensed its incompleteness. Harvie Conn, who related this story in one of his books, added that gospel preaching that targets some sins but not the sins of oppression, 'cannot possibly work among the overwhelming majority of people in the world, poor peasants and workers.'" - pgs. 54-56

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