Monthly Archives: August 2012

Three Reasons to be a Community of Justice

This is an excerpt of a sermon preached at St Paul’s Castle Hill on Deuteronomy 15.  This was sermon a series based on Tim Keller’s, “Generous Justice”.

Why should we bother to lift others up when there is so much to be gained by looking after yourself?  Here are three reasons why we should get involved in our church community here tonight.

Œ(1) Everything we have comes from God in the first place.  And one of the reasons he blesses us is so that we can bless other people.

We see that in Deut 15.  For the Israelites, God in his mercy saved them from Egypt.  God has blessed them in so many ways, by freeing them from oppression, giving them the promised land, blessing their inheritance.  And because God has been so generous, they too are to generously cancel debts, generously free their servants, and generously give the needy the hand up they need to get on their own two feet.

God really cares for the poor.  That’s true.  He looks out for the quartet of the vulnerable (See Tim Keller’s, Generous Justice for a definition). We see that in Deuteronomy 15 and also we see that throughout the whole Bible.  But you might well ask, if God so cares for the poor and needy and suffering and oppressed, why doesn’t God do something about it?  Well he does!  He blesses the rich and the rich are meant to pass it on.  That’s how God looks after the poor.  He’s sovereign, but he uses us to exercise his power.   God is concerned for the poor.  He blesses us in order that we lift the burdens of others.  If we hold it tightly to our chest, then that’s disobedience. That’s sin.

(2) Here’s the 2nd reason, because it’s sin be hardhearted and tightfisted towards those suffering in our community.  Look at Deut 15vs9

9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.

Let’s just pause for a second.  What are the things that you are holding on to with tight fists and hard hearts?  Imagine if you didn’t get the most expensive phone on the market just because everyone else thinks its cool.  Imagine if you didn’t  buy the latest tech gadget? Or the new set of Summer clothes?  What are the reasons you are being tight-fisted and hard-hearted?  Do you just want to look cool?  Do you just want to feel good about yourself? Or is it that you’re just too busyto care about those who are suffering or needy or oppressed or hurt amongst us?  According to Deuteronomy 15, when we act with tight-fists and hard-hearts by giving nothing to our needy brothers and sisters – you will be found guilty of sin.

Let that sink in for a moment.  For whatever reason for why you don’t get involved in lifting the burdens of those in our community – if it ultimately comes down to being tight-fisted and hard-hearted, then your inaction is in rebellion to the God you are praying to tonight, singing to tonight and hearing from tonight. You will be found guilty of sin.

And I could point that out and make you squirm and make you feel guilty.  However, that’s hardly going to motivate you to be open-handed for the long-term.

(3)Ž So let me show you the third and most compelling reason why we lift the burdens of others is Deuteronomy 15 verse 15:

15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.

The reason we stop and help others is because that is what God has done for us. The reason why we lift burdens is because we’re motivated by grace.  For the OT Israelites, God has lifted them up out of slavery in Egypt and put them in the Promised Land.  Here’s the model – it’s one of grace – God has been graciously generous towards us – therefore, we should be graciously generous towards others.

This same reasoning in Deuteronomy is also found in 2 Corinthians 8:9.  Paul writes to take a collection for another church in an area that has been hit by famine.  He wants to encourage all the new churches in the Archain region to give to help relieve their suffering. So how does he motivate?

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Our model and our motivation comes from the great salvation that has come to us through Jesus. For us, in Jesus, God has lifted us up out of slavery to sin and so the expectation is that we lift others up out of poverty – their spiritual poverty as well as their financial, relational, physical poverty.  Now the spiritual salvation, we’re familiar with it – we sing about it, we preach about it – every week.  The story of us being lifted up out of our sin – the stories of the relief people felt when they met Jesus for the first time and had this heavy spiritual burden lifted from their shoulders. This story of spiritual redemption is familiar.  If that is familiar, if we are a true community of justice described in the Bible,  then it should follow that stories of practical and financial redemption should be just as common.  God’s salvation of his people should find an echo in their physical salvation – if we are a true community of justice.  We’re the conduits of that mercy. We’re the ones who love them as Jesus has loved them.

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Godly Heritage

Heritage has to do with what we have inherited from the past and also what is reserved for future generations. It’s what’s formed us in the past through our backgrounds and it’s the direction we have shaped ourselves for in the future.  The word itself is easy enough to understand but the concept especially applied to us is difficult to grasp.

I think probably the main reason why the concept of heritage is so difficult for us is that we now live in an iWorld – the individualistic world. In the iWorld, we so value individualism that we cut ourselves from relationships, relationship with God and relationship with one another. The “I” is most important; “I” define who I am by what I consume rather than who I am in relation to others. And when we think of ourselves in isolation of others, we also cut ourselves off from our relations in the past and in the future.

In the Bible (especially the OT), people are spoken of in relation to others. Actually, we see this for example in the genealogies are all the way through and people are introduced and described in relation to their families and clans. Look at Saul in 1 Samuel 9

There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2 He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites”

Because of our iWorld, we don’t think of ourselves as the ‘child of so and so’, the ‘grandchild of so and so’, ‘belonging to a particular clan’ – basically we don’t think in terms of heritage. That’s just not the way we think! When I introduce myself, I’m Eric – me and me alone. No connections, nothing. Just me. My identity is not linked to any other, especially those in the past. We don’t think we’re bound by the past or that we’re bound for anything in the future – because I am the center of my world. In our world, we like to think of ourselves as “self made”. As the product of the iWorld, we’re losing the concept of heritage.

But in the rWorld – the way that the Bible sets for us to live – in relationships. In the rWorld, the idea of heritage has to do with locating and building our identity around those we are related to in the past, the present and even in future. Building a godly heritage will mean that we will work hard at shaping our character and actions according to the Bible to make a positive impact on future generations.