Last week a series of ‘Read Reflect Respond’ reflections on the theme of ‘missional justice’ that I’d been asked to do for TIDES, a daily devotional within the the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, were sent out to subscribers. Reproducing them here for anyone interested – hope they are of some help.
|WEDNESDAY: The means of missional justice – generous sharing|
What is the passage saying and what does this mean for us?
This hard-hitting text is emphasising, in Old Testament imagery, that ‘faith without works is dead’. A religious practice like fasting is a waste of time if not accompanied by a life of justice. Doing justice in the Bible is treating people fairly; injustice is treating people unfairly, either exploiting them in some way or neglecting to help those powerless to help themselves. Here in Isaiah, injustice takes two forms: that which oppresses and imprisons people (probably something like unpayable debt that enslaves the debtor); or failing to meet basic physical needs of food, shelter and clothing. The comment about ‘your own flesh and blood’ refers to how, within a land gifted by God, Israel was to have ‘no poor among you’ (Deut 15:4). This radical commitment to each other within the people of God is reiterated again and again in the Old Testament (e.g. Micah 6:8 ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’) and the New Testament (e.g. Matt 6:1-2; Acts 4:32-35; Gal 2:10; James 1:27 ff).
This means that a Christian’s identity is not to be that of capitalism’s self-made individual consumer who has no responsibility to anyone but himself, but that of a brother and a sister with practical obligations to those less well-off than ourselves since all we own is a gift from God.
How is God calling you to loose the chains of injustice and set the oppressed free? Can you think of specific people and situations where you can make a difference through generous giving of your time and money?
Have you heard a sermon in the last 5 years about how the beliefs and values of capitalism collide head-on with a biblical vision of justice? If not, why might this be?
How can the church be an alternative community of justice in a capitalist culture that idolises power, money and success?
For further study see Tim Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (Hodder & Stoughton, 2010). Excellent.