Mar 4 2011

What Really Matters to God


Just finished Tim Keller’s excellent book, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Excerpts from the closing pages:

“Proverbs 19:17 and 14:31 are texts that sum up a great deal of Scriptural material.  The first text says that if you are kind to the poor, God takes it as if you are being kind to him.  The second gives us the flip side; namely, that if you show contempt for the poor it means you are showing contempt for him . . . .

“If you insult the poor, you insult God.  The principle is that God personally identifies very closely with the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant, the most powerless and vulnerable members of society.  When the Old Testament says God identifies with the poor, that is a strong statement.  But it still is basically a figure of speech.  Not until you come to the New Testament can you fully grasp the degree to which God has done this.

“In Proverbs we see God identifying with the poor symbolically.  But in the incarnation and death of Jesus we see God identifying with the poor and marginally literally.  Jesus was born in a feed trough . . . . He lived among the poor and marginalized, who were drawn to him even as the respectable were repulsed by him . . . . He died naked and penniless . . . .

“In Jesus Christ God identified not only with the poor, but also with those who are denied justice. . . . Many people say, ‘I can’t believe in God when I see all the injustice in the world.’  But here is Jesus [at the cross], the Son of God, who knows what it’s like to be the victim of injustice, to stand up to power, to face a corrupt system and be killed for it.  He knows what it is like to be lynched.  I’m not sure how you believe in a God remote from injustice and oppression, but Christianity doesn’t ask you to believe in that.  That is why the Christian writer John Stott is able to say, ‘I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross.  In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who is immune to it?’

“. . . . This was the ultimate instance of God’s identification with the poor.  He not only became one of the actually poor and marginalized, he stood in the place of all those of us in spiritual poverty and bankruptcy (Matthew 5:3) and paid our debt.

“Now that is a thing of beauty.  To take that into the center of your life and heart will make you one of the just . . . .

“Proverbs 14:31 says, ‘He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker.’   The God of the Bible says, as it were, ‘I am the poor on your step.  Your attitude toward them reveals what your true attitude is toward me.’  A life poured out in doing justice for the poor is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith.”