Q: What is the [goal of your life]?
A: To glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Q: What is the [goal of your life]?
Taught January 29, 2014, at Stanwich Church.
He entered Jericho and was passing through.
And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
“Where Your Treasure Is…”
Taught January 15, 2014, at Stanwich Church.
A PSALM OF ASAPH
1 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16 But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
Relevant Video: PBS: The Psychology of Wealth
From the Walking With Purpose luncheon, October 2013.
A new commandmentI give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Timothy Keller is an author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. In recent years, he has been quite prolific in his written work, publishing roughly one book per year for several years. In 2010, he published Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. He hopes the book is read by four types of people: young Christians who instinctively understand the need for social justice, older evangelicals who approach the subject of doing justice with suspicion, young evangelicals who have expanded their mission to include social justice, and lastly those who are persuaded by the new atheism who view religion as poisonous to society.
Keller’s thesis in Generous Justice is that a person who fully comprehends and appropriates God’s unconditional grace through Jesus Christ will necessarily do justice as an outflow of his or her received mercy. He writes, “The logic is clear. If a person has grasped the meaning of God’s grace in his heart, he will do justice… God’s grace should make you just.” I found his argument to be theologically sound, logically coherent, and compelling on a number of levels.
Throughout the book, hardly a page is turned without a Biblical reference. In fact, Keller is clever to begin the first chapter with Micah 6:8. It is a clever strategy because, in my experience, Micah 6:8 has been carried as a banner mostly by churches in the liberal stream of the faith; while Keller is considered by many to be a champion of conservative Christianity. To begin with a liberalized verse, he earns early credibility with his intended audience of those suspicious of his position.
In Micah 6:8, the reader is reminded of what God requires of his people, namely that they “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with [their] God.” Keller then parses the verse, thoroughly describing the Hebrew derivations of both justice (mishpat) and mercy (chesed), and how they reflect the character of God. He exposes the Biblical “quartet of the vulnerable”, that is, the widow, orphan, fatherless, and the poor, and makes the case that God has for many generations commanded his people to show them mercy and justice. The remainder of the book flows from this Biblical foundation, each application for contemporary social justice fully couched in the Old and New Testament commands to join God’s work in showing justice and mercy to the vulnerable.
As is typical of Keller, he spends a lot of time focusing not on the importance of simply following God’s commandments, but more importantly on our motivation for doing so. Keller’s impassioned focus here is on the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, that on the cross Jesus has shown the ultimate justice and mercy to those impoverished by sin. Regarding Isaiah 58, he paraphrases, “What is this permanent fasting? It is to work against injustice, to share food, clothing, and home with the hungry and the homeless. That is the real proof that you believe your sins have been atoned for.”
Having spent many pages laying the foundation for social justice—that it is an outflow of the mercy Jesus has shown to us all—Keller then shifts toward the explanation of how God’s people are called into such work in the real world. Citing John Perkins’ famous philosophy of ministry (relocation, reneighboring, redistribution, and reweaving), Keller challenges the reader to consider shifting his or her entire life towards intentional justice- and mercy-showing.
Finally, Keller employs the vivid motif of “reweaving the fabric of shalom” in human societies that have been “torn” by sin. His challenge is as clear as it is profound, “The only way to reweave and strengthen the fabric is by weaving yourself into it.”
I find Generous Justice to be profound, personally challenging, and truth-giving. Because the entirety of his argument is grounded in Scripture, I find it difficult to disagree with any of his assessments and conclusions. Experientially, I have discovered that the more deeply I understand God’s mercy for a sinner like me, the more I am compelled to show mercy to the people around me. Jesus came a great distance to lay down his life for me, and I am thus inspired to go to great lengths to live sacrificially for others.
My only critique is that Keller might have been more strategic when he cited modern figures. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama are exhibited as very positive figures, which I think is fine, but if one of his intended audiences was older and younger evangelicals, he might have appeased their potential complaints by also citing at least one conservative public figure. Perhaps there are none that apply to his overall argument.
Other than this possible improvement to the book, I find Generous Justice to be an exceedingly helpful and even winsomely challenging approach to the topic of social justice in the church. I frequently recommend it to my parishioners.
More Resources: Listen to the audio of the class I taught on this book.
Why study the reliability of the New Testament? How should we scrutinize it? I answer these questions in the Wednesday night teaching at Stanwich Church. Recorded September 25, 2013.
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home…
And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.”