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Archive for the ‘social justice in the NEW testament’ Category

Derek Webb: Rich Young Ruler

Posted by Chris on September 7, 2007

This is a great song I would like to quote in its entirety. Derek Webb is a Christian artist who has a attracted a following, and critics, by addressing topics that aren’t so popular.

“Rich Young Ruler”

poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me
so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your SUV
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me
because what you do to the least of these
my brother’s, you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

Derek Webb Links

Official Web Site
Wikipedia Bio
Preview the “Mockingbird” album at Amazon
Lengthy Podcast interview


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SJ in the NT: Deacons

Posted by Chris on August 16, 2007


Growing up, the deacons were the men who collected offering, made decisions at church, and handled various other administrative and leadership issues. In the Bible, these types of functions are arguably for the office of elder, an entirely different position largely absent in the modern church. What is very clear is the origin of the deacons, presented in Acts 6:1-7.

Before the clash between gentile believers and jewish converts to christianity, there was a conflict between more traditional Jews (Hebraic) and Jews that had been assimilated into gentile culture (commonly called Hellenistic or Grecian). Acts 2 & 4 discuss how the Church was looking out for its own, selling property even to ensure that everyone had enough food. Like any organization, an increase in size complicated the task of managing and satisfying all the new Christians. In Acts 6, we find out that Grecian Jews perceived that their widows were being overlooked in favor of the Hebraic Jews.

The 12 apostles, the leaders of the church, could no longer lead in every area. So they chose 7 brothers, wise men full of the spirit, to ensure that all the poor Christians were given care. Paul later uses the greek word “Diakonos” to describe this office. The definition, as I perceive it, does not imply any administrative leadership– in fact, the word normally referred not only to being in service, but being the servant or attendant of a king or master.

Four Implications of this knowledge:
1) The Church must ensure that it carries out the “Diakonos” ministry. Do I really care if your church doesn’t have elders, and deacons are what the leaders are called, if you have those who ensure that others are cared for? No. I don’t see why you would follow the Biblical model, but then complicate things with different names, but hey, no church has 100% knowledge of the will of God for church structure and cannot operate in a state of perfection.

2) In several places in the NT, Paul spells out the requirements for deacons. These include: sincerity, well-respected, having his household in order, etc… see 1 Timothy 3. We must hold to that standard.

3) We must take this ministry seriously. I do not view it as a low position, in spite of the apostles seemingly not wanting to waste time to “wait tables.” This was just to show the importance of their dedication to the “ministry of the word.” The apostles show how much they value this service when they select men of good reputation. Furthermore, two of the men chosen, Stephen and Philip, go in the next chapters of the book to be martyred and to be sent on a missionary journey, respectively.

4) While they are not administrative leaders, there is a spiritual component to the ministry of distributing food. The passage highlights that the church grew, not that no one went hungry. As just written, two of the men went on to be a martyr and a missionary. I will talk about this concept more in the next post, on “spiritual poverty.”

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible and this is just a condensed version of my thoughts, both composed and uncomposed, on it. I must give thanks to Ed Silvoso and his book Anointed for Business as it led me to study this passage in detail and he illuminated several great truths.

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SJ in the NT: 2 Cor 8-9

Posted by Chris on May 4, 2007


There is really no one theme to single out here– this is probably the richest text in all of the New Testament relating to the christian ideal of economic social justice. Rather than write about it myself, I’m just going to post a summary I made of a four-part sermon series by John MacArthur called “A Biblical Model for Giving.” He also has another four-part series called “A Biblical View of Money.”
You can find the link to the transcripts, at BibleBB.

You can read the text of 2 Corinthians 8-9 here, and I will quote a brief part below:

…we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints… At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality… Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

“A Biblical Model for Giving”: 13 Points

Paul wants the Corinthians to give to the saints in Jerusalem. Now remember, it’s not a one-time offering, it’s a systematic weekly offering. In [1 Corinthians] chapter 16 and verse 2 he says that these offerings are to be collected every week. He says every one of you is to give every week. Over a period of at least a year they have known about this offering and Paul wanted them systematically and weekly to be giving so that there would be accumulated a large amount of money that when he came he could then take back to the needy saints in Jerusalem.

He wants to instruct both the Corinthians and all Christians through all time to give following the pattern of the Macedonians. Giving is the behavior of devout Christians. Where you have devout Christians you have givers. All they need to have is an opportunity and they will respond. Christian devotion, Christian dedication, Christian commitment results in Christian giving and generosity.

Their Giving:

1. Initiated by God’s grace

2. Transcended difficult circumstances.

3. Joyous.
Verse 2 again he talks about their abundance of joy

4. Not hindered by poverty.
He mentions in verse 2 their deep poverty

5. Generous, it overflowed in the wealth of their liberality or generosity

In verse 3 we saw three other elements of their giving.
6. Proportionate, that is they gave according to their ability, according to what they were capable of giving in proportion to what they had.

7. Sacrificial.
He says it was beyond their ability. That means they gave more than they were really capable of giving.

8. Voluntary. What about free-will giving? What does the New Testament say about free-will giving? It says given amounts are personally determined. Give whatever you want. Look at chapter 9 verse 6 of 2 Corinthians, here’s how to give, “He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart.” You give whatever you want realizing that whatever you sow is what you’re going to harvest. Give and it shall be given unto you. You can’t out give God.
So the amount is up to you. Whatever you purpose in your heart, whatever you desire to give, whatever you want to give voluntarily, generously, sacrificially, proportionately, that’s the way you give.

9. Viewed as privilege not obligation (and it is a privilege)
. Look at verse 4. This is a wonderful reality. He says of the Macedonians, they were begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints. Now there’s some wonderful words in that verse, giving us the main point…begging, a very strong word, a very pleading word, it’s used in Luke 8:28 of the words of the demoniac who was pleading with Jesus
They viewed giving as a way to express their generosity on behalf of the fellowship, their love of the brotherhood that they’d never even met. They viewed giving as a way to be partners in a shared life. They viewed giving as a way to express grace and blessing and to receive it in return from God.

10. An act of worship.
“They first gave themselves.” That is THE supreme act of worship when you give yourselves. Go with me to Romans chapter 12 because there is the very important text which teaches this. In Romans 12:1 and 2 we read, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice,” your bodies meaning yourselves, of course, “present yourselves a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship.”

11. In submission to their pastors
. A little footnote here. Whenever people in a church become disillusioned about their leaders, their giving drops. And I say this, any pastor who leads his people to give, leads them to experience grace. It is God’s grace that moves them to give. It is God’s grace in the giving. And it is God who graciously resupplies. You simply expose yourself to grace upon grace upon grace. When you teach people to give, you’re not impoverishing them, you are enriching them with grace upon grace.

12. In concert with other Christian virtues
. It’s not giving in a vacuum. It’s not giving in isolation. It’s not giving contrary to what’s in your heart. This kind of giving is in perfect harmony with other Christian virtues. You find me a heart filled with faith and utterance and knowledge and earnestness and love and I’ll show you a generous heart.

13. A proof of love. Verse 8, this is so important, here he says, “I’m not speaking this as a command.” Isn’t that amazing? But again remember, this is in consideration of the fact, listen, that free-will giving is never according to legalism. It’s never according to obligation. It’s never according to some prescription. He’s saying I’m not commanding you but I’m telling you prove your love.
I’ll tell you one thing about giving, it verifies the level of your love. You can give without loving, that’s required giving, but you can’t love without giving. And the amount of your giving expresses the amount of your love. As John says, “How can you say you love God if you don’t love the brethren? How can you say the love of God dwells in you if you close your compassion to someone in need?” Fervently love one another.
Whether you love the Lord, whether you love His church, whether you love those in need is evident by your giving. The true test of sincere love is not your emotions, it’s not your feelings, it’s your action. And many people are under the allusion that they love because they feel things. Your love is not measured by what you feel, it is measured by your actions and your actions may disprove your own assessment of your feelings.

So the Macedonians are our model. They show us that giving is to be initiated by grace, that is to be a supernatural kind of giving. It is to transcend difficult circumstances. To be done with joy. Not hindered by poverty. It is to be generous, proportionate, sacrificial, voluntary. It is to be sought as a privilege not an obligation. It is a part of worship. It is to be done in submission to pastors and leaders. It is to be concert and harmony with other Christian virtues and it is to prove our love to God to His church and His people. That’s the Macedonian giving…the giving of devout Christians. Such giving, as we’ve said all along, is the path to blessing, a path I trust you are eager to walk.

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SJ in the NT: Philemon

Posted by Chris on April 23, 2007


First things first: If you are unfamiliar with Philemon and Onesimus, read the book of Philemon! It’s only 1 chapter, 25 verses! To save space I will only quote it sparingly.

Onesimus, formerly a slave, the lowest rung of society, was poor, probably owned nothing. Paul writes that to Philemon, Onesimus was once useless, but now he is useful both to you and to me. In fact, the name Onesimus in Greek means “profitable or useful.” Paul suspects that there was a divine purpose in Philemon somehow losing his servant. To quote him directly from verses 15-16: “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.”

God wants the rich and poor to be brothers and sisters, useful to one another! So opposite to what we see in the world, even today, and throughout our history! There is much to be learned from this short book of the Bible. As for the relationship between the rich and the poor, I will only list the following Proverbs:
“Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.” Prov 22:2
“The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives sight to the eyes of both.” Prov 29:13

One could also use this passage to combat the idea that slavery is tolerated by God, a viewpoint popular among Christians as little as 150 years ago. Additionally, a book could be written based on what this book says about spiritual submission to God or the example of apostolic leadership of Paul over the believers in his time. But I would like to focus on forgiveness, condescension, and reconciliation.

Forgiveness is obviously important in many aspects of the human experience besides social justice. Just as it is indispensable in a marriage, or in our condition before God, it is a necessary precursor to reconciliation between the rich and poor of this world. It is a two-way street and it requires condescension by all, to admit past wrongs and move ahead humbly. Without this realization, there will not only be division between the First World and Third World, but sadly a schism within The Church. In how many churches can you find a millionaire standing next to someone below the poverty line? This is not only due to geography, people. There is a barrier that was constructed long ago, and it has been fortified by events like slavery.

We all build up walls between “us” and “them.” Who is your “us” and who is your “them”? While not rich or poor, you can certainly identify some other categories. Thus, while we must all strive to promote unity with all other believers, we also have a role in this historic divide between rich and poor. Ed Silvoso points out that Paul was asking for “something extraordinary from both Philemon and Onesimus… that Philemon receive Onesimus as a brother… [and for] Onesimus to return to the master from whom he had fled… Paul, the reconciler, stood in the gap, embraced both men and pleaded for them to be reconciled with each other.” Similarly, we can serve as reconcilers. What does this mean? Many things, and I will cop out by letting you find those on your own.

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SJ in the NT: Example of Spiritual Poverty

Posted by Chris on November 3, 2006


Most people think of dragons, the end times, the Antichrist, etc… when they think of the Book of Revelation. And while those kinds of things take up most of the book, there are some other sections that are quite different. Chapters 2 and 3 include 7 letters to churches, written to warn them and encourage them. The letter to the church at Laodicea is probably the best known because of the famous verse about Christ spitting the lukewarm out of his mouth. The context of Laodicea and the rest of the letter are also valuable, including bringing a perspective to social justice.

Let me preface this by saying I have no historical background- the history I will use came simply from a Greek lexicon and one anonymous commentator on Revelation and a Google search to verify that information. Laodicea was a wealthy town and the site of a medical school and served as a banking center for Asia Minor. It was so proud of its ability to sustain itself that it refused Roman monetary aid after an earthquake that destroyed many cities.

What follows the lukewarm verse are a series of statements by Christ that deconstruct what I’ll call the Laodicean myth; using the wrong benchmark to judge one’s own position/status. In Rev 3:17, Jesus says it this way: “You say, ‘I am rich’… But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” In verse 18, he tells them if they want to be rich, buy his gold, acquire new clothes, and put salve on their eyes. Laodicea was a banking center- it had a lot of gold. It also produced a garment and a powder that was used to treat eye diseases along with its medical school. Basically, Jesus makes a mockery of their strong points to emphasize their spiritual poverty and de-emphasize their material wealth.

Christ’s words are to the Church in Laodicea, not the town as a whole. This means that Christians were not free from this materialism. Spiritual poverty and materialism do not have to be bedfellows. Certainly there are those who are both materially and spiritually poor. But, I will assert that materialism breeds spiritual poverty. Who gives the best testimonies about their trust in God about their health? Those who are or have been sick. Who usually cries out to God about a romantic relationship? Those who have been through conflict. Should it be that way? Yes and no. We should all be on our knees for these things. Laodicean Christians obviously did not submit their financial lives to the Lordship of Christ and thus fell into spiritual poverty, leading Christ to strike at that which was blinding them.

What is the relation to social justice? As Christians, we need to be aware of spiritual poverty. First, in our own lives. Our sin separates us from God and from those we want to help. Second, in those we wish to serve. Jesus said in Matt 6, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Helping people attain what Jesus tells Laodiceans is “the gold refined in the fire” takes precedent over distributing gold, Au in the Periodic table. In fact, it is our duty- if we feed people’s stomachs and not their hearts, they remain “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” Third, our sin collectively results in the poverty of the world- we must remember that- but there’s also a need for us to have the resolve and courage to stand up against the spiritual poverty of certain individuals/governments/organizations that particularly cripple the abilities of millions of people to live a comfortable life.

after all, there is no such thing as anonymity.

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Social Justice in the Bible (Intro)

Posted by Chris on August 12, 2006

I will be attempting to write a series of hopefully short, concise, but powerful commentaries on certain passages and concepts in the Bible that have really spoken to me about social justice. Some will address our lifestyles and convictions, some contain practical advice, all are utopian and far beyond anything we can do by our own means. To shorten the titles, they will be divided into SJ in the OT (Social Justice in the Old Testament) and SJ in the NT (New Testament) as well as being broken down into each concept.

I firmly believe that what the Bible says about social justice, in both the Old and New Testaments, has implications for us today and is the most valuable source that all of humanity could use to approach living in the most equal and healthy society possible.

See the categories list on the side of the page.

Posted in social justice in the NEW testament, social justice in the OLD testament | Leave a Comment »