The following is an excerpt from our Generosity Guide. You can download the whole guide for free here.
We get angry when we hear stories of injustice in this world. Rightfully so. But for most of us, we’re happy with consumerist justice. Consumerist justice is buying an electric car because of the badge, it’s drinking ethically sourced coffee only when others know about it. It’s not much more than virtue signalling. Consumerist justice is just another product we buy to make ourselves feel like we’re good people.
What Jesus proclaims here in Luke is something completely different. He is proclaiming justice in all areas of life, and not one that is cheap to come by (it will cost Him His life). Jesus’ words maybe started to sound like a good deal to those in the synagogue at first, but when Jesus includes people who aren’t Jewish in this sweeping statement (Sidon, Syria), they get upset. They literally chase Him to a cliff, nearly throwing Him off.
Jesus’ proclamation of justice is offensive to those who think they can buy it or work for it for themselves. If we believe it’s something we’ve worked for, justice becomes an extension of our consumerism: I work, I buy, I deserve. If we want to be freed from that life, we must understand that we, all of us, are poor and in need of Jesus’ justice in our lives.
Who God Is
Jesus doesn’t mince words here. He picks a well known Bible passage about the Messiah, reads it in a religious gathering, and tells everyone that He is its fulfilment. Who is like this?! Moreover, this is the kind of God He is: those who are poor receive good news, those who are prisoners get freedom, those who are blind are awarded sight, those who are oppressed can thrive, and God looks favourably upon us.
What God Has Done
Jesus has declared what He will accomplish through His life, death, and resurrection. He doesn’t just talk about being generous in justice, and He doesn’t just concern Himself with causes that are easy or fashionable.
Jesus alone has the power to do all of this because He is the Messiah. He alone is righteous to be able to accomplish this. Bruce Waltke defines righteous this way: “The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community, the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.” Jesus’ death is the ultimate disadvantage to Himself, whilst His resurrected life is our ultimate advantage.
Who We Are
This is only good news if we first recognise that we are the poor and needy. If we think justice is something we buy, either literally with money or with how good/religious we are, Jesus’ words are definitely not good news. We’ll want to throw Him off a cliff. In all our hearts, there’s a part that embraces Jesus’ words and other parts that chafe against it. We recognise we’re poor, but we’re also like the religious types who don’t like Jesus’ words.
We should bring all of ourselves to Jesus: good, bad, and in between parts. Where His words are life we respond in thankfulness, where His words are offensive we ask for our hard hearts to change. The best position we can be in life are needy people who have surrendered to a good God, dependant on Him for all we need. Anyone can get in on this, whether you’re a religious person or scoundrel outsider. Without Jesus we’re all outsiders. His justice knows no bounds and He generously gives to us.
What We Do
If we have been recipients of such a gift, we ought to respond appropriately with our lives. Throughout the Old Testament, over and over, we find God cares very much about what we might think are the small things in life: food, clothing, homes. (Of course these “small things” aren’t so small when one is in need of them.)
Who are the poor near you? This definitely includes those who are materially poor. God also cares for the spiritually poor, people who need to hear about Jesus’ good news. Who are the prisoners? This includes people in prisons, but also people who are prisoners of addictions or mental health illnesses. Who are the blind? It would be ridiculous to treat a blind person with contempt because she can’t see. It’s equally ridiculous, even worse, for us to treat those who are spiritually blind with contempt. Who are the oppressed? Those without homes, without fathers, minority groups, asylum seekers, people who identify as LGBTQ+.
If we have been a beneficiary of God’s generous justice how can we not respond, at least in some small way, with a generosity to others?
Jesus, thank you for being my freedom, giving me sight, relieving my oppression, and looking favourably upon me. What a gift You are in my life! Teach me to live generously towards those who currently experience injustice in their lives. Give me Your heart for the poor as I understand Your love in this poor person’s life.
God cares about our physical and spiritual situations. Many of us will be orientated towards one area at the expense of the other. In an effort to balance this in our lives, where can you be generous towards others in physical needs? What are some ways you can be generous towards others for their spiritual good?
Thinking of injustice in this world can be overwhelming. We won’t single-handedly change the world. But we can be a small part of having the earth reflect heaven. We may not be able to change the world, but we can be a part of changing individuals’ lives, especially when we work together (as a church is called to do). Choose one act to do this week that is generous in justice. Pick one other person to share this with and ask them to do the same.