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On Helping without Being a Fool

3 Mar

Helping people is complicated.

It is always complicated, and becomes only increasingly so, when you are attempting to cross cultures. Now obviously there is a big difference between complicated and impossible. And as believers, we have tremendous advantages as we go to help people, in that we have a Word that transcends cultures, a God who is not bound by our culture, and the Spirit who speaks to people in all sorts of different cultures. But, we are going to have a difficult time really benefiting from those advantages, if we don’t at least acknowledge, that helping people cross culturally is complicated.

In an interesting article on what’s happening with the non-profit, Invisible Children, the author quotes someone who tries to help us appreciate just how difficult helping others cross culturally can be.

He writes,

“Imagine you had some really well-meaning Japanese high school student who is really motivated by what he sees on the television about Ferguson. He shows up in Ferguson and he wants to help, he wants to make a difference. He doesn’t speak English, doesn’t have much money. What’s that person going to do other than get hurt or cause trouble? Nothing whatsoever.

“Now imagine this guy was a millionaire. Whatever this guy does is just going to be a disaster. How could it not be? You look at that and it’s obvious. Just try to put yourself on the other side of this. Now we’re the Japanese billionaires. We’re just as foreign. We’re just as clueless. We’re just as relatively wealthy.”

Again, I don’t think this kind of illustration means it’s impossible to help. In some ways it is a bit of a caricature. Because, it is assuming the person is foolish and not willing to learn and listen. Plus, the reality is, sometimes people from different cultures can see things that those within the culture cannot. But, with all of those qualifications, it does make a point, doesn’t it?

It is very difficult to help others if you don’t at least start by recognizing your own difficulties in understanding and then moving from there to really loving them and listening. I personally think one of the best helps I have had towards becoming a missionary was receiving training in biblical counseling, because when it comes to helping people, truly biblical counseling emphasizes the importance of involvement, entering into the world of the people you are counseling and asking questions and listening to the answers.

Helping people doesn’t end there, but that’s a good place for it to start, and it seems especially difficult for many of us, who are American Christians.

An Apologetic for Orphan Care part five

19 Feb

You sometimes get the feeling when you begin to talk about adoption with some individuals that they feel like you are talking about a lightweight doctrine.  Not so!  Adoption is one of the highest and most significant privileges the gospel reveals.  In fact, J.I. Packer once said if he were asked to summarize the New Testament message in three words his proposal would be “adoption through propitiation and I do not expect to ever meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that.”  If you are able, we would love to have you come and explore why he says that with us on March 1 and 2nd at Together for Adoption South Africa. For now, I thought I could share a couple more biblical proofs caring for orphans is such an important part of worshiping God. 

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Do you want revival?

For a Christian, that’s a strange question.  Of course we want revival.  Desperately.  

A better question might be, is there any way we can prepare ourselves for it?

Our minds immediately run to the importance of prayer.  They should.  But a few years ago I was reading a sermon by Jonathan Edwards in which he notes another way the Bible seems to indicate we can get ourselves ready for revival.  

He makes a surprising connection between deeds of charity and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit..

“If we really want an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we must not only spend a great deal of time in the duty of prayer crying earnestly to God, but we must also abound in deeds of charity and love.”

Now, please understand it’s not that we earn revival. The price is too high to be able to purchase it. Jonathan Edwards understood grace and the sovereignty of God.

But still he noted passages like Isaiah 58.   

Israel comes to God with a problem.  They feel like they are fasting and seeking Him and He’s not showing up and they want to know what’s happening.  

God comes to the people with an answer.  He tells them the kind of fast He wants.  

“Is not this the fast that I choose to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house, when you see the naked, to cover him and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

God connects deeds of charity with worship and what will be the result of this kind of worship according to God?

“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up speedily. Your righteousness shall go before you. The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer. You shall cry and you will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noon day and the Lord will guide you continually.”

In other words, a kind of revival.  

This may be part of why we see such a passion for this in the early church. This is something the early church was passionate about. This concern for the poor, especially widows and orphans, is not only an Old Testament concept.

One of the very first things the early leaders of the church did in Acts six was what?

Establish a way to care for widows. When Paul writes a letter to Timothy explaining how to run a church, he gets very specific about this in First Timothy five, saying, “Honor widows, who are widows indeed.” He lays out a plan for exactly how the church is to go about doing that. A quick survey of the New Testament reveals that someone has written a startling level of commitment to ministries of compassion.

Tabatha was a woman whose chief occupation was helping the poor. Acts nine, Barnabas was a man of some means, who made a mark on the early Christian communities by supplying the needs of the poor out of his own bank account. Acts four, by spearheading efforts and taking up collections for famine stricken Judeans. Titus was a young disciple of Paul, who organized a collection for poor Christians in Jerusalem.

Later, he superintended relief efforts in Corinth. Paul was a man himself who is deeply committed to remembering the poor. I think a fascinating passage of Scripture is Galatians, Chapter two, where Paul describes his meeting with the leaders of the early church. You think, “What must they have talked about in this meeting? Doctrine, and they must have talked about big doctrine.”

We know, in fact, they did talk about big issues. But I picture it Paul is about to leave, he’s about to get up to go and he says, “The only thing they asked me at the end was to remember the poor.” He was about to go. “Paul, remember the poor.” What does Paul say? “That’s the very thing I was eager to do.”

The good Samaritan is the lead character in one of Christ’s best‑loved parables. When all others, who were supposedly righteous, skirted the responsibility of charity, the Samaritan took up its mantle. Christ concluded, “Go and do likewise.”

As someone has written, “These early Christian heroes fully comprehended that religion that our God and father accepts as pure and faultless is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress. They knew that true repentance evidenced itself in sharing food and sustenance with the hungry.”  

When you trust God, when you trust God, when you are worshiping God, when you believe God is for you, you are not nearly as desperate to be for yourself.  

When you are worshiping an idol, that idol has nothing he can really give you. That idol doesn’t answer your prayers. He has nothing he can do for you, so you have to be about yourself. You can’t think about the vulnerable. You can’t think about the needy, because you have to get what you need to get and you need to fix your life just the way you like it. But when you are worshiping God and when you are coming from God and when you understand the gospel that God, the father, the creator of this universe, is entirely for you, that frees you up to be for people you never would be for normally. Because you know God was for you and you didn’t deserve that.

It’s never about being saved by showing mercy. It’s always about that the person, who has truly received God’s mercy, shows it. 

An Apologetic for Orphan Care part four

18 Feb

It is hard to believe Together for Adoption is less than two weeks away.  We are looking forward to a missions team from the United States coming at the end of this week, then a trip to Lesotho to help build a church facility and bang, the conference is here!  Please be praying that God will use this conference to encourage his people and to help fuel a movement. And oh yeah, if you haven’t registered yet, this is the week!  To motivate you, we have been working our way through James 1:27, trying to understand why James brings up the way we care for orphans a test of the reality of our religion.  Here’s yet another reason the church should be serious about orphan care.

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This is one of the chief ways we worship God, sacrificially giving to the vulnerable.

Visiting orphans in their distress is about worship. Please hear me. This is about worship. It’s about worship.

This is not simply about being Oprah, worshiping yourself. It’s instead about worshiping God.  If we don’t get that and we make this about worshiping self, we ruin it. 

There are different ways we worship God.  One way is internal…faith, love, that’s the most important. Then there’s another way we worship God, going to church and engaging in public acts of worship. Then there is still a third way we worship God, sacrificially giving to those who are in need, private acts of worship, obedient, serving others, because we love God.

Out of those three, obviously the first, faith, is most important. Of the other two, we tend to place a greater priority on public acts of worship, don’t we? But we must not forget that God also places a great emphasis on loving God through sacrificial obedient worship.  God places such a great emphasis on this that when he compares the two (public worship versus sacrificial love) in importance, he often stresses worship through sacrificial love.  I could give you proof after proof of that, but here’s just one Micah 6:6‑8. Mark it down. “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come for him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with 10,000s of rivers of oil? He has told you, oh man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?”

This has to do with worship. People who have been shown undeserved grace are compelled to respond, they want to make God look great and so they look for opportunities to show others undeserved grace as well.  It makes sense for James to bring up the way we relate to orphans and widows and vulnerable people, as a test of the reality of our religion, because it’s connected to our attitude towards God. It has to do with worship. The God of love loves to be worshiped by people of love. 

An Apologetic for Orphan Care part three

14 Feb

Compassion that doesn’t flow out of knowledge of God doesn’t flow out for very long. It is a wonderful privilege to serve children who are in need, it is also hard work. This is part of why we are holding a conference called Together for Adoption in Pretoria on March 1 and 2. We want to provide a strong biblical basis for those who are energized for showing deep biblical love to those in need. In order to prepare us for the conference, I have been looking at several reasons from the Scripture orphan care is important for believers to think about.

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We are trying to think through why the way we show mercy to the vulnerable came to James’s mind as a test of the reality of our relationship with God. And I think a fourth reason has to be because James knew part of why God saved us was so that we would be excited about doing good. Underline that word excited.

I found that, when I talk about our desire to work with orphans or vulnerable people, there are a lot of individuals, who aren’t always that excited about it. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to faze them that there are literally millions of orphans in this world. I’ve often thought about why. I struggle with why, to be honest.

Some of that could have to do with me. Maybe I’m just not describing it well.

Another could be that people get passionate about different things. I understand that. Really, I’m OK with people not being as excited about serving orphans as I am. I’m just not OK with them not being excited about sacrificially doing good at all. I’m not OK with that.

Have something God says is important that you are passionate about, emotional about. It’s not that we all have the same gifts. It’s not that we all have the same, exact callings. It’s not that we have all the same exact opportunities. God’s wired us differently for a reason. I get that.

But we all need to be passionate. We all need to be emotionally charged about doing some good in this world. Apathy is not an option, when God specifically says that he sent his son to die that we might be zealous. Titus 2:14, Paul takes us to the cross and he says, “Look at Jesus. He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession.”

Here it is…who are zealous for good deeds. He doesn’t just simply say he died that we might do good. He says that Jesus died that we might have a certain attitude towards laying our lives on the line for others. You could translate the word zealous as one who is deeply committed to something.

It is a synonym for enthusiast. One Greek dictionary defines it as, “Someone who is stirred to action by strong emotion.” Something is drastically wrong, when Christians are not emotionally charged about doing good works, because Jesus died on a cross that we might be emotionally charged about doing good works.

Fifth, a fifth reason, this is just such a fundamental test we find here in James of the reality of our religion has to do with the gospel.

Believing the gospel will move us to give to the vulnerable. There are different reasons to give to the needy. For example, one is the fact that all human beings are made in the image of God. John Calvin often talks about the image of God as being a reason for serving the poor.
But an even more important motivation is the gospel itself.

For one thing, when we really understand the grace God has shown us, it changes us into people who show that grace to others. As people who have been dearly loved by God and adopted by God, we spend our time enjoying Him, and looking at Him and looking at Him and the way He treated us, changes us into people who act like Him.

For another, as we trust that God is for us, it really takes away a lot of the excuses we make for not being involved in sacrificial giving. When we think we are out there on our own, we always have to look out for ourselves but when we realize the creator of the universe loves us the way He does, then it frees us up to be for the good of others.

As someone has said, “the love that adopted us becomes a love that cares for orphans. As Christians, we should be moved and empowered to visit the fatherless because God Himself visited us when we were without hope in this world. However we as Christians are involved in this, it should be Christianity’s vertical to horizontal movement that moves us out in compassion. Christians who believe the gospel should not only be the most loving, forgiving, welcoming people on the planet, we should also be the most orphan caring.”

One of the beautiful things about being involved in this kind of work, is that it is a way we can learn a lot about the gospel. I know, I I learn a lot about God from a boy who can’t talk.

One of our foster sons had a stroke in his mother’s womb and as a result has a difficult time talking, walking, really a difficult time doing much else besides smiling. He does a lot of that.

I was thinking about Muzi as I have been studying Ephesians 1 where Paul tells us that “in love God predestined us to be adopted as sons…” There is so much there to enjoy. In love, before the beginning of the world, God chose us to be part of his family, with all the rights and privileges of real sons.

But I guess what stood out to me more than ever before is the fact, I don’t bring anything to the table but sin. It is not like God adopted children into his family because he was needy, because he was up in heaven always wishing to have a child, because they would be intelligent conversation partners, because they were sweet and innocent, no, all these children had, all I had was sin and what’s more, it’s not just the adoption itself that is a gift, anything good that we bring to God now, is a gift as well! Our smiles, hugs, praises, are a themselves a gift God purchased for us at a cost.

And wow, think about the cost! He adopted children like us – at the cost of His own perfect son with whom He had an absolutely perfect relationship already. The basis of our involvement with the vulnerable must be truths like this from the gospel, propitiation through adoption, this strengthens us to help the vulnerable, even when we think we can’t afford it. We often try to help without sacrificing and suffering ourselves, but the truth is that’s how Jesus relieved us of our great burdens and the gospel motivates us to follow in His steps.

An Apologetic for Orphan Care part two

13 Feb

It is one day closer to our first ever Together for Adoption conference here in Pretoria, South Africa.  We are hoping God will use this conference to increase our joy in our adoption and spark a theologically driven adoption movement here in South Africa.  I began yesterday working through several reasons we are convinced that it is vitally important we as believers reach out to orphans with the love of God.  The first reason had to do with the character of God.  Here are reasons two and three:

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Second, a lack of concern for the orphan and widow is given in the scripture as a mark of wickedness.

In Isaiah one, Isaiah cries out against the wickedness of the people. Israel. God actually tells them he hates their religious activity. He says in verse 16, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean, remove the evil of your deeds from my sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice.”

God comes to his people in Isaiah one and he says stop praying until you get something right. Would you be done? I can’t stand all this worship! This religious activity, you need to go back and you need to repent. I’ll tell you what that repentance is going to look like, Isaiah says. Here it is. “Reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” That’s how I’ll know your repentance is genuine.

An old Puritan, Nathaniel Samuelson, who was used by God to establish a network of clinics, hospitals and missions that in fact became the model for William Booth to establish the Salvation Army once said, “Sodom was crushed in divine judgment. Why, asked me? Was it due to an abomination upon abominations such as those perpetuated against the guests of Lot? That’s not the reason the scripture gives. Was it due to wickedness in commerce, craft, in governance and sloth and manufacture? That’s not the reason the scripture gives. In Ezekiel 16:49 scripture says, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom, she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.”

It’s one of the main sins we find the prophets coming after the Israelites over and over again for. They are constantly rebuking them for idolatry and injustice. Injustice really reveals a kind of idolatry. As one author has written, the God of Israel “identified himself with the widow, the orphan and the stranger.  Thus, when the people of Israel turned their back on Yahweh, they also turned their backs on the poor.  Idolatry and social injustice are two sides of the same coin.”  You know the people had given themselves over to idolatry. Not that they stopped coming to the temple to sacrifice, they were busy about that, you know they had given themselves over to idolatry by their lack of concern for the needy.

On the other hand, third, concern for the needy is a mark of holiness.

Remember how Job’s friends attacked his character? One of the ways he proved his godliness was by his concern for the orphan. He says in Job 29:4, “I delivered the poor who cried for help and the orphan who had no helper.”

He goes on to say in chapter 31, “If I have kept the poor from their desire, or if I have caused the widow to fail, or if have eaten my morsel alone and have not shared it, if I have lifted my hand up against the orphan because I saw I had support in the gate, let my shoulder fall from the socket and my arm be broken off at the elbow.” In other words he says, “I deserve God’s judgment if you can look at my life and see that I didn’t care for the orphan, for the widow, for the vulnerable.”

It’s not just there. Psalm 37:21, “The righteous person is generous and gives.” Psalm 112:5 and nine, “The righteous has distributed freely. He has given to the poor. His righteousness endures forever.” Righteousness in the scripture is not just a negative thing, turning from sin. Righteousness in the scripture is also a positive thing, turning your life to the things that God is intent about. 

Even here in James 1:27, it is like we are seeing two sides to what it means to be righteous. There’s visiting the vulnerable and there’s keeping oneself unstained by the world. It’s not either visit the vulnerable or keep oneself unstained by the world.  It’s both.

If you knew someone who was caring for orphans and working with the poor during the day but spending his evenings getting drunk and going to clubs; I am guessing (hoping) you would quickly recognize there is a serious problem.

But I wonder if you knew someone who would never enter a club or get drunk or anything like that, but spent his life basically ignoring the needs of the vulnerable around him, who was not willing to sacrifice for the good of the needy if you would see the disconnect quite as quickly.

James 1:27

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God our Father is this:

To visit widows and orphans in their distress

and

to keep oneself unstained from the world.

It’s and, not or.  Our attitude towards the vulnerable reflects our attitude towards God. This is a good test of the reality of our religion because of what we know to be true about the character of God, because of the fact that a lack of concern for the needy is a mark of wickedness and because a concern for the needy is a characteristic of the righteous. 

An Apologetic for Orphan Care part one

12 Feb

We are excited to be able to host a Together for Adoption Conference here in South Africa on March 1 and 2nd.  It is a great deal of work putting on a conference and is requiring a great deal of faith as well, trusting that God will make His name look great through our feeble efforts.  Over the next several posts, I thought I might share some reasons why we believe the way we respond to the orphan crisis in our midst is such an important topic for us to consider. 

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If you wanted to test the reality of a person’s religious activity, I wonder what kind of question you would ask?

This is important for us to consider.  It is important for us to think about whether or not our religious activity is real is because we know both biblically and historically that there is a lot of supposed worship that is not. There is a great deal of religious activity that is both foolish and pointless.

Fortunately, we don’t have to come up with tests on our own.  The writers of Scripture were concerned about this very issue and in fact give us a number of different ways to evaluate whether or not religious activity is sincere. 

I don’t know which particular passage of Scripture your mind runs to when you think of ways the authors of scripture give us to evaluate the reality of a person’s religion. But I want to highlight one of the tests that has struck me as very significant. It’s a test that I think that has often been overlooked.

It’s found in James chapter one, verse twenty seven.

He writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”

James is writing to a group of people who are, as you know, fairly active spiritually. They for one thing are reading this letter. He describes them as hearers of the word. They enjoy listening to God’s word. He tells us that they thought of themselves as fairly religious. Some in fact, had a desire to be teachers. They even seemed to think of themselves as fairly wise and understanding. But in spite of all of that it seems pretty clear as you read throughout James that he has some concern that their religious activity, their religion, at least for some of them, it’s not the real thing.

He says in verse 16 of chapter 1, “Do not be deceived my brothers.” He says in verse 22, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving yourselves.” He speaks of someone deceiving his own heart in verse 26. In chapter two verses 14‑16 he speaks of a dead faith, a faith that does not in fact save. In chapter three, in verses 13 and 14 he speaks of a wisdom that comes from the Devil, demonic wisdom. He speaks of boasting and being false to the truth, thinking that you’re wise when in fact you’re not, which is why one of the main things James does in this letter is give us tests.

“You say you have faith?”

It is as if James comes to us and says, “Let’s look at that faith more closely to see if your faith is in fact genuine.”

And here in verses 26 and 27 of chapter one, he’s giving a series of these tests to help us evaluate the reality of our religious activity.

Is it the real thing?

He speaks about the way we rule over our tongue. That’s one of the tests.

He speaks about our relationship to the world. That’s another test.

And he speaks about our response to the hurting around us. Our response to the hurting around us is one of the ways James test the reality of our religion. And this test is important to James.

We know it is important because of the way James frames this statement. 

Religion that is pure and undefiled before or, you might say, in the sight of God, is this. Pure meaning clean in the Old Testament sense of the word. Undefiled meaning something similar to holy.  It is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. Visit meaning something much more than simply showing up and saying hello. The word, one Greek dictionary defines it like this, “It is to take care of, to seek out someone, to tend. This term is frequently used for nursing the sick.” That’s why the New International Version translates it to look after.  One author writes, “It never implies merely to visit in the usual sense, but instead it is always to be concerned about with a sense of responsibility for others.” Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the father is this, to visit orphans and widows. We know what they are, orphans and widows. But the fact is, they may represent a class, and they often do throughout scripture, a class of the most vulnerable in society, those who are in a position where they have a very difficult time taking care of themselves.

We might summarize what James is saying like this, “Religious activity that God himself looks at as pleasing is taking care of hurting orphans and widows and the vulnerable when they are in trouble, showing radical sacrificial mercy to those who need it most.”

This is a big thing to say, isn’t it? I mean step back. This is God speaking on religion.

This is God the Father, the one we come to worship, and He is giving a test, a way to evaluate the reality of our religion, and He looks at the way we respond to the hurting around us!

And it got me searching around in my Bible, to figure out why James put so much weight on this. Why James can say it like this. Why does James put so much weight on the way we reach out to widows, to orphans, and other vulnerable people in our world? Why does he put such an emphasis on mercy? Why is this a test of the reality of our religion?

What I want to do is give you a number of reasons, James’ definition, of pure and undefiled religion begins with the way we relate to orphans and widows and the needy.

This is not the only test in James, but I want you to think about why it’s an important test because we tend to minimize it. I want to help you think about the Biblical evidence that this is a serious issue to God. Mercy is a serious issue, mercy to the vulnerable. I want you to go away examining your life as to whether or not you truly are a person whose life is characterized by mercy to the hurting, because of what the Bible says.  

I’ll start with the simple and obvious, why this is such an important test of the reality of our religious activity. The first reason has to do with the character of God. The first reason we know this is a good test, we find in James, and an important one of the reality of our religion. It’s because of what we know to be true about God. That’s where we start.

If we’re religious, we’re saying that we are concerned about God. That we’re concerned about what He’s concerned about. When we look to the Scripture, we see that we serve a God who is concerned about mercy, and specifically about orphans and widows, you know this. In Psalm 10:14, God actually describes himself as a helper of the orphan.

This is one of the titles He gives to himself. In Psalm 68:5, He describes himself as a father to the fatherless. Again in Psalm 146:9, he says, “The Lord watches over the refugee. He upholds the widow and the fatherless.” In Isaiah 25:4 Isaiah says, “You have been a refuge for the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress.”

I begin with the character of God, stressing that the reason this is important has to do with the character of God because I’ve found as we talk about these kinds of things, sometimes people think of care for orphans, and then more broadly compassion, as just like a personality trait. You’re just, like, into this. Some people are, some people aren’t. While it’s true that someone may be more gifted, obviously, when it comes to showing mercy, and personality may affect that we show mercy, this is not so much about personality.

Please hear that. It is about having a God‑centered way of looking at the world. We need to be interested in what God is interested in. God is definitely interested in mercy. When I look to the scriptures I find that God is very interested in the good of orphans, the good of widows, the good of vulnerable people.

Whether or not I’m interested in it, that’s not the end of the story, is it? What matters to me is that at the end of my life, I’m interested in what God is interested in. If I’m not interested in what God’s interested in, the problem’s not with God, the problem’s with me, and I need to repent.

This is a good test of the reality of our religion because those of us who say that God is the center of our world need to prove that to be true, not just with words but by actually caring about what God cares about and one of the things the Scripture’s clear about is that God cares about orphans, widows, and the vulnerable.

It is good to do right

11 Dec

“It is nice what you are doing, but you need to be wise.”

Have you heard that before? Maybe even you have said it yourself.

Sometimes when someone begins thinking about putting themselves out for the good of others, there are individuals who will pretend to be looking out for their best interests and try to stop them by cautioning them to be careful. (Isn’t this actually what happened to Jesus in Mark 3?) The idea is that sacrificial love for the needy and hurting is a good concept, but it is a dangerous one.

To a certain extent of course we can understand those kinds of sentiments. After all, Jesus’ love for us did take him to the cross. We are living in a Genesis 3 world, the kind of world where Good Samaritans are sometimes robbed themselves even as they seek to help. I know even personally there have been times where I have known something was the right thing to do, but I wondered, is it really what is best for my family as if by pursuing right I would do harm to my family.

On the other hand, reading through Proverbs this week has reminded me that this kind of wise counsel is not nearly as wise as it sometimes sounds.

When Solomon tells us to be righteous in Proverbs he’s saying pretty much the same thing as Moses when he commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In fact, one scholar defines righteousness in Proverbs as bringing about right and harmony for all in their physical and spiritual relationships. Another contrasts righteousness and wickedness in Proverbs by saying that the wicked advantage themselves by disadvantaging others, but the righteous disadvantage themselves to advantage others.

This is why when Solomon describes the righteous man he says things like, ‘the righteous man knows the rights of the poor…’ and ‘the righteous gives and does not hold back’ and he often contrasts righteousness with injustice and uses justice as a synonym to righteousness.

And what I guess I wanted to share with you is the fact that this kind of lifestyle is not only honoring to God, Solomon also makes it clear that it is good for you and it is good for your family. Of course, there are going to be difficulties in the righteous lifestyle. When you disadvantage yourself for the sake of someone else, there is well, a disadvantage. But, but, at the same time there are hundreds of advantages that come with sacrificially loving others. Obeying God’s law is not only the right thing, it is a sweet thing for you and for your family. Meaning, if you really want to do your family good, yes, you should put yourself out for the needs of the hurting.

Here are forty two different blessings I found in the book of Proverbs that Solomon says come from doing righteousness:

1. Righteousness delivers from death.

2. God does not let the righteous go hungry.

3. Blessings are on the head of the righteous.

4. The wage of the righteous leads to life.

5. The desire of the righteous will be granted.

6. The righteous is established forever.

7. The hope of the righteous brings joy.

8. The righteous is delivered from trouble.

9. The one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.

10. The offspring of the righteous will be delivered.

11. The desire of the righteous ends only in good.

12. The righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

13. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.

14. The righteous is repaid on earth.

15. The root of the righteous will never be moved.

16. The root of the righteous bears fruit.

17. The righteous escapes from trouble.

18. No ill befalls the righteous.

19. In the path of righteousness is life.

20. Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless.

21. The light of the righteous rejoices.

22. The sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.

23. The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite.

24. The wicked bow down at the gates of the righteous.

25. Righteousness exalts a nation.

26. In the house of the righteous there is much treasure.

27. God loves him who pursues righteousness.

28. God hears the prayer of the righteous.

29. Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.

30. Grey hair is a crown of glory gained in a righteous life.

31. He who condemns the righteous is an abomination to the Lord.

32. To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good.

33. It is not good to deprive the righteous of justice.

34. The righteous who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him!

35. To do righteousness is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

36. Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness and honor.

37. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice.

38. Do no to violence to the righteous man’s home for the righteous falls seven times and rises again.

39. The righteous are as bold as a lion.

40. When the righteous triumph there is great glory.

41. When the righteous increase the people rejoice.

42. The wicked man is ensnared by his own sins, but a righteous man sings and rejoices.