Downtown Cornerstone Media
Feb 3
2013

Justice, Righteousness & Rejoicing Cities

Media, Proverbs: Living Wisdom, Sermons | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

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SUMMARY

In Proverbs, God meets us on the street and delivers aid in the skill of living, particularly in the areas of life where the normal rules of life don’t apply. What we’ve seen every week over the last five months is that this wisdom finds its source in the fear of the Lord – or, in letting God be God to you in every corner of your life. Today we look at another corner of life: justice and righteousness. How do we navigate life in a world of need, poverty, and various degrees of injustice?

INTRODUCTION

We are in the last couple weeks of our study through the book of Proverbs. This is an ancient book but it continues to be enduringly relevant because it is, put simply, a book about being human. As we all know, being human can be messy and somewhat complicated, from daily annoyances to major disasters. Proverbs offers us what we all want (and perhaps don’t realize we need): godly wisdom to live well. Proverbs are not ancient fortune cookies that merely promote changes of behavior, quick fixes or boosts to our morale. Rather, the book of Proverbs delivers living wisdom, from a living God into the nitty gritty of our daily lives. In Proverbs, God meets us on the street and delivers aid in the skill of living, particularly in the areas of life where the normal rules of life don’t apply. What we’ve seen every week over the last five months is that this wisdom finds its source in the fear of the Lord – or, in letting God be God to you in every corner of your life. Today we look at another corner: justice and righteousness. How do we navigate life in a world of need, poverty, and various degrees of injustice?

Unfortunately, these issues are not anything new. In fact, they are as old as the Bible itself. We see evidence of need, poverty and injustice throughout the Proverbs:

1:3 …to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity;

10:4 “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”

13:23 The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.”

16:8 Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.

17:23 The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice.

18:5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.

19:28 A worthless witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.

20:13 “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.”

22:16 “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.”

30:14 There are those whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among mankind.

We need instruction on how we are to relate to these issues and what we are to do in the face of them. It is therefore interesting to note that is one of the reasons that Proverbs was written…

1:3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity;

To appropriately set the stage, it is important to note that there have been all sorts of theories that seek to explain the origins of poverty and social stratification:

Political conservatives: Blame break down of family values or lack of self-control and discipline.  They have verses:

10:4 “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”

20:13 “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.”

Political liberals: Blame social forces beyond control of poor. eg racism, education, systemic injustice. They also have verses:

13:23 The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.”

22:16 “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.”

But, all of these verses are found in the Bible. The Bible offers a much more balanced viewof the complexity of these issues:

  • You can be poor b/c you’re lazy or ignorant.
  • You can also be poor b/c of oppression and injustice.
  • You can be rich b/c of hard work and planning.
  • You can also be rich b/c you’re dishonest and greedy.

Then there is the debate among Christians about how to address this topic…

Conservative Christians are often accused of only caring for eternal suffering but notpresent suffering – and, therefore, having defective hearts. “How could you not care about the need that is right in front of you?” Main problem w/ that is the Bible uses the termjustice repeatedly for these issues.

Liberal Christians, on the other hand, are often accused of only caring about presentsuffering but not eternal suffering – and, therefore, they have defective doctrine. For this reason the term “doing justice” is often tied to the loss of sound doctrine b/c, well, that is often the case.

Again, the Bible shows us that we don’t have to choose between the two. It is not an either/or issue. As the gospel of Jesus Christ takes root in your heart, it makes you want to alleviate all sufferingThe gospel is designed to deliver people from eternal suffering. But, the same Gospel motivates us to pursue the alleviation of suffering here and now In other words, Christians care about alleviating all suffering, especially eternal suffering, which is infinitely more seriousTherefore, you can and should be radically concerned about eternal suffering and radically concerned about present suffering. Unfortunately that combination is relatively rare today, but as we’ll see today, it shouldn’t be.

Q#1: WHAT DOES GOD WANT US TO DO IN THE FACEOF NEED?

Let’s keep this simple. What does Proverbs say?

2:1-2,5,9 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding…then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God…then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path…”

3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

8:20 [Wisdom] “I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice…”

11:10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices…

14:21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.

19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

21:3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
21:15 When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.

29:7 A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.

22:9 Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.

29:7 A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.

31:9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

31:20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.

Point: God’s people should be people of justice, righteousness and generosity, especiallytowards poor and vulnerable. Look at 3:27, for example. There “good” does not mean just be “nice”. “Good” means tangible good – whatever your neighbor needs to flourish. Point:We sin not only by doing “bad” things but also by w/holding good things. We might think that, “I’m not hurting anyone.” But we also have to ask, “Am I withholding good from anyone?”

JUSTICE
mishpat” Occurs more than
200x’s in Hebrew OT.

Basic meaning: Making things right by correcting wrongdoing, fighting inequality and being generous. When hear the world “justice” we often think of going to court or the legal proces, but the term here is much broader. It encompasses the idea than when we see others lacking it is your job to get involved. How do we know this? Every place this word is used in OT, several classes of people come up again and again – Widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor. Today, we would also include refugee, migrant worker, homeless single parents, elderly, mentally ill, and others.

RIGHTEOUS
tzadeqah” In this context, righteous means
being right w/ God and, in light of that, committed to putting right all other relationships in life. In english we don’t typically use this word. If we do, at best, we’re talking about morally upright actions, but that is not what we’re talking about.

“The righteous are [those who are] willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are [those who are] willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.” Bruce Waltke

That’s why verse 11:10 says, “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices…” The righteous are who everyone wants to be neighbors with. Pour themselves out for others. When the righteous prospers, the city prospers and therefore the city rejoices. The city may say, “I don’t believe in their God, but I hate to think what this neighborhood would be like without them.” Q: What kind of church would we have to be to get the city to think that about us?

SUM:
In sum, God is deeply concerned that people are treated fairly, justly, rightly…especially those w/o resources and power. God’s people should be about doing whatever it takes to makes things right in the lives of those around them. We see this idea throughout the Bible…

Eze 18:5,7-9 “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right…[if he] does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keep my rules by acting faithfully – he is righteous…”

Isa 58:6-7 “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, and to break every yoke? It is 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?”

Ps 33:5 “[The Lord] loves righteousness and justice…”

Jer 9:23-24 “I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight…”

Perhaps the greatest place we see this is in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). The point of his parable is that our neighbor is anyone who is in need, regardless of race and class. How should we love them? Do whatever it takes, like the Samaritan.

Q#2: WHY SHOULD I BE CONCERNED FOR THOSE INNEED?

This is the real problem. Many of us know who we should live and relate to the poor, but we are not adequately motivated to do it. Let’s look at three motivations – saving the primary motivation for the last.

Motivation #1: We should be motivated by God’s character.

Ps 146:7-9 “The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”

Dt 10:17-18 “The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

Ps 68:5 “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”

Pr 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

22:22-23 Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them.

23:10,11 Do not move the ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.

If God identifies like this, then what should God’s people be like? If God is this concerned, shouldn’t we be as concerned as well?

Motivation #2: We should be motivated by God’s image.

The Bible teaches us that all people are created in the image of God – meaning we are like God (relational, personal, moral, creational, volitional, and more). This means that every human is created in the image of God and is therefore a work of art, not an accident. Every human life is stamped with dignity and right not to be mistreated. Proverbs uses this as a reason to not mistreat or oppress the poor:

22:2 The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.

29:13 The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.

The idea was also at the center of the Civli Right Movement. In a sermon entitled The American Dream, MLK wrote:

“The whole concept of…the “image of God” is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity…we must never forget this as a nation; There are no gradations in the image of God…this is why we must fight segregation with all of our nonviolent might.” Sermon: The American Dream

Q: Is there anyone in your life that you have been viewing more like an animal rather than an image, an accident rather than a work of art? Broken, to be sure, but an image bearer nonetheless.

Motivation #3: We should be motivated by God’s redemption.

This is most often cited motivation for serving and meeting the needs of those around you – the gospel. This motivation is assumed in Proverbs. Most humans believe that if we try hard enough to obey God then we will be saved – that’s not the gospel. If we believe that we’ll never be properly motivated to seve others. We need something far more profound:

“You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Eph 2:1-2,4-9

What does this tell us? Apart from God, we are not just sick – we are dead – e.g. spirituallyhomeless; spiritual prostitutes; spiritually impoverished, spiritually needy, spirituallydestitute, spiritually oppressed, spiritual outcasts, spiritual enemies…w/o resources, w/ohelp, w/o hope, w/o voiceaddicts to sinThough we deserve the wrath of God for our sin, Jesus came and stood in our place.

Did he come for us because we are good people? Because we deserve it? Have potential? We’re cute? He wanted to spend eternity with us? We’re victims? No. He came for us when we were dead in our sins, apart from our works, when we couldn’t do anything. He lived life we should live and, therefore, earned the blessing of salvation that his perfect life deserves. Then, he died on the cross and took the curse that our imperfect lives deserve. Therefore, by turning from our sin (repentance) and turning to Jesus (faith) he takes curseour lives deserve and gives us blessings his deserves.

In other words, God’s salvation, in Jesus, only comes to those who acknowledge spiritual poverty; “poor in spirit”. If you are well acquainted w/ your spiritual poverty, you can’t help but gravitate toward material poor. You will see the homeless, addict, poor, prostitute, needy and think, “That’s me, spiritually, outside of Jesus…” They are a mirror of my spiritual condition, outside of Jesus, and it was in that condition that Jesus came to pull me out. He came for me, how could I not go to them? When you see Jesus’ life poured out for you, in your greatest need, you’ll want to do the same for others.

Obj: “They don’t deserve it.” Neither did we, but Jesus came.
Obj: The poor may abuse it.” We do to, Jesus gives more grace.
Obj: “They should just pull themselves up by boot straps!”  You didn’t do that. Jesus pulled you up.
Obj: “This person has brought his situation on himself” Our spiritual bankruptcy was due to our own sin – it was fully our fault. Yet, nonetheless, he came and rescued us.
Obj: “This poor person is ungrateful.” Yet, aren’t we too? Do we not trample Jesus grace every day?

Q#3: HOW DO I START?

#1 Daily aim to grow in wonder of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the means of grace. Everything flows from that, especially how you relate to the needy around you.

#2 Think through the spheres of you life: neighborhood, work, church, and others. Who are those around you in need? Without a voice? Start there. Start simple.

#3 One of the easiest ways to begin serving is to parter with one of our Cornerstone Communities. Each has selected a strategic social partner to regularly serve and come alongside to support their work.

#4 Partner with DCC. As a church we want to continue to grow in serving our city and world (e.g. Christmas gift drop, UGM socks, Sandy relief, cleaning the avenues and alley-ways, and more).

#5 Think through spheres of service and where you could be of greatest help. Every Christian should identify one level to be involved. The level you chose will depend on your gifts, resources, interests and bandwidth:

  • Direct relief. Directly assisting those in need.
  • Individual development. Helping others to become self-supporting and move beyond life dependent on direct relief.
  • Community development. Larger scale awareness and service to your neighborhood, community or city.
  • Social reform. Tackling larger scale issues. (ex. William Wilberforce. 18th century. 20 years of life working to abolish slave trade.)

At this point, you may be feeling guilty, but you have to know that guilt will not chang you.The only thing that can change you is seeing Jesus more clearly.

“Come…inherit the kingdom prepared for you…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you rink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, “Truly I say to you , as you did to one of the least of these…you did it to me.”

Here, Jesus is not saying that we are saved by helping the poorRather, way can tell you have relationship w/ God is by your attitude toward poor. Where is ultimate place we see Jesus naked, thirsty, unjustly prisoner? The cross. The cross is ultimate place he identifies w/ spiritually poor, taking condemnation you deserve. Here’s the point. Only when we see Jesus hanging there, like that, for us….naked, exposed, hungry, unjustly treated…will how we view people here who are in the same condition….naked, exposed, hungry, unjustly treated. To degree you see that – and personally own that – to that degree it will turn you into one who is just and righteous.

  • Before you can love, serve, help like this you must receive love, service and help like this – from Jesus.
  • Only if you see you’ve been graciously saved in your plight, will you graciously enter the plight of another.
  • Only when you receive radical neighbor love of Jesus, can we be the kind of neighbors God calls us to be.
  • Only if increasingly gripped by truth Jesus w/held no good thing from you, will you not w/hold any good thing from others.
  • Only when see God willingly supplied for your greatest needs will you be moved to supply for the greatest needs of others.

We can’t do impossible and we can’t do everything, but we should do something. May our city rejoice.