Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Generous Justice"

Timothy Keller is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  I've read four of his books so far and have liked each one of them.  Generous Justice is my favorite of the four.

In this book, Keller tackles head on the issue of Christians' responsibility to care for the poor and needy in society.  Throughout the text, he links the gospel itself to our treatment of the poor.  In the final sentence of the book Keller writes, "A life poured out in doing justice for the poor is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith."

Keller does an nice job of showing God's care for the poor throughout the entire bible.  He points to elements of the OT law that instructed Israel to care for the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners.  Ruth's gleaning at the edges of the field is an excellent example of this.  Keller also speaks of various examples within the life of the NT church that show care for the poor both within and outside the community of faith.

One of Keller's primary points in Generous Justice is that when we care for the poor we are not showing charity. Rather, we are giving them justice. God expects His people to care for the poor by taking care of their needs. This is not an option for us but rather an issue of obedience.

Keller shows that we must both tangibly care for the needs of the poor and also share the gospel message with them.  We make a serious mistake if we ignore either of these two forms of service.

I appreciate the simple organization of this book.  First, Keller addresses what justice is.  Second, he shows multiple biblical examples of this justice. Third, he spends a chapter on the "Good Samaritan," making the case that everyone should receive justice.  Fourth, Keller discusses why we should do justice.  Fifth, he talks about how we can do this (providing both nuts-and-bolts ideas and practical examples).  Keller concludes by writing about the connection between peace, beauty, and justice.

This is a convicting book.  I'm glad I read it, but at the same time it makes me uncomfortable.  In my life I've tended to buy in to the conservative political idea that poor people somehow deserve to be poor because they haven't worked hard enough, etc.  Keller does an excellent job of showing how any modern political ideology falls short of the biblical standards for treatment of those in need.

I'm thankful to Keller for helping open my eyes to biblical passages that I have sort of glanced at but basically ignored in the past.  If I'm really going to live according to scripture, then I have a duty to give justice to the poor and needy by seeking to meet their needs.  I'm not sure what form this will take, but I feel like I'm at least beginning to see.


Dakota Brown said...

I think another thing to keep in mind is the idea that serving someone doesn't make you a better person. For me, whenever I've handed a homeless individual a few bucks and talked to them about life, I have felt as if I were doing them a favor, therefor, elevating myself to some higher position of righteousness. This mindset is a falsity that I tend to fall into and is something that God is working on in my life. Service is nothing more than service =)

Eric said...


Thanks for that reminder. What an easy trap pride is for us to all fall into. We almost all tend to think too highly of ourselves and too lowly of others.

One thing for us all to try to remember is that what we have really belongs to God. If it's His, then for us to give it away shouldn't bring pride. If we view our money/possessions as our own, then when we give these things away pride is the natural response.

How evil pride is.

Thanks again.

Toyin O. said...

freely we have received, freely we should give. Thanks for sharing:)

Eric said...


You pretty much summed up the whole book with what you wrote.