Generous Justice – A book review

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I can be pretty naughty when it comes to reading non-fiction books. Seriously. I tend to have at least 2 going at a time, and if I start reading a fiction book, the non-fiction ones have no hope of being read until the fiction one is done – despite being (usually) far more inspiring and challenging. So, I recently set myself a challenge of reading a non-fiction book all the way through without picking up a fiction one. I haven’t quite finished it yet and I did briefly pick up a fiction book, but the first two pages were so strange that I wasn’t easily captivated.

Thankfully I picked a book for my challenge that I am really enjoying reading – “Generous Justice” by Timothy Keller. I feel that God is using this book to grow both my understanding of how God’s grace to us in Jesus, makes us just in the way we live, and also to deepen my heart for justice, as I dream and imagine how I might help bring this into others’ lives.

Chapter 2 of the book is all about Old Testament laws of justice. I confess that my Old Testament knowledge is not great (though I’m working on it – currently read up to Genesis 23) and so I was amazed at the detailed rules and requirements God had for his people in order to ensure that “there should be no poor among you” (Deuteronomy 15:4-5).

The year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-55) is part of this – every 49th year, God’s laws required that all the land would return to the original landowners – so that if you had made decisions or calamity had come upon you, there was an approximately once in a lifetime second chance at life, without the baggage of past poverty. Keller doesn’t propose a return to the year of Jubilee (my mind wandered there though, trust me!) although there is much we can learn from this idea – of somehow breaking the cycles of poverty which are so present in many communities in Australia and overseas.

I also had a ‘lightbulb’ moment reading through an examination of Jesus sermon on the mount. Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). I have never thought deeply about this statement, and I have never really understood it either. Most scholars believe that God’s blessing and salvation come to those who acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy(p.101). I had a debt because of my sin, I can’t do anything to repay it or redeem myself but God’s generous gift of grace in sending Jesus  is the only thing that saved me.

As a person who has received God’s grace can I look at a woman who is deep in debt and say “get yourself out of this mess.”  God didn’t do this to me. This is profoundly challenging for me. Where and to whom is God calling me to be generous?

Lots of the examples given in the book are about churches helping to transform poor communities in the US. As you may know I go to church in Redfern – a part of Sydney where the middle to upper class live across the road from the unemployed, the forgotten and the struggling in Department of Housing towers. There is huge spiritual need in Redfern for all of these people but there is also great physical needs – and this has been on my mind and heart a lot as I have read this book. I’m super encouraged that some of the guys from our church are running a Soup Kitchen a couple of nights a week to start to help meet some of the needs.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

I want to learn to live justly, to live generously and to keep growing in my understanding of what this means. I have much still to learn and that is really exciting to me. How will God’s grace make me just?

This may be only part 1 of my review of this book – if I get inspired to share more of what I have learned once I’m finished.

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