Welcome to the Book Journey of Generous Justice by Timothy Keller.
Have you read the book review and schedule for this book journey? If not, you can find it here.
Chapter Three – What did Jesus Say About Justice?
“But That’s the Old Testament!”
The opening chapters of Generous Justice showed us the depth of God’s heart for the poor, the vulnerable, and the disadvantaged in the Old Testament. Chapter Three, then, begins with the affirmation that Jesus has not in any way moved away from this Old Testament theme in the New Testament; in fact, Keller says, “While clearly Jesus was preaching good news to all, he showed throughout his ministry the particular interest in the poor and the downtrodden that God has always had.”
- Jesus routinely associated with the social outcasts and those on the fringe of community – living with, eating with, and spending time with the poor. (Matthew 9:13) Jesus also hung out with the tax collectors, who were wealthy, yet despised and rejected by society. Interestingly, another despised group – the shepherds – were the first to witness Jesus’ birth.
- Jesus brought the son of the poor widow back to life. (Luke 7:11-16)
- Jesus offered respect and grace to the immoral, socially ostracized woman (Luke 7:47-50)
- Jesus spoke to women in public, showing His refusal to go along with society’s sexism. (John 4:27) Further, He appeared first to a woman, Mary Magdalene, following His resurrection.
- Jesus chose a Samaritan, although the target of the day’s racism, to be featured in one of His most well-known parables. (Luke 10)
- Jesus tore down the hierarchy and partiality of His time, stating that God loved the Gentiles (like the widow of Zaraphath and Naaman the Syrian) as much as the Jews in Luke 4:25-27.
- Jesus loved children. And, He loved them openly, publicly, and despite the disciples disapproval. (Luke 18:15)
- Jesus reached out and touched lepers, not just healing them but showing them love and respect. (Mark 1:41; Luke 5:13)
- Jesus defended the poor widow in the amount of her offering. (Mark 12:42-43)
- Jesus’ mother said that He would “fill the hungry” but send away the rich empty. (Luke 1:53)
Give without expecting repayment
When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.. Luke 14:12-13
Why does Jesus say this? Clearly, Jesus enjoyed spending time with friends and eating with them, so the entire directive can not be taken as an instruction to stay away from friends and family. In truth, it is an intentional critique and contradiction of the patronage system of that day as well as ours. Under this system, entertainment and dinners were ways to maintain and cultivate relationships for the development of one’s business and/or social standing. For this reason, it seemed ludicrous at best for Jesus to suggest that the guests would be individuals who had no potential for profit to the host. Thus, Keller applies Jesus’ teaching to a modern context, writing that”he is saying that we should spend far more of our money and wealth on the poor than we do on our own entertainment, or on vacations, or on eating out and socializing with important peers.”
Chapter Four – Justice and Your Neighbor
Who Is My Neighbor?
Jesus is challenged with a question in Luke 10:25. The Jewish lawyer asks about the specifics on inheriting eternal life, but his real intention was to trick Jesus into refuting the necessity of full obedience God’s Word:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29
The Good Samaritan
Jesus responds with a beautiful parable about the Good Samaritan, a convicting description of who exactly is the man’s (and our) neighbor.
Some interesting points of this parable:
- Jews and Samaritans were enemies, and the lawyer asking the question was a Jew. The fact that Jesus chose a Samaritan to be the hero in His story certainly did not go unnoticed.
- The Good Samaritan “braved the danger by stopping, giving him medical aid, and then transporting him to an inn,” said Keller.
- The Good Samaritan went on to give additional money to the innkeeper in order to cover any expenses that may occur while the Jew recovered there.
- In effect, the Good Samaritan sacrificed in order to love this Jew. He sacrificed safety, finances, time, energy, social standing, comfort, and more.
- Through this depiction, Jesus effectively responds to the question of “who is my neighbor?” and disproves the assumption that one’s neighbor would be limited to those “like us” in terms of social class, race, etc.
Keller says, “By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need – regardless of race, politics, class, and religion – is your neighbor. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbor, and you must love your neighbor.”
The Great Samaritan
In this final section, I will simply quote the excellent words here from Keller:
According to the Bible, we are all like that man, dying in the road. Spiritually, we are ‘dead in our trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:5). But when Jesus came into our dangerous world, he came down our road. And through we had been his enemies, he was moved with compassion by our plight (Romans 5:10). He came to us and saved us, not merely at the risk of his life, as in the case of the Samaritan, but at the cost of his life. On the cross he paid a debt we could never have paid ourselves.Jesus is the Great Samaritan to whom the Good Samaritan points. @timkellernyc #GenerousJustice Click To Tweet
Before you can give this neighbor-love, you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously by someone who owes you the opposite will you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need. Once we receive this ultimate, radical neighbor-love through Jesus, we can start to be the neighbors that the Bible calls us to be. -Timothy Keller, Generous Justice
Your thoughts? Feel free to discuss these questions or bring up any other comments you may have as you read these summaries (and especially if you are reading the book). You can leave comments here or on the Front Porch Inspired Facebook page.
Remember, quotes from the book are posted daily on the Facebook page. And, the summary and discussion questions for chapters 5 and 6 will be posted next Friday, February 27.