The Gospel Brings Social Justice
There are many folks who think of the Gospel as merely a religious construct. In the past, I’ve taught that the Gospel has both governmental (change of citizenship) and biological (change of DNA) implications. Today, I want to take it in a different direction — that the Gospel is the greatest catalyst of social change. It works wherever it’s applied.
Here’s the deal — that in order for the Gospel to be THE GOSPEL (too-good-to-be-true-news), it has to be good news for all who hear it or it is merely another historical footnote.
First to level-set. Even under the Old Covenant, there were provisions for the poor and the oppressed.
- “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.” Exodus 23:6
- “During the seventh year, let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.” Exodus 23:11
- “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:10
- “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Leviticus 19:15
- ? “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 23:22
- “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold. . . . If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. . . . If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave.” Leviticus 25:25, 35, 39
- He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10:18
- “At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied.” Deuteronomy 14:28-29
- “However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.” Deuteronomy 15:4
- “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.” Deuteronomy 15:7
- “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11
- “Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.” Deuteronomy 24:17
- “‘Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.’ Then all the people shall say, Amen!'” Deuteronomy 27:19
- “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” 1 Samuel 2:8
- “When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up and kills the poor and needy; in the night he steals forth like a thief.” Job 24:14
- “because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist him.” Job 29:12
- “Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?” Job 30:25
- “If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary.” Job 31:16
- “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9
- “But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.” Psalm 9:18
- ” Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise, says the LORD, I will protect them from those who malign them. ” Psalm 12:5
- “You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge.” Psalm 14:6
- “This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” Psalm 34:6
- “My whole being will exclaim, Who is like you, 0 LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.'” Psalm 35:10
- “The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.” Psalm 37:14
- “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” Psalm 40:17
- “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5
- “Your people settled in it, and from your bounty, 0 God, you provided for the poor.” Psalm 68:10
- “The poor will see and be glad — you who seek God, may your hearts live! The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.” Psalm 69:32-33
- “Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD , do not delay.” Psalm 70:5
- “He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.” Psalm 72:4
- “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.” Psalm 72:12-13
- “Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name.” Psalm 74:21
- “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4
- “But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks.” Psalm 107:41
- “For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him.” Psalm 109:31
- “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor.” Psalm 112:9
- “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;” Psalm 113:7
- “I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food.” Psalm 132:15
- “I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” Psalm 140:12
- “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free” Psalm 146:7
- “The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” Psalm 146:9
- “I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” Proverbs 13:23
- “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21
- “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31
- “The LORD tears down the proud man’s house but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.” Proverbs 15:25
- “Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.” Proverbs 16:19
- “He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 17:5
- “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” Proverbs 19:17
- “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13
- “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9
- “He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich — both come to poverty.” Proverbs 22:16
- “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court.” Proverbs 22:22
- “A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.” Proverbs 28:3
- “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.” Proverbs 28:27
- “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” Proverbs 29:7
- “those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth, the needy from among mankind.” Proverbs 30:14
- “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:9
- “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” Proverbs 31:20
- “If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.” Ecclesiastes 5:8
- “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17
- “The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?’ declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah 3:14-15
- “to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” Isaiah 10:2
- “With righteousness he will judge the needy; with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.” Isaiah 11:4
- “The poorest of the poor will find pasture, and the needy will lie down in safety. But your root I will destroy by famine; it will slay your survivors.” Isaiah 14:30
- “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall.” Isaiah 25:4
- “Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD ; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 29:19
- “The scoundrel’s methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just.” Isaiah 32:7
- “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.” Isaiah 41:17
- “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6-7
- “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10
- “The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1
- “On your clothes men find the lifeblood of the innocent poor, though you did not catch them breaking in. Yet in spite of all this you say I am innocent.'” Jeremiah 2:34
- “I thought, These are only the poor; they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God.'” Jeremiah 5:4
- “(They) have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor.” Jeremiah 5:28
- “if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,” Jeremiah 7:6
- “This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:3
- “‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 22:16
- “Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” Jeremiah 20:13
- “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Ezekiel 16:49
- “He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.” Ezekiel 18:7
- “The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.” Ezekiel 22:29
- “This is what the LORD says: For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name.'” Amos 2:6-7
- “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, Bring us some drinks!'” Amos 4:1
- “Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land.” Amos 8:4
- “Buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.” Amos 8:6
- “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” Zechariah 7:10
- ” So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Malachi 3:5
Now, if there are so many passages of Scripture in the Old Covenant concerning the poor and the oppressed, how much more is there under the New Covenant?
Check it out:
Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV Strong’s) 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
And then, there’s this:
John 13:34-35 (ESV Strong’s) 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Just like there were commandments in the Old Covenant, this “new command” fulfills all the commands of the Old Covenant just as the New Covenant satisfies the requirements of the Old Covenant.
Fire from heaven.
Unfortunately, there are many people who would like to call down fire from heaven as Elijah did. They do this thinking they are preserving religious piety but they are really possessed with a terrorist spirit. James and John understood the power they were connected to and what it enabled them to do. Jesus, however, corrected them because their spirits were inconsistent with God’s will.
Luke 9:51-56 (KJV) 51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
Bread to dogs
Many people who call themselves “Christian” often have problems with people who neither look nor believe like them. As a result, the love of God grows cold in them. God is not concerned about how we act; He’s concerned with how we believe. Because how we believe will dictate not only how we behave but how we treat others.
Matthew 15:21-28 (ESV) 1 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Faith of a centurion
Many times, great faith is manifest in the hearts of those who don’t know the God who gave them that faith. Romans 12:3 tells us that every man has been dealt the measure of faith – so even when no faith seems to be present or faith manifests from an unbeliever, faith is both available and present.
Luke 7:1-10 (ESV) After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.
The Good Samaritan
The Gospels give a couple of accounts where Samaritans were used to illustrate a point. This is very interesting because the Samaritans were people of Hebrew descent who observed neither the laws nor the traditions of the Jews. They were the “dregs of society” and outcasts. But Jesus used a Samaritan as the hero of one of His most pointed parables. This was Jesus’ way of dealing with racial and social oppression.
Luke 10:25-37 (ESV) 25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 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.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Father forgive them
Love sacrifices its own desire! Do you think Jesus — the man — wanted to love and forgive those who cursed Him, spit on Him, mocked Him, beat Him, and crucified Him? Love doesn’t always love because of; sometimes love loves in spite of!
Luke 23:34 (ESV) And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
Man at the Pool of Bethesda
When the man at the Pool of Bethesda said he had no one to put him in the water when it was “troubled,” Jesus could have chided him for his lack of initiative and his failure to get his healing. Instead, Jesus had compassion on him and healed him.
John 5:3-9 (ESV Strong’s) 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Jesus was all about giving people what they didn’t deserve. That is the very definition of Grace. Jesus was telling his disciples that there would be others who they may not see as deserving that would receive the benefit of His unconditional love and unlimited Grace.
John 10:16 (ESV) And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Now, for those who have a problem “giving people something they don’t deserve,” let me ask you this? Did you deserve salvation or did you deserve to be hung on the Cross? Did you deserve Grace or did you deserve Justice?
2017-2018 – Derrick Day (www.derrickday.com)