Category Archives: redistribution

5 Reasons We Should Defend Undocumented Immigrants as Christians

First off, what I am NOT saying is that a complete open border policy is necessarily the best way to go nor that we should blindly defend those that intend harm (as it regards immigrants, actually, the opposite is true in comparison to native born folks).  Let us consider that if a stranger came to our home most of us would first want to make sure they are not there to harm anyone.  

But what I AM saying is that once we know their intent is not harm, if we are to be good neighbors, we ought to welcome them as we would want to be welcomed (as we work toward immigration and policy reform that reflects this spirit).  i would like to submit to you 5 reasons why we should seek to defend undocumented immigrants, especially if we call ourselves followers of Jesus. :

1) Jesus challenges us to welcome the stranger as we would welcome Him (Matthew 25:35)

There is a wealth of scriptures (from the law, from the narratives, from the writings, from the prophets, from the gospels, and even from the epistles) regarding the foreigner/immigrant that would make us think we ought to err on mercy over judgement.  Jesus’ very identity is intimately tied up with the foreigner that to reject the foreigner is to reject him.  the biggest, irony is that we ourselves were foreigners (unless you’re a Jew, which i’m assuming you’re not), enemies even, to God’s chosen people but were given the grace of being included in the family of God.  To be unmerciful to the foreigner is a deep hypocrisy we must keep in check as believers in Jesus (let alone as citizens of the U.S. with it’s troubling origins. R.C.W., W.H.*).  

2) Yes, we ought to submit to the government for they have been put in place by God. However, there is ONE case that trumps that verse, which is when the law of the land goes against the law of God who is the ultimate law giver.

In the case of our 45th president and his administration, they are going against God’s commands to defend the most vulnerable of our neighbors (Deuteronomy 24:14, Zechariah 7:10, Matthew 25:31-46) and instead are insulting them and enacting laws against them.

Please understand that by dissent, I do not mean violent resistance but rather civil protest.  The early church was not a stranger to civil disobedience, when it went against God’s conscience, as many were willingly arrested and even killed for their stances.  Let us not forget, the person who wrote that verse about submitting to the government, Paul the Apostle, was in PRISON when he wrote that very verse because he would not submit to the governing authorities to be silent about his faith.  Jesus himself confronted even the establishment of the temple (read church) authorities, over their corruption with money at the expense of making a way for the marginalized to worship, and he made quite a scene about it too (one of the few times in scripture where we see Jesus ANGRY is quite telling).  

3) Yes, people ought not cut in “line” to get in to the country but this is based on the assumption there is a “line” for those who are poor.

It seems from our current immigration policy (even before no. 45) this is not the case.  As of right now, the only ways you can enter the country to become a legal permanent resident (i.e. get a green card) are:

A) employment (i.e. You are invited in by an employer, most often does not apply to “unskilled” work of those who are poor.)

B) family (You have an immediate blood relative that is a citizen or permanent resident.  However, the sponsoring family member must demonstrate that they have the financial resources above the poverty line to support these family members coming in for which there is already a limit.  And even if this is approved the process can literally take decades, especially if you are from a poor country in which case waiting is particularly a luxury you cannot afford when your survival is on the line.  For more detail on what B might look like see this article by an immigration lawyer. S.W.P.*)

C) diversity lottery (Only applies if you are from a country that does not have very many immigrants in the U.S.  This leaves out many of our poor neighbors.)

D) refugee of persecution (Under the current administration these are being pushed to be more rarely granted and even before this administration there has been a HEAVY 20 step vetting procedure ALREADY in place.  Often refugee status is dependent on the type of relationship and interest the U.S. has with a given country and does not include fleeing from home country due to famine, natural disasters, or dire economic circumstances.)

For further and more comprehensive discussion on immigration policy I have found the book Welcoming the Stranger to be immensely helpful (written by two authors: Jenny Hwang, a director of advocacy and policy of the Refugee and Immigration Program of World Relief, AND Matthew Sorens, a Board of Immigration Appeals – accredited Immigration and Citizenship Legal Counselor at World Relief).   

4) The hands of the U.S are not clean regarding their role in these very countries, crisis, and conditions that gave rise to the need to emigrate.

Specifically regarding many of our neighboring Latin American brothers and sisters, the U.S. has been involved in the violence of supporting military juntas in civil wars to drug trafficking in these countries fueled by the U.S. demand for illegal drugs to the U.S. war on drugs that went into these countries (without supporting reconstruction efforts)  to exporting gang members into these countries ill equipped to handle them (K.C.*).  

Certainly, individual responsibility is important and even in terms of governmental responsibility the U.S. is not the only ones to bear that burden. But it is morally irresponsible of the U.S. to shift blame solely on the immigrant, especially onto the children and families fleeing the violence, when the U.S. has been complicit in contributing to these issues.  It is sobering to consider that one of the few clear instances in scripture of the case for a greater weight of sin is how it is heavier upon those in leadership.  It’s not going to be easy but if we have made such a bed we must work together to sleep in it.  

 

5) The unjustified and inhumane way the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are going after folks with NO criminal records.

According to a recent Washington post article covering raids that happened this past week, “The raids, which officials said targeted known criminals, also netted some immigrants who did not have criminal records, an apparent departure from similar enforcement waves during the Obama administration that aimed to just corral and deport those who had committed crimes.”  However, with some fact checking (thanks to Dr. Ji Son) it turns out that the actions of ICE were worse than we thought.  An analysis by the New York Times in 2014 revealed that since Obama became president, “two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.”  Although the intent of the previous administration may have been better, the devil was in the details of the local execution of these policies, with devastating (S.C.*) results.  

There is little to no due process (precisely because their status makes them vulnerable to exploitation, S.C.*) or concern for tearing them away from family to a different country (something we don’t even do to our worst criminal offenders).  Let alone, that what counts as “criminal” can change depending on jurisdiction area (S.C.*) and as such can include violations and misdemeanors (including traffic violations), and broad definitions of “aggravated felony” (which includes even “filing a false tax return”).

Let us examine any prejudice within our hearts toward the immigrant and rid ourselves of the unfounded fears and lies concerning the immigrant who contribute to our communities. We as Christians have a responsibility to stand up for the most vulnerable coming from the most vulnerable situations.  In addition to deep 2 Chronicles 7:14 prayers, here is one more way to defend the undocumented immigrant.  Jesus advocated for us when we were defenseless.  Let us be merciful as Christ has been merciful to us.  

*thank you to my friends over at the Progressive Asian American Christian group.  Although I may not agree with everything that is said in the group (as is hard to say with anyone in a group that large), you’ve provided significant insight and perspective into this issue that has been helpful.  

why was Jesus born into SUCH difficult circumstances (or when we’ve become too used to the Christmas story)?

i grew up in the church and have heard the Christmas story countless times.  i’ve seen plays and movies of it, heard retellings of it, read it, studied it, meditated on it.  as with many things we’re repeatedly exposed to, Jesus of the Christmas story can easily become someone we can feel familiar with and touch over without him getting to our heart.  on top of this, with the commercialization of Christmas there has been a sanitizing of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth that can be easy to miss.

given that, as the gospel accounts make clear, Jesus was the God of the universe in human flesh, here are just some of the elements in the accounts of the arrival of Jesus into our world that seem peculiar at best and, at times, downright troubling:

1. the era of his birth – Jesus is estimated to have been born around 6 to 4 AD.

why was he born in such a “backwards” time?  why not when there would be better medical innovation and technology for health care and life expectancy?  why not when there would be the internet to make wider announcement of his arrival?  why not a time when Israel was in a better place politically, not under roman control and occupation?

2. the mother he was born to – Jesus was born to a poor dark-skinned palestinian-jewish teenage girl.

why wasn’t Jesus born to a mom with more experience, education, credentials, and financial/social status?

3. the father that would raise him: Jesus’ earthly father was not his biological father and was a poor worker in construction.

especially, if men at this time were the main financial breadwinners of the home, why was Jesus born into such a poor family? why into a home where the family business was manual labor (maybe in our modern times carpenters make more money but we know the family was most likely poor because when these young parents take Jesus to the temple all they could offer were pigeons for sacrifice, an offering reserved for those who were too poor to offer a lamb. we also know that by the time of Jesus’ death his father has most likely already passed away as the care of his mother mary was given to the apostle john.  if this was the case, that means joseph had probably already passed by the age of 50…this was not an easy life.).

4. the timing of his birth: Jesus was conceived by Mary BEFORE she was married to the person she was engaged to…and impregnated by a different Father.

yes, the virgin birth was what was supposed to happen according to the prophecy but why couldn’t God have sent an angel to Joseph to explain the circumstance while they were getting married and Jesus have been conceived AFTER they were married? at the very least, if the timing of the virgin birth were pushed back a little later this could have saved all of them them A LOT of shame of such scandalous talk and rumors, especially in such traditional times and a deeply religious culture.  what would it have been like for mary whose child’s origins were continually second-guessed and her explanation sounded incredulous and awfully self-congratulating?  what would it have been like for joseph to see his firstborn son and raise him knowing that he wasn’t the true father?  what would it have been like for Jesus to grow up being ridiculed as a bastard child?

5. the place he was born – he was born in a food trough in a stable that was most likely a cave.

why was Jesus, literally, born in such a disgusting place?  ok, so his parents couldn’t afford better accommodations on their trip to Bethlehem, but seriously, why wasn’t the savior of the world born where humans lived instead of being born where animals lived?

6. the announcement of his birth to shepherds – shepherds worked with animals so they were unclean and unable to participate in the religious activities of the temple.

out of the all the groups of people the “heavenly host” of angels could have arrived to why did they arrive to uncouth, stinky, and solitary shepherds?  why make a religious announcement to religiously unclean folks?  unclean folks who worked with animals and not just any animals but probably some of the stupidest and most easily frightened animals?

the circumstance of his most critical early years – king herod, in his paranoia of rumors of another king being born, ordered the massacre of all jewish babies to the age of two, forcing Jesus family to flee to egypt then back to nazareth after the king had died.

why was Jesus born during the reign of such a notoriously jealous and violent king?  couldn’t Jesus birth been delayed until king herod died?  why were he and his parents forced to become refugees to another country?  then move back into a no good ghetto like nazareth to be raised?  why all this transition in the most critical years of a child’s development?

 

why was Jesus born into such difficult life circumstances?  certainly not circumstances befitting any king of this world.  i have some thoughts and potential answers to these questions for which there isn’t enough time.  however, at least one things has become clear to me – Jesus is not afraid to identify with and live in our suffering.  the God of the universe came into our most scandalous, disgusting, and unpresentable places.  he chose to be raised and be identified with the most marginalized of people.  when we are broken by the suffering in our world and in our very lives, let the nature of his arrival be a light of hope to us.  could it be that the manner of his arrival was this intentional in order to know our suffering?

this is our Jesus.  this is our God who is with us.

jesus-poverty

wealth: the other gospel

what a child wrote in response to the question "what is your wish for 2016" (found on a wish board at the kidspace museum in pasadena on new years eve day)
what a child wrote in response to the question “what is your wish for 2016” (found on a wish board at the kidspace museum in pasadena on new years eve day 2015)

 

i’ve been reading a book called the great chasm by derek engdahl and it has been hammering me with convictions that have kept me thinking.  on this the first day of the new year i believe it is a significant direction I want to continue to walk in.

the contents of this book, as i’ve told many people, captures what it has taken me nearly 12 years to learn (and counting).   it is a rare book (unfortunately) that brings together thorough biblical exposition with balanced real world application, especially to something so largely ignored from the pulpit.  i couldn’t commend it more wholeheartedly.

the book speaks of God’s heart for the most vulnerable in our society and the danger that wealth poses to disconnect us from the marginalized and His heart.

as a person that considers myself middle class, but actually in the top 4% of the world in terms of wealth (80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day), this is an uncomfortable topic.  yet, i must face it for that very reason. i’ve learned that having wealth, power, and/or status of any kind can blind you to it’s dangers.  i never considered myself wealthy until i got to know and have befriended people who are not wealthy (by wealth i mean having more than i need in terms of food, clothing, shelter).  those who “have” are not always aware that they have and are often not mindful of the “have nots.”  those that “have not” are keenly aware of their lack and of the others who “have.”

there is so much in the book that has struck me but i’d like to share one idea (from the fourth chapter) that still won’t let me go: wealth preaches a gospel contrary to Jesus.

engdahl reminds us that wealth (or “mammon”) is not neutral, but is personified by Jesus as setting itself up in opposition to God, hence in matthew 6:24 He says “you cannot serve God and money.”   The pursuit of wealth runs contrary to the gospel of grace.  gospel means good news. wealth promises to give us the “good news” of (earthly) life and security. Jesus promises to give us the “good news” of (eternal) life and security.  so who do we trust more in daily life?  the true gospel reveals itself in how it is obtained.  engdahl writes “At it’s core, Mammon, represents a meritorious worldview. It is opposed to grace because it is fundamentally about what can be earned and purchased.”  if my life and security is based upon what i can accomplish and earn that is not much security for me (worldly resources are limited and i fail).  if my life and security is based upon what God himself has accomplished and purchased that gives me a peace that can overflow (He is the limitless source of all life and He is able to keep His promises).

if we cannot serve both God and wealth can’t we at least have both, as long as I don’t “serve” wealth?

here, engdahl holds us again to the words of Christ by taking us back a couple more verses in that same section of matthew (v.19-21) and reflecting on it: “We deceive ourselves into believing we can have wealth as long as we do not put our trust in it. This is a great lie. What Jesus says is that if you have wealth you WILL put your trust in it: you will be enticed to serve it. You can store up treasure in heaven or on earth, and wherever that treasure is, THAT is where your heart will be.”

now, don’t get me wrong, no one is saying here that making wealth is a problem. it is what one does with it that reveals who serves whom. it is the keeping of wealth (putting our trust in it for security) rather than the giving of it (putting our trust in God for provision for us to bless others) that is an issue.

paraphrasing rankin wilborne, out of all the rivals that Jesus could have used to set up against God, He uses wealth. it is deadly precisely because we don’t think any of us have a problem with it.

let us choose this day (this year) whom we will serve.

to my dear asian american brothers and sisters (an open letter)

i am writing to you as a fellow asian american.  i am writing to you as a fellow believer in Jesus through whom i also believe we share a special bond and understanding.  

i’ve been meaning to write this letter for some time.  i know it is not common in our custom to address issues head on but i am compelled by the model of our prophets and our master, Jesus, to call things out in our community, in us, in me before we find it is too late.  i believe we as a people have developed a blind spot in our faith: we are ignoring Jesus in ignoring the least of these.  

yes, i know i am speaking in generalizations.  there are certainly exceptions.  there are those fellow asian american brothers and sisters who are suffering in poverty and isolation as perpetual foreigners in america.  there are those of our asian american brothers and sisters who are laying down their lives to love the least, the last, the lost.  however, please, let us not be so quick to make ourselves (myself included) the exception.  let us take the time to fully consider the ramifications that we as a race in america are the most educated and most wealthy of all.  and from the ones much has been given much will be required.

why, am i saying that we are ignoring Jesus? i’ve pretty much grown up in the asian american church and have been cared for so well by my family in Christ.  however, in the past four years through my study of scripture, I have become convinced, that loving those in need is ESSENTIAL to being a follower of Jesus and is a fruit of true salvation.  by those in need i don’t simply mean those within our family, friends, and race (who even non-believers know to love) who may periodically be in such a place but rather those beyond our family, friends, and race (the people we don’t consider our “neighbors”) who may persistently be in such a place.  sadly, this kind of love has not been the tenor of what i was taught from the pulpit or modeled in the lives of my asian american brothers and sisters in the fellowships that i’ve been a part of.  

what does loving those in need, those that are different from us, have to do with ignoring Jesus? there is a terrifying passage found in matthew 25:31-46 that captures much of what i am addressing.  Jesus says that we will be in for a rude awakening when we see Him on that day to discover that in ignoring the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner we have ignored Jesus.  He says “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”  so closely does Jesus identify with the least in society that to disregard them is tantamount to insulting Jesus himself.  

we, as asian americans, work so hard to not find ourselves in such situations of need (which is a great thing) that we get as far away as we can from those who still find themselves in such situations of need (which is NOT the mission of Jesus).  i believe we as asian american believers have been so careful not to commit sins of commission (doing bad) that we have fallen into the sins of omission (neglecting good).  Unfortunately, the consequence for such neglect is not just a slap in the face to Jesus, it is eternal damnation!  again, i must clarify that i don’t believe Jesus is saying we must do good works to be saved but rather that we are saved to do good works.  good works is not the root of our salvation but it is the fruit of our salvation.  if we claim to know Jesus, we must know the heart of Jesus.  

i am saying this just as much to myself as i share this with you.  

i am grieved.  

yet, i am hopeful.  i am amazed by the way our people care for our own families.  the sacrifices our parents make to see we are provided for.  i am a recipient of such love and hope to love my children in such a manner. I believe God has put that into our culture.  

but what if we obeyed Jesus and loved our neighbors in need like our own families?  what if we loved our neighbor’s children as we did our own?

then the kingdom of God has come upon us.  

let us not ignore the cries of the least of these.  let us not ignore Jesus.

how we silence the prophets today

back in the day no one wanted to hear what the prophets had to say. not much has changed to this day.

i’m not even talking about modern day prophets…i’m just talking about the same ol’ prophets’ we find in the bible.  i’m not even talking about nonbelievers not listening to the prophets…i’m talking about believers (since the prophets were talking to them anyway).  when was the last time you heard a message from the book of ezekiel, amos, or even malachi?

why don’t we want to listen to the prophets?  yeah, some of the things they say might be confusing.  but most of what they say is quite clear.  they tell us things that aren’t always soothing to our ears.  they point out the blind spots in our lives. they warn us of things to come if we continue the way we do.  they tell us the truth.  we should be suspect of people who only tell us what we want to hear and should pay attention to people who call us out on our junk.

so what are all the prophets basically saying?  Jesus summed it up when he said “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  the prophets were God’s mouthpiece that continually pointed us back to these two things (bc of our infidelity and our injustice).

growing up in the church, i heard a lot about the first commandment.  this is not at all to say that we’ve graduated from the first and greatest command to love Him with our whole being.  however, there was a marked absence of the fleshing out of the second commandment.  i learned we should be nice to our neighbors and that should be all good.  but upon a closer examination of the scriptures, “my neighbor” is not who i expected and how to love them was much more inconvenient than i realized.  my neighbors are the ones this world considers “the least” (those in need, those forgotten, those rejected).  to love them is costly.

Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish what the prophets had to say but to fulfill them.   yes, Jesus saved us by grace (or else we’d be screwed).  yes, we’re not saved BY good works, however we are saved TO DO good works.

to see if this new perspective i’ve been learning, of God’s concern for the marginalized, was not just my bias, last year i began to actually go through ALL the books of the prophets in the bible (16) to underline the passages concerning “the least of these.”

i’d like to compile and share them all here for reference, but most of all, in hopes that we will truly engage with God’s heart.  please feel free to let me know if i’m missing any (i’m sure i will).

ISAIAH

  • 1:17 = learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,  plead the widow’s cause.
  • 1:23 =Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves.  Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts.  They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them.
  • 3:14-15 = 14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15 What do you mean by crushing my people,  by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord God of hosts.
  • 10:1-3 = Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
    that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth?
  • 11:4 = but with righteousness he shall judge the poorand decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
  • 14:30 = And the firstborn of the poor will graze, and the needy lie down in safety; but I will kill your root with famine, and your remnant it will slay.
  • 14:32 = What will one answer the messengers of the nation? “The Lord has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.”
  • 16:3 =  “Give counsel;   grant justice; make your shade like night at the height of noon; shelter the outcasts do not reveal the fugitive;
  • 25:4 = For you have been a stronghold to the poora stronghold to 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 against a wall,
  • 29:19 = The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lordand the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
  • 32:6-7 = For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lordto leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right.
  • 35:5-6 = Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
  • 41:17 = When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
  • 42:7 = to open the eyes that are blindto bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
  • 56:3, 8 = Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,  “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”The Lord Godwho gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”
  • 57:15 = For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spiritto revive the spirit of the lowlyand to revive the heart of the contrite.
  • 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? Is it 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?
  • 58:10 = if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflictedthen shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
  • 61:1-2 = The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenheartedto proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are boundto proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
  • 66:2 = All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LordBut this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

JEREMIAH

  • 2:34-35 = 34 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless pooryou did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things 35 you say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’ Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’
  • 5:27-29 = 27 Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; 28  they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. 29 Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord,
  • 7:5-7 = “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm,then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
  • 22:3 = Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
  • 22:13, 15-16 = 13 “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages…15 Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness?  Then it was well with him. 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the Lord.
  • 34:14 = ‘At the end of seven years each of you must set free the fellow Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years; you must set him free from your service.’ But your fathers did not listen to me or incline their ears to me.
  • 49:11 = Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in me.”

LAMENTATION

  • 2:19 = “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children,
    who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”*

*why was this happening?

  • 4:13 = This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous.**

**sins of the people are seen throughout prophets.  see in particular Ezekiel 18:5-9 (for definition of a righteous person: taking care of the needy is one of the key points)

EZEKIEL

  • 16:47-49 = 47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
  • 18:5-9 (definition of someone who is righteous) = “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, 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 keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.
  • 18:12-13, 16-17 = 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself…16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity,takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live.
  • 22:29-30 = 29 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.
  • 34:3-4 = You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

DANIEL

  • 4:27 = Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

HOSEA

  • 12:6-9 =

    “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, he loves to oppressEphraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.” I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed feast.

  • 14:3 = Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.”

JOEL

  • 3:2-3 = I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.

AMOS

  • 2:6-7 = Thus says the Lord“For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicteda man and his father go in to the same girlso that my holy name is profaned;
  • 3:9-10 = Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria, and see the great tumults within her, and the oppressed in her midst.” 10 “They do not know how to do right,” declares the Lord, “those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”
  • 4:1 = “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’
  • 5:11-15 = 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,  for it is an evil time.

    14 Seek good, and not evil,  that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. 15 Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

OBADIAH

  • 1:3, 5-6 = The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”…If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night— how you have been destroyed— would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleaningsHow Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out!*

*gleanings were the leftover crops that God commanded his people to leave for the poor

  • 1:10-11, 15 = 10 Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. 11 On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them…15 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.

JONAH

  • 4:11 =  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”*

*In the book of Nahum the prophet you will see some of the sins for which Ninevah was judged

MICAH

  • 2:1-2 = Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.
  • 6:8 = He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindnessand to walk humbly with your God?*

*biblical justice often goes hand in hand with the needy being uplifted and the oppressor being brought low

  • 6:11-12 = 11 Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights12 Your rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.**

** wicked scales and deceitful weights assumes that someone is profiting by taking advantage of another

NAHUM

  • 2:2 = For the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob as the majesty of Israel, for plunderers have plundered them and ruined their branches.

*Ninevah as plunderers (those who get rich at the expense of the destruction of others)

  • 3:1 = Woe to the bloody city,  all full of lies and plunder— no end to the prey!

HABAKKUK

  • 2:6-8 = Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own— for how long?—  and loads himself with pledges!” Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.
  • 2:9-11 = “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! 10 You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples;  you have forfeited your life. 11 For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.

ZEPHANIAH 

  • 2:3 = Seek the Lord, all you humble of the landwho do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord.
  • 3:1 = Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city!*

*oppressing assumes the oppressed

  • 3:12 = But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowlyThey shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord,
  • 3:19 = Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcastand I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

HAGGAI

  • 1:4 = “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
  • 1:9 = You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.

ZECHARIAH

  • 7:9-12 = “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts.

MALACHI

  • 3:5 = “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

what does it really mean to use your resources wisely?

maybe you’ve heard something like this before: “i want to give, but i want to make sure i give wisely.”  so what do we actually mean by that?  what does it look like to live and give of our resources wisely?  i’ve been exploring questions like this, especially brought to a head with the book that i read called toxic charity.  yet, something didn’t quite sit right with the answers i was given.

then, in the GUTS training that im currently in the midst of, we studied this passage about the “shrewd manager” (Luke 16:1-13) that has always puzzled me.   at first glance it seems that Jesus is essentially praising this really shady character who rips off his master through some underhanded dealings.  the interpretations that i’ve had before were fuzzy ideas along the lines of Jesus is telling us not to be dishonest but to be shrewd like people of the world.  now this is essentially true but what Jesus meant by being “shrewd” was still largely unclear to me.  it seems most people that i’ve come across use shrewdness or wisdom with money/resources to mainly mean not to waste it or to find better ways to amass it.  upon my study of this passage i actually found the opposite to be true!  let me explain.

Jesus is not uplifting some value of dishonesty as Jesus is clear to call the manager (v.9) as well as wealth of this world (v.9, 10, & 11) “unrighteous”  (that is the actual greek word used in every instance that is sometimes translated as “dishonest”).  what then did the manager do that was so shrewd or praiseworthy?  the heart of what the manager did was to use the resources at his disposal  (which actually belonged to his rich master) not to save wealth for himself but to use it for relational leverage.   in verse 9 Jesus elaborates an application of the manager’s wisdom in saying to “make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous wealth.”   Jesus expresses that money/resources are not in end itself (and thus foolish to amass since it “fails”) but a means to exercise faithfulness.   and who are these people in the story that the manager made “friends” with?  it was people who did not have the means to pay the debts they owed…and if we look in the next parable Jesus tells in the same breath (v.19-31) the one in eternal dwellings is the one who scarcely has any material resources in this world.  those who are “devoted” to wealth (in v. 13 the word means to “cling to” or “hold back”) end up losing out on the “true riches” (v.11) for eternity.

here in the philipines portion of GUTS training i made a friend named Jio.  the mother of his child left him and he’s now living in a one room house with one bathroom with only a curtain as separation for himself, his daughter, his aging mother, and four other children belonging to his siblings.  he does not have much to offer in terms of a dwelling.  he hasn’t been going to church recently and so some of us decided to go over and invite him out to eat.  he said he didn’t have money to come with us.  so we offered to treat him and his daughter.  it was a blessed time we had together to reconnect.  it was a joy to give and i wish i gave more.  i believe Jio will one day welcome me into eternal dwellings.

View from roof of BBCF church in Botocan.
View from roof of BBCF church in Botocan.