Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller. Viking. 256 pages. 2010
I’ve gone through this book twice, once as an audiobook and once as a participant in a book club. Though written in 2010, the book is perhaps even more relevant now than it was when first published.
Keller tells us that the book is both for believers who find the Bible a trustworthy guide, and for those who wonder if Christianity is a positive influence in the world. He also wants to challenge those who do not believe in Christianity to see the Bible not as a repressive text, but as the basis for the modern understanding of human rights.
Keller begins each chapter with a call to justice taken directly from the Bible to show how those words can become the foundation of a just, generous human community. His aim is to introduce many to a new way of thinking about the Bible, justice, and grace.
Keller writes that our society is deeply divided over the very definition of justice. It is not only Bible-believing people who care about justice or are willing to sacrifice in order to bring it about. Nearly everyone thinks they are on justice’s side. He writes that no current political framework can fully convey the comprehensive Biblical vision of justice, and that Christians should never identify too closely with a particular political party or philosophy.
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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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Keller tells us that doing justice is an important part of living the Christian life in the world. No heart that loves Christ can be cold to the vulnerable and the needy. Anyone who has truly been touched by the grace of God will be vigorous in helping the poor. Keller tells us that there is a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace, and his or her heart for justice and the poor.
Keller looks at this topic from many perspectives, including the Old Testament and the concept of leaving the gleanings of the harvest for the poor, Jesus, Paul, James, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and more. Among the topics addressed in the book are poverty, pursuing justice as an individual and as a church, partnering with non-believers, meeting the needs of your neighbor, motivations for doing justice, racism, social reform and loving people in word and deed.
You may not agree with everything in this book, and that’s OK. Keller has been accused of being too conservative by liberals and too liberal by conservatives. What is important is to thoughtfully engage in what he has to say on this important topic.
Below are 15 of my favorite quotes from the book:
- God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to “do justice.”
- If God’s character includes a zeal for justice that leads him to have the tenderest love and closest involvement with the socially weak, then what should God’s people be like? They must be people who are likewise passionately concerned for the weak and vulnerable.
- We must have a strong concern for the poor, but there is more to the Biblical idea of justice than that.
- We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs, but generosity and social concern, especially toward the poor and vulnerable. This kind of life reflects the character of God. It consists of a broad range of activities, from simple fair and honest dealings with people in daily life, to regular, radically generous giving of your time and resources, to activism that seeks to end particular forms of injustice, violence, and oppression.
- It is clearly God’s will that all societies reflect his concern for justice for the weak and vulnerable.
- One of the main reasons we cannot fit the Bible’s approach into a liberal or conservative economic model is the Scripture’s highly nuanced understanding of the causes of poverty.
- Poverty is seen in the Bible as a very complex phenomenon. Several factors are usually intertwined. The three causes of poverty, according to the Bible, are oppression, calamity, and personal moral failure.
- The churches of America are often more controlled by the surrounding political culture than by the spirit of Jesus and the prophets. Conservative churches tend to concentrate on one set of sins, while liberal ones concentrate on another set.
- The Bible is clear that Christians’ practical love, their generous justice, is not to be confined to only those who believe as we do.
- Helping “all people” is not optional, it is a command.
- Do you love God with every fiber of your being every minute of the day? Do you meet the needs of your neighbor with all the joy, energy, and fastidiousness with which you meet your own needs? That is the kind of life you owe your God and your fellow human beings.
- 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.
- The Bible gives believers two basic motivations—joyful awe before the goodness of God’s creation, and the experience of God’s grace in redemption.
- We must treasure each and every human being as a way of showing due respect for the majesty of their owner and Creator.
- The image of God is the first great motivation for living lives of generous justice, serving the needs and guarding the rights of those around us.
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 9: The Time of the Judges and the Days of the Monarchy. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- Reading the book of Judges is like having the insanity of sin rubbed in your face while God returns again and again with mercy, which was repeatedly forgotten.
- The essence of sin is minimizing God and making much of self. In other words, the essence of sin is pride.
- What shall we say, then, about the relationship between the glory of God’s name and the greatness of his mercies? We shall say that the mercies of God are designed to exalt the name of God.
- All the kingly dimensions of the incarnation of the Son of God as the Messiah were in the making when God ordained the establishment of the kingship in Israel.
- The ultimate purpose of the monarchy of Israel will be finally realized as Jesus sits on “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32–33) and reigns not only over a redeemed Israel but over a kingdom of worshipers from all nations (Rev. 5:10).