Preaching this weekend on Nehemiah 5, where our man Nehemiah stops the oppression of the poor and demonstrates a more generous way of life, elevating communal responsibilities over individual rights.
In the message I’ll talk a little about how charity is different from justice.
- Charity builds a homeless shelter, justice asks why these people have no homes.
- Charity gives food to the hungry, justice examines why these people have no food.
- Charity mops up the mess, justice wonders who made the mess and how we can avoid messes in the future
- Charity deals with the symptoms, justice goes for the root issues.
There’s a famous statement, you may have heard it:
“Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”
Which would be true if there were no such thing as injustice. But justice finds it necessary to ask a further questions, such as:
"Who owns the pond?"
"Who polluted the pond?"
"Why aren’t there any more fish in this pond?”
And justice demands we ask these kinds of questions, because our world is more and more interconnected. The new clothing factory miles away can pollute the drinking water for thousands. Wars are started and maintained because of high-demand exports to the Western world, etc etc.
The justice question was one that Nehemiah found it necessary to ask. He didn’t just give the poor a little more food, he figured out why they were poor, and he confronted the forces of greed and exploitation that were oppressing them. It seems to me that God consistently sides with the weak and vulnerable, and asks the same of us. There are actually some fairly amazing promises for those who do (in Isaiah 58 for example).