Tim Keller is beating me up again. I plowed into one of his books (Generous Justice) this past week, and I couldn’t escape the introduction before he pointed his finger my way: “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.” When you go through the Old Testament, for instance, you will find a plethora of laws designed to protect four groups of vulnerable people: the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner. We catch a glimpse therefore of what a reasonable just society could look like in a sinful world. But when it comes to social justice, many of us have our defenses ready, like “that’s the job of the government!” or “we can’t fix it all so why bother?” Catholic blogger Mary Anne Bressler lamented, “If I hear one more person take the phrase ‘the poor you will always have with you’ out of context (almost always as an excuse to avoid asking the hard questions about poverty) I may have to scream.” Why not compare that text with another, like Deuteronomy 15:4: “There should be no poor among you.” While our American government has a role to play in helping the poor, it’s obvious they can only do so much. The church has a responsibility which will determine your spot in the division of the sheep and goats (Mt. 25): “Inasmuch as you did it [fed the poor] to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” It’s not a political football to toss around; it’s a moral issue. If we want our community to care about our church, shouldn’t we first care about them?

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