Giving & The Gospel
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." â€?I John 3:17-18
I relish this time of year, but I have to admit . . . I have this dreaded love/hate relationship with the CHRISTmas holidays. On one hand, I welcome time spent with my family decorating our home and catching up with friends & loved ones at holiday gatherings. On the other hand, I loathe the manner in which contemporary trends continue to de-emphasize the healthy tension between financial responsibility and consumerism. Globally, we're in one of the worst economic downturns in decades, and some people seem to be in a race to see who can incur the most debt before the end of the year! Lord, help us . . .
Another of my pet peeves which becomes increasingly more visible during this festive time of year is when works-based faith gets mistaken for the Gospel. There is no doubt whatsoever about the clear Biblical injunctions that impose a social responsibility upon the Christian, and especially a concern for the poor and underprivileged (see James 2:14-16). It is not an option that we may avoid at our choice; it is a necessary part of our practical Christian fiber. Social justice, although often synonymous with the Gospel, is NOT
Those who make the Gospel of Jesus only about helping the poor, fighting injustices, or caring for the needy miss a very crucial truth: good works are NOT
required (see Galatians 2:16). They are the signature by-products of missional living. Our faith is not dependent upon good works; instead our faith leads to good works. The purpose of living as a Christian is to live authentically as Christ's disciples in every way. Hence, acts of social justice should flow naturally out of how we already live. Man's primary need is to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ (see Romans 5:1), and only in this way will the root cause of social injustices be effectively dealt with.
Social justice actually takes place more credibly when we insist that the Gospel is about personal salvation through believing in the death of Jesus to atone for our sins. If feeding the hungry or loving on society's outcasts gives us a platform to share the truth of Christ's sacrificial death, may God continue to grant those opportunities. But again, we need to be very clear in that no one will be granted a heavenly pass because he/she was a good person who did good things (see Titus 3:5). Being a good person is not what God requires. Furthermore, the Bible identifies people as perfect or imperfect, not good or bad. Because none of us could ever reach perfection on our own, God gave His only begotten Son that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (see John 3:16).
If you're in position to put money in those red Salvation Army kettles or purchase gifts for the less fortunate, do it cheerfully! But know that the true proof of the Gospel is a life that has been restored, not just temporarily assisted. Social justice built upon a healthy grasp of eternal security in Christ allows you to exhibit servitude that doesn't feel forced, nor does it feel like an imposition on others; it flows from the core of who you are. When Jesus has first worked in us, He can then work through us. For Christians, that's the proper order.
"Life with Christ is an endless hope, without Him a hopeless end." â€”AnonymousNOTE: Devotionals will resume the week of January 5th, as we will take time off to enjoy family & friends during the CHRISTmas & New Year's Holidays.
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