Sermon Title: Creation Care and Justice

Summary Notes

Scripture: Proverbs 3:18-20, 27-32; 11:10-11; 19:17; 29:7.

Looking at Wisdom in Proverbs.

A wise life cares about Justice.

Justice for the poor and caring.

Caring is too weak of a word. The Hebrew word, most deep and intimate and experiential word for knowledge. Old KJ -> Genesis: Adam knew his wife, Cain knew his wife. It’s the same word, knowledge so passionate and intimate it’s the same as sexuality – sexual intimacy that bring children.

You are not wise unless you are living an intensely passionate life committed to justice.

  1. Why
  2. What
  3. Who
  4. How

I. Why?

Shalom. The world was made in wisdom for shalom. Vs. 18 – Wisdom is a tree of life …

Blessed in English means so little. We see it as good or feel good. All her paths are peace, blessed. Blessed and peace are powerful words. But they don’t come across in our English language. Blessed “feel good” peace “calm”.

19,20

The wisdom of God is how he created the world Design, order. Ps 102 – Fabric. KEY concept to understand.

What is a fabric. Made of lots and lots of threads, but they don’t just lay there. Even close together. They have to be interwoven. Over, under around, etc. Thousands of times, then it’s a fabric strong and useful and beautiful; Creation is not just millions and billions of entities in it, he made them interdependent, knit together. Interdependence. This is shalom

Body – when young, you look good and feel good. Your body is webbed together and knit. It all fits together. All disease and injury, aging and death – is the breaking apart of all the parts that belong together. When you are sick, or injured … you are losing the experience of shalom. Physically.

Internal – conscience, emotions, reason – when these are all working together then you are experiencing inner shalom. You want something with your emotions but your conscience says no – things are unraveling … you are losing shalom. You experience inner conflict, anger, meaninglessness.

Social – Have you ever been in a neighborhood where everyone cared about everyone else? Where if you had a need, everyone was there for you. If you had to go the hospital, if you had financial needs, they were all there for you. Just living in a neighborhood does not mean you are interwoven. Like the strands in close proximity. When a neighborhood is interwoven there is shalom. Family is strong, community is strong. But if you break these down you have crime, war, etc. God made the world for Shalom.

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets called shalom.  We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies.  In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and s the creatures in whom he delights.  Shalom, in other words, is the way things out to be.”  

Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 10, emphasis his.

Human wisdom, this is discerning this Divine wisdom and order in the world. The interwovenness and acting accordingly. A wise person tells the truth. When you lie, you unravel the fabric. You withhold information that is needed by others. When you tell the truth you are weaving.

Generous with money? Not 99.9% on self. You give away 20-30% to others. A community of people who do that are interwoven, and there is shalom.

In other words, why don’t they lie or be stingy with their money? Because to do so is not just immoral, it’s stupid the opposite of wise. You are destroying the fabric of the world you live in.

Justice is putting it back. Weaving it back again where it has unraveled.

The reason we need justice is because the world was built for shalom. But it’s unraveling everywhere. Work of justice, physically, spiritually, emotionally … go to those places where it’s unraveling. You, you go and invest your time, money, talents. That puts them back into the fabric!

Challenge: In NY – a lot of people who say they are not sure they believe in Christianity. If God did not make the world in wisdom. Then there is no basis for calling for justice, or defining it even. If the world was an accident, then how can you talk about the way the world ought to be. Nature is crooked, something is wrong with it, but if nature is all there is, then how can that be?

Quote from Letter from a Birmingham Jail 16 April 1963 Dr. King, Jr.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Dr. King

Full letter here.

Nieche: “If there is no God, everything is permitted”

II. What is justice?

Chapter 3. Verses before, we are told world is made for Shalom, interwovenness.

Then application – because the world was made for this, do not withhold good from those that deserve it when it is in your power.

This is VERY sweeping.

You must not withhold good. It means more than be nice. Give money, tools, etc. Don’t withhold whatever is needed. An elderly woman who cannot clean her house, neighbors who cannot afford decent housing. If you have the goods, the power, if you have more than they do. You responsibility is to not withhold, but beyond that, you are to insert yourself and weave your life in with theirs.

Justice is more than just court to rectify. It’s more than just the legal aspects, the equity, civic justice, etc. Shalom – justice is broader than that. We must be more than a thread next to other threads. In proximity. When we see people falling out of the fabric without the goods, falling out of social fabric. Told to fend for themselves and they don’t have the power or money to do it. It’s our responsibility to put our lives in with theirs. We are thread to ourselves into their lives. Our lives, times, money with the lives of people. Yes we are busy, tired, etc. But this is our calling.

This responsibility is huge.

Do not withhold good from your neighbor for they deserve it.

They are “deserving -> anyone you live near -> It means owner. Your neighbor owns your goods!

If you have things your neighbor does not have, give them because you owe them. He has as much claim to yours as you do.

Wait! What about private property? Do not steal, yes, that’s true. It’s not that we don’t have private property, it’s the heart and attitude.

For example. A child raised in a neighborhood without any the opportunities and environment that others have. A crime filled depressed area. They have no skills. No literacy skills, their economic future is not good. This is because they have no marketable skills, and no way to get it. They often turn to gangs to feel included and crime to have what they need and want. Why? Why are these kids like this?

The Liberal side says: Socially unjust structure is a fault.

The Conservative side says: It’s the breakdown of family.

Notice that no one blames the kid. Why?

Because they were born there. That’s why. They had no choice, no say. My own kids have 100-200 times more opportunity for success than these kids do. Simply because they were not born in a third world country, or into a neighborhood as described.

The Shalom of the world is unraveling.

If you happen to have been born into a good situation – it’s injustice not to share what you have.

III. Who?

Chapter 11

When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;    when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.
 
Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,    but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.

The righteous – Prospered means risen to the top. They have wealth and influence. But the rest of the city does not envy it. They rejoice! Never used anywhere else in the word except one time and there it means to celebrate a military victory. Exalt. There is a group of people of such character when they get to the top, everyone exalts. They feel it’s a victory for them all. Who are these people?

These are the righteous. “Tzadik” We don’t have a English version of the hebrew word for Justice that is a good description.

Tzadik (Hebrew: צַדִּיק‎ [tsaˈdik], "righteous [one]", also zadik, ṣaddîq or sadiq; pl. tzadikim [tsadiˈkim] צדיקים‎ ṣadiqim) is a title in Judaism given to people considered righteous, such as biblical figures and later spiritual masters.

Hebrew Lexicon – those who are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community.

Jeremiah 22:3 | “The righteous are those who are willing to disadvantage themselves to the advantage of their community; the wicked are those who are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.”

Bruce Waltke.

Are you the kind of person or family that everyone else looks at and says I don’t believe what they believe, but I shudder to think of our neighborhood without them. They press so much value into our community that I don’t know what we would do without them. Does anyone talk about you like that?

When we come to a city, like NY, do you come to plunder. Incorporate the coolness of the city into our image. You come to make it, right? Or do we come as the just. “I want to make this place a great place for everyone to live?”

The Righteous have two goals. First they want to prosper and climb to top. Second they want to do this in order to bring justice. To disadvantage themselves to advantage the city.

IV. How?

Don’t feel guilty? Don’t. Guilt is pressure on the outside without changing the inside. Guilt to do justice. That’s not going to do it!

You have to change from the inside.

By looking at the last verse.

17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will reward them for what they have done.

Prov. 19:17

Banks redline people in certain communities because they know they might not be able to pay the back the loan. They make it hard to get a loan for the residence of an entire community.

God is saying “don’t you dare redline anyone”.

A gift to the poor is a gift to the lord. And I will enrich you one way or the other.

Do you know people that you try and help and it never helps? They might suck you dry! Don’t redline. All you give to them, you are giving to God.

If you lend to the poor, you are lending to me.

If you insult the poor, you insult me.

If you honor the poor, you honor me.

God identifies with the poor. – Matt. 25 – judgment day; God will sit on a throne and we will all stand before him. I was hungry and thirsty and you did not feed me. You did not give me a home, heal me, etc. When did we see you and did not do these things? When you walk by those poor people in this life, you walked by me. It’s not saying the way you get a relationship with God is by honoring the poor, it’s the way you know you have a relationship with God.

If you are middle-class in spirit, you lookout the poor and say , why don’t they do something? But if you are poor in spirit you look, you know God did not redline you. God invested in you, did not deny you the loan. You cannot look at the poor with any superiority because you are looking at you. God identifies with the poor, I am the poor man on your doorstep. I am the prisoner. I am the naked. I am the thirsty. How you know you have a relationship is how you relate with him.

When God came to earth he was born in poverty. He dies with just a robe. His last night was spent in a borrowed upper room, he was laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. He also identified with with oppressed.

Jesus’ trial was illegal. So many injustices during trial. Most of it was illegal.

Christianity – God was subjected to injustice. You see the God of heaven naked, thirsty … on the Cross. When you see Jesus on the Cross taking the place of the poor, doing this for us. When you take that into the center of your life that will make you the righteous, the one that advantages others.

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