The God Who Gives

 

Day 4: Living in the Gift

READ

Jeremiah 22:16
He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord. (NIV)

 

CONSIDER

The King has come, and through the movement of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, he has begun the renewal of his creation. Now, all who are found in Christ by his Spirit have new life; they are new creatures— though they still live and breathe as before. Serving as a kind of pivot point, Jesus’ resurrection makes clear that God’s kingdom has come, and the King is now about the business of re-creating the world through his life-giving Spirit. The new age has dawned, and the ascended King now rules from the heavens until his return.

What are the governing dynamics of the kingdom? How does God make his judgments and conduct his royal affairs? In short, how does God reign over the universe that belongs to him?

The answer to these questions may be found in what the Bible teaches us about God’s “justice and righteousness.” These are the key characteristics of his kingdom or, as the Psalms describe them, the “foundation” of God’s throne.1 God’s rule as King rests on his justice and righteousness. They are like a great marble slab that lies beneath and supports the place where he reigns. This is why Jesus, after telling his disciples to seek first God’s kingdom, quickly added “and his righteousness”; you cannot have one without the other (Matt. 6:33). Elsewhere Jesus included “justice” among what he called the “weightier” or more important matters of the law (Matt. 23:23). Simply put, “justice” and “righteousness” are indispensable to how God rules over his kingdom.2

But what is meant by the words “justice” and “righteousness”? While the answer to this question is rich and complex, often varying in important ways depending on the specific context in which these words are found, for our purposes let us focus our attention on how Scripture consistently identifies generosity as the positive characteristic flowing out of both justice and righteousness.3

Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
   and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him
   and make his footsteps a way. (Psalm 85:12-13)

He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
   his righteousness endures forever;
   his horn is exalted in honor. (Psalm 112:9; cf. 72:6–7; Isa. 45:8)

The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
   but the righteous is generous and gives. (Ps. 37:21)

Verses like these consistently connect the virtues of justice and righteousness with the idea of generosity. But we see the connection of God’s generosity with his exercise of justice and righteousness well beyond places where those particular words are used. For example, when God gave the children of Israel his law for living in the promised land, their new life was supposed to be a picture of heaven on earth—a portrait of God’s justice and righteousness in tangible terms for the entire world to see (cf. Deut. 26). It was not just an example; it was an invitation.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount paints a vivid and radical portrait of kingdom priorities and living, displaying this sacrificial orientation toward one’s neighbor. For example, Jesus says what we in ourselves simply cannot hear, believe, or do:

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matt. 5:38–42)

The fundamental message of the entire New Testament is relatively simple but earth shattering. It takes only three words to say it, but it takes eternity to experience it fully: “Jesus is Lord.” Recognizing all that this confession means calls us to repentance and faith. We need to have our views of God, ourselves, and the world reordered and made new. Christ alone becomes our identity, our life, our portion, and our hope. The lines have fallen in pleasant places when we belong to him and his kingdom (Ps. 16:6). We no longer need to be slaves to sin, no longer need to be defined by our struggles, our fears, and our socioeconomic status. We are children of the King, free to love and serve him, securely belonging to him and his kingdom.

Thus, the Christian life is a life ordered by kingdom priorities. Such a life is the life of righteousness, a life of self-giving that extends God’s grace to those in need even as it costs us our very selves. In losing ourselves we gain Christ (Phil. 3:8) and all things. Nothing could be better than that.

 

APPLY

  1. God calls his children to serve their neighbors. Make a list of three people God has put in your life and practical ways you can sacrificially love them.

 

  1. What are you tempted to build your identity around and place your hope in: intelligence, wealth, beauty, power, control, popularity, pleasure, etc.? Jesus is Lord over all things. How should the lordship of Christ change the way you view that part of your life?

 

PRAY

Jesus, you are King of kings and Lord of lords. I pray you would reorder my life and give me the priorities of your kingdom. Help me to love what you love and oppose what you oppose. Give me a generous spirit aligned with justice and righteousness. Free me from selfish pursuits and enable me to seek first your kingdom. Amen.

 

ENDNOTES

  1.  Pss. 89:14; 97:1–2; cf. 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chron. 9:8; Heb. 1:8–9.
  2.  See also Pss. 9:4, 7–9; 45:6–7; 72; 89:14; 97:2; Prov. 16:12; 29:14.
  3.  “In the LXX the use of הָ קָ דְ צ] Heb. righteousness] for God’s dispensing of salvation is carried to such a point that δικαιοσύνη [Gk. righteousness] can even be used for דֶ סֶ ח] Heb. loving-kindness] (Gn. 19:19; 20:13; 21:23; 24:27; 32:10; Ex. 15:13; 34:7; Prv. 20:22; Mas. 20:28) when ἔλεος [Gk. mercy] is the more usual rendering.” G. Schrenk, “Δικαιοσύνη,” TDNT, 2:195.
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