Generous Justice

I live in a country that has massive poverty. I see it every single day. In fact, my very occupation is centered around working in and through poverty to bring restoration to individuals both spiritually and physically.

I look back at myself when I arrived in San Salvador. I knew next to nothing about alleviating poverty. We committed to spending the first two years as “students” of the language and culture. That includes studying urban ministry and strategies for Latin American urban centers. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve had to evaluate many of our actions.

We are still learning and we’ve been wrong.  We’ve made mistakes, and we’ve been guilty of some wrong attitudes and actions.

I must confess that I have been sub-consciously guilty of having a “savior-complex.”  I didn’t even realize it was there, tainting my actions and lingering in my thoughts. But this is so screwed up. I’m not the savior of anyone…just because I’m American? Because I have access to money and resources?  No way. I need a Savior. Just as much as someone in poverty. I am the same. I am spiritually broken, as others are materially broken. The poverty all around me is like a mirror into my soul.

One of the books I have read in this whole learning process is “Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just”  by Tim Keller. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is searching for answers on how God wants us to go about doing justice in the world. Keller so perfectly captures the things that God has been convicting of since I got off the plane 20 months ago to start work in El Salvador.

Listen to what Keller writes,

My expererience as a pastor has been that those who are middle-class in spirit tend to be indifferent to the poor, but people who come to grasp the gospel of grace and become spiritually poor find their hearts gravitating toward the materially poor. To the degree that the gospel shapes your self-image, you will identify with those in need. You will see their tattered clothes and think: “All my righteousness is as filthy rags, but in Christ we can be clothed in his robes of righteousness.” When you come upon those who are economically poor, you cannot say to them, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!”  because you certainly did not do that spiritually.  Jesus intervened for you. And you cannot say, “I won’t help you because you got yourself into this mess,” since God came to earth, moved into your spiritually poor neighborhood, as it were, and helped you even though your spiritual problems were your own fault. In other words, when Christians who understand the gospel see a poor person, they realize they are looking into a mirror. Their hearts must go out to him or her without an ounce of superiority or indifference.

When I see myself as I truly am, there is no room for a “savior-complex.” There is only room for constantly searching for more of my Savior, the Savior of the world. The only one who can set things right…who can bring true and lasting restoration. When I walk with Him and partner with Him, I can be used to bring His justice to this city, to this country, and to this world.

3 Responses to Generous Justice

  1. Amen! What a great quote!…unfortunately I need to re-learn this one all too often. I pray that God reminds us daily of our spiritual poverty and of His amazing grace.

  2. I loved that book. Another GREAT one on the topic is “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself”.

    HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend it. We’ve made some changes in our ministry here in the U.S. after reading it. A more empowering, respectful model of ministry and poverty alleviation.

    Good stuff, Danielle!

  3. Great minds think alike! I’m reading through it now. In the past I’ve read parts of it but never read through the whole thing. So far I’ve learned a lot.

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