This beautiful piece of prophetic poetry speaks against religious practices that are not grounded in love for God and care for the needy (cf. Mt 22:34-40). The test of any church program or religious activity is whether it effectively reflects personal transformation; in other words, do social justice, generosity and personal holiness proceed from this program or practice (see Mt 23:23; Jas 1:27)? If our engagement with “church” fails to produce compassionate communities and holy individuals, we won’t be trusted when we claim God’s love or Christ’s name (see 1Co 11:17-22; Jas 2:1-4, 14-19; 1Jn 3:16-18). In the words of veteran Bible expositor J. Alec Motyer, we must rid ourselves of the false assumption that we can be “truly religious and socially indifferent” at the same time.
In his preface to a text on Catholic social teaching, law professor Leonard P. Liggio reflects on the reality that the budgetary crises of the developed countries require the withdrawal of the state from many activities undertaken in the confusions of boundless expectations. The new realities mean a return to self-involvement of citizens in the affairs that their health, retirement, and so on. Of the many areas education may be the most important. It is the education of our children upon which the future of the economy and of the resources for the health and pensions of older generations will depend. Yet the recognized shortcomings of the state education system, especially for the disadvantaged for whom it was especially introduced, seem the most difficult to resolve owing to entrenched structures.
Among the private initiatives in the 21st century will be the increased attention charity by the better off. In the USA there continues to be an expansion of charity. Those with middle class as well as higher incomes and wealth observe the private institutions that are offering assistance and make their charitable judgments on the basis of their attention to these instructions. Many people are participating as volunteers in the assistance programmes. Some are dedicated to moving the disadvantaged from static welfare to the dynamic of self-help. The Christian is motivated by compassion to assist the disadvantaged to achieve the dignity of labour Where the state withdraws it gives room for voluntary, Christian initiative to “breathe.” This is not so just in the spheres of welfare and charity, but in the cultural sphere too.
Christian financial stewardship leader Howard Dayton leaves us with some food for thought about the issue: “In some mysterious way that we cannot fully comprehend, Jesus personally identifies with the poor. Do you want to minister to Christ? You do so when you give to the poor. If that truth is staggering, then the reciprocal is terrifying. When we do not give to the poor, we leave Christ Himself hungry and thirsty.”
ISAIAH 58:1-914 NKJV
“Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord ? “ Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am. ’ “If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord ; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
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