My favorite tenet of religion is that God gets to do whatever He wants. It's part of His job description. He makes the rules. He never has and never will conform to what we think He should do. He works to fulfill His plan and His agenda, not ours. It is good to keep this in mind as we read scripture. I have seen many well-intentioned pastors totally mangle a verse or passage by approaching it with misinformed preconceptions.
A well-known and widely read pastor of a large New York church once preached a sermon on Proverbs 29:7- “The righteous are concerned with doing justice to the poor, the wicked have no such concern.” He preached a passionate message exhorting his flock to go out and help the destitute and the homeless, charging them that this was their mission.
He communicated a great sentiment, but he did not communicate the meaning of the verse. There are multiple words for “poor” in Hebrew, including one for the destitute and another for the working poor, those who constitute the lower middle class. Proverbs 29:7 uses the working class word for poor. Oops! The passage speaks more to how employers treat employees than it does to how we treat the homeless!
Several years ago I listened as a pastor of a large church in southern California mangled the parable of the Good Samaritan. He so desperately wanted to encourage his listeners to love the unlovable that he made the Samaritan the victim in the story instead of the hero! Oops again!
I have seen these types of mistakes a lot lately when it comes to the issue of social justice. Because the American Church is wealthy it is popular to emphasize our need to share the wealth with those who are less fortunate in the world. This is a noble effort, but it is not God's top priority. God's top priority is eternal, not temporal. The Great Commission is not to go into all the world and share the wealth. It is to go into all of the world and make disciples. To train others to follow the teachings of Jesus
Just a reminder! Social projects and material gifts are easy when compared to the serious time investment required by discipleship. As human beings we have a tendency to try to reset God's priorities to match our own. God's priorities always require much more of our time and energy.