Monday, April 4, 2011

Raise the Odds

Little Jimmy was born to a mom who is single, reads at a 6th grade level and dropped out of school in the 9th grade. She doesn't work and uses food stamps to pay her bills and survives on the graces of some and the ill intentions of others. She represents what we call 'the margins' of our city. There aren't tons of people like her but there are many, way too many. Back to little Jimmy. He just showed up to kindergarten and met a new friend, Joey. Joey's mom is a 'stay at home mom' too. Her husband is a doctor who she met in college while earning her degree in nursing. Joey and Jimmy are two boys who are in the same classroom but not at all in the same class. And while their paths have crossed for this season, odds are they will end up on very different paths. Experts say Joey's odds of thriving, you know getting a good job, graduating, going on to college and such are over 100 times that of Jimmy's.

Here's the kicker: neither Joey nor Jimmy chose the families they would be born too. You can say what you will about the mom's but no one thinks either Joey nor Jimmy had anything to do with the situation thay find themselves in.

God knew that in community this dynamic would exist. He knew that because of sin and its compounding misfortune some children would be born disadvantaged compared to others. And he called those who were born on the advantaged side of the scale to even the odds, to balance the scales if you will. The term he used to descibe this action was justice. Like the common iconic figure used to portray justice, Lady Justice holds a scale and Biblical justice may simply be 'balancing the scale' or in simpler terms for us, 'evening the odds'.

Tim Keller said it this way, "If I do not share the advantages that this unjust world has dealt me with them, that in itself is unjust." You see, the same injustice that left Jimmy disadvantaged also left his friend Joey advantaged. I tell my kids when they try to find value by hanging around advantaged kids: "There is no such thing as a rich kid. There are only rich parents. You kids are all the same." And while that may be true in a sense, it's not in another sense. You see little Joey had every early educational toy that money could buy. He had a little learning computer for his second Christmas and could read by the time he entered kindergarten. And for Jimmy, well his mom didn't have the money to buy him those toys or books to read and he is so much farther behind than his friend Joey that, odds are, he'll never catch up. It's just the way it is. The numbers tell a sobering truth. The odds just aren't in Jimmy's favor.

Enter God's people and Biblical Justice. The term is mentioned 130 times in the Scriptures and each time it refers to those who 'have' raising the odds for those who 'have not'. And the Lord says it is owed them. It's not compassion or charity although that sentiment is Godly and justified, it is what they deserve. Consider this powerful verse:

Deut 27:19 'Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.'

So justice is perverted anytime the marginalized don't get what is 'due' them. And what is it that is due them? Well it's very obvious and with a quick review of these 130 passages you will get the jist of it, but suffice it to say the easy answer is "change the odds". Somebody make sure little Jimmy makes it. Somebody help him catch up. Somebody offer him a job and help him graduate and give him the same chance your kid will have.

Friends, it's something we all can do, it's what it means to be Christ followers. Change the odds, balance the scale, or as we say everytime we say the Pledge of Allegiance "One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."