2020 Vision

A RADICAL AND WORLD-SHAKING IDEA

Pieter van der Horst, professor emeritus in the faculty of theology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and author of Studies in Ancient   Judaism and Early Christianity, suggests that the predominant world view toward poor people has always been negative. This has been a societal norm for as long as history records show. During the Greco-Roman world domination, leadership promoted the idea of philanthropy and benevolence, but those concepts were much different than today’s interpretation. Ancient philanthropy was always directed toward those who could reciprocate with a greater gift. Think about that for just a moment. Let me say it again…  ancient philanthropy was always directed toward those who could reciprocate with an even greater gift. What does that mean? It means that people of means were eager to give gifts to other people of means, and the recipient of any gift was socially obligated to respond to that giver by upping the ante.  I might give you a very generous gift, but you would have to give me something even more generous. Society frowned on those who broke the code. And, since poor people were unable to reciprocate appropriately, they were never considered as suitable objects for benevolent giving.  

God wished to change that. When He spoke the Law into existence for the people of Israel, He said things that were directly opposite of world view. While the world ignored the poor, and heaped societal obligations upon the rich, the Hebrew people were told things like, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 23:22).  This was a very RADICAL and WORLD-SHAKING command.  To give to someone who cannot give something nicer in return simply made no sense to people of the ancient world. 

But Jesus took it one step further. The poet Hesiod, around 700 BCE, had coined the phrase “Give to him who gives, but do not give to him who does not give.” This phrase well defined the attitude of giving. If the giver cannot be repaid with something even greater, then he should keep it to himself. Now hear the words of Jesus in Luke 14:12-14, “Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Did you hear how Jesus attacked the very core of societal norms concerning the poor? He strove to create a society that urged people to give to those who are totally incapable of giving in return. And by urging people to live with that kind of generosity in their hearts, He was urging His people to create a society where everyone is to be considered an equal, with equal possessions and equal opportunities. This was a RADICAL and WORLD-SHAKING idea. And it’s one that you and I, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, are being urged to embrace. As 2019 fades into the next decade, this should become a primary focus of our church.  Let’s work hard this year with 2020Vision to prepare for a GREAT, RADICAL, AND WORLD-SHAKING future for our church family, and for the community around us.  


2020 Vision

I suffer from myopia.  That’s near-sightedness, which means that I can see quite clearly things that are right in front of me, but everything becomes more and more blurry the further they are from me. Glasses correct the problem and can bring my eye-sight back to that wonderfully visionary goal of 20/20.  With corrective lenses, I’m able to see quite clearly that which is near and that which is far.    


That’s a reality that many of us share, but it’s also an interesting metaphor for something that is happening right here at Northside.  As we come to the close of 2018, we draw one year closer to the year 2020 and, therefore, one year closer to a new decade.  As the elders and staff met recently, we remember that we must not be myopic, only seeing what is right in front of us.  We need a vision of our church’s future that enables us to see what is further away.  That’s never easy, but with God’s help, we can have our vision correctly adjusted to see what He is calling us to. 


With that in mind, we’ve begun talking about 2019.  We want to spend time in this next year planning and preparing for the future.  We’re calling this endeavor “2020 Vision”, and we’ll be sharing some exciting  ideas with you on Nov. 18th.  Meanwhile, we ask that you pray that God will give us a clearer vision of the future, and the conviction and wisdom that we’ll need to step boldly toward that vision.  We, the Northside     family, will celebrate our 40th Anniversary next year.  We can look back at the first 40 years and approach the future with passive myopia, or we can observe the past 40 years and then go flying toward the next 40.  I hope you’ll be as excited as we are about the future our King is preparing for us.


Thank you for your part in the first 40 years!!  God bless you and your family for helping us to arrive at this giant milestone.  And thank you, in advance, for your family’s involvement in the next decade.  May He be glorified, and His Kingdom is firmly established on earth as it is in Heaven!!

Stan