Oppression or Generosity

small__12328603084Recently I spent some time on the South side of Chicago. I came face to face with some of the poorest of the poor. I learned new terms like “food desert” and “structural violence.” I encountered suspicion, friendliness, despair, joy, community, and poverty. I have not gotten over my day in the hood. How do I consider the poor? What is my attitude? As a leader, what is my responsibility?


Proverbs 14:31 states, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults His maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

Oppression and generosity, two completely antithetical notions.

The objects of both of these expressions are the poor, the needy.

These are the disenfranchised, the marginalized of our society–of any society. The problem is that the poor are made in the image of God too.

If you want to insult God, then certainly engage in oppression of the poor whom He created.

If you want to honor or glorify God then show generosity to the same. 

The Hebrew word for “oppress” can mean to press upon, defraud, violate, to drink up, to exploit, or to crush. Oppression usually results from one person despising another person. When you despise someone you hold them in contempt–you see them as insignificant. But the value of being created trumps the value the world places on a person. That is why the concept of creation matters–it gives inherent value.

The Hebrew word for “generosity” can mean to properly stoop in kindness to one in an inferior position, to favor, or to move to favor.

Are the poor and marginalized in an inferior position?


Are they insignificant?

No, they have created value!

Generosity is not primarily transactional.

It is relational.

It is advocational. 

I am still in process in my understanding of what it looks like to oppress or to be generous. Even my apathy might be a form of oppression. It certainly leads to ambivalence concerning my generosity.

The mandate is to show generosity–in my learning, my attitude, and through all of my resources.

What will you do?

(photo credit)

Sarah Hale & Thanksgiving

imgresSarah Josepha Hale is often referred to as the Godmother of Thanksgiving. This New Hampshire woman, who was born in 1788, worked tirelessly to see Thanksgiving become a nationally recognized holiday in America. Hale was a successful writer and editor and is credited with penning the famous nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” Hale labored for 17 years to see Thanksgiving become a national holiday, which was finally declared so in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.

There were two strong themes to why Hale believed this to be a necessary annual event in the life of our nation. One was to draw our attention to God as the source of all blessings. Here is an excerpt from one of her writings to lobby for the holiday.

“THE FOURTH OF JULY is the exponent of independence and civil
freedom. THANKSGIVING DAY is the national pledge of Christian faith
in God, acknowledging him as the dispenser of blessings. These two
festivals should be joyfully and universally observed throughout our
whole country, and thus incorporated in our habits of thought as
inseparable from American life.” (1852)

The other theme was the unifying nature of a holiday focused on giving thanks for a nation that was drifting apart. Here is another excerpt that highlights this concern.

“it would be better to have the day so fixed by the expression of public
sentiment that no discord would be possible, but, from Maine to Mexico,
from Plymouth Rock to Sunset Sea, the hymn of thanksgiving should be
simultaneously raised, as the pledge of brotherhood in the enjoyment of
God‟s blessings during the year.“ (1854)

Of course her emphasis on this point was all too salient as the Civil War began a few years later.

But I believe Sarah Hale understood something important about the nature of giving thanks. To show gratitude to anyone is to acknowledge that we are not self sufficient. To see a whole group of people focused on giving thanks at the same time can have a unifying effect. It takes our eyes off of ourselves and places them somewhere else. It rightly places them on a Holy God and His provision. It acknowledges His self sufficiency and His common grace in sustaining us all. To celebrate this as a national holiday is meant to demonstrate more than a reason for food and family. It is meant to see our need for God and others. Take some time today to consider His blessings, personally and corporately.

Happy Thanksgiving!

5 for Leadership (11/23/13)

small__7181077141Here is a fresh 5 for your Thanksgiving Day week. There are some more thoughtful posts in this edition in light of some of the anniversaries we experienced this past week. All of them have implications for leadership.

9 Things You Should Know About C.S. Lewis  November 22nd marked not only the 50th anniversary of the death of JFK, but also the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. “Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Clive Staples Lewis, one of the most well known, widely read, and often quoted Christian author of modern times. Here are nine things you should know about the author and apologist who has been called “The Apostle to the Skeptics.”

Aldous Huxley: the prophet of our brave new digital dystopia  November 22nd was also the anniversary of the death of Aldous Huxley. He was a prolific writer of novels, short stories, and essays. In later life he became interested in spirituality but was also a self proclaimed agnostic. He was also known to engage in psychedelic drugs. He is probably best known as the author of Brave New World and was considered one of the great intellectuals of his time. This post was written on the 22nd by The Guardian.

JFK’s Legacy: The party’s over  This article comes from Reuters. “The current commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy raises one lingering question: What explains JFK’s enduring hold on the national imagination?” Was JFK the first great “Image President?” What role does image play in the realm of leadership?

Three Things Leaders Can Still Learn from JFK  I have highlighted Scott Eblin before and he writes a succinct, practical post on lessons to be learned from JFK’s legacy. Take a look.

The Final Interview of C.S. Lewis  “I drove to Cambridge, England, on May 7 [1963] to interview Mr. Clive Staples Lewis, author of The Screwtape Letters and one of the world’s most brilliant and widely read Christian authors. I hoped to learn from him how young men and women could be encouraged to take up the defense of the faith through the written word.” This is a fascinating glimpse of a very influential man–and a leader of great impact through writing.

There are the 5 for this week. Read, reflect, learn!

(photo credit)

D. L. Moody on Leadership

BI_DLMoody1Dwight L. Moody was an American evangelist in the 19th century. He founded the Northfield Schools in Massachusetts and both the Moody Bible Institute and the Moody Church in Chicago. Moody had no formal education beyond the 5th grade. He gave considerable time and energy to the YMCA. Moody gave much of his time and energy to the destitute of the city as well. He saw the unique contribution that women could make for the sake of the gospel and enlisted Emma Dryer to establish a training school for women. He was considered one of the greatest evangelists that has ever lived. He addressed larger audiences than any other man of his generation, both in America and abroad. His impact certainly out distanced his education, training and natural presence. He was used mightily of God to impact his generation.

Here are some quotes attributed to Moody that relate firmly to leadership. Notice how Moody had great focus, a singular focus, especially on character. Moody understood well that a man cannot lead beyond who he is on the inside.

Give me a man who says this one thing I do, and not those fifty things I dabble in.

We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God.

What makes the Dead Sea dead? Because it is all the time receiving, never giving out anything. Why is it that many Christians are cold? Because they are all the time receiving, never giving out anything.

There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.

If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of me.

A good example is far better than a good precept.

Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.

Character is what a man is in the dark.

Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.

Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And that which I can do, by the grace of God, I will do.

Seeking to perpetuate one’s name on earth is like writing on the sand by the 
seashore; to be perpetual it must be written on eternal shores.

I have more trouble with D. L. Moody than with any other man I ever met.

Salvation is worth working for. It is worth a man’s going round the world on his hands and knees, climbing its mountains, crossing its valleys, swimming its rivers, going through all manner of hardship in order to attain it. But we do not get it in that way. It is to him who believes.

5 for Leadership (6/1/13)

images-2Here is a fresh 5 for the 1st day in June. This week we are looking at the benefits of EQ, QT, supernatural partnership, social entrepreneurship, and knowing our flaws.

10 Ideas Driving The Future of Social Entrepreneurship  This is a great article from Fast Company that highlights some creative thinking from the Skoll World Forum that recently ended in Oxford, England. These are trends and ideas worthy of our attention.

Partnering With God  This is an excellent post from the Gifted for Leadership blog. Dorothy Greco states, “Regardless of our experience, if we hope to produce good fruit for the long haul, we must prioritize our own leadership growth and personal transformation above leading others in the same. Failure to do so may result in both a withered soul and contaminated produce.” Are you continually being transformed in your leadership life?

Emotional Intelligence: The Leadership Difference Maker  More and more leaders are seeing the need for greater EQ, not just IQ. But what is EQ and how can it be a benefit to grow in this area? Here is a good post on the Linked2Leadership blog to bring clarity to the topic.

Quiet Time: The Introvert’s 5 Keys to Influence  This post comes from Mary Jo Asmus’ blog, Aspire. As a guest writer, Jennifer Kahnweiler argues for purposeful disengagement as a key to greater creativity, energy, understanding, focus and freshness. Her points are for everyone. Take a look.

Why You Can’t See Your Biggest Flaws  This final post comes from Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Every leader needs to continually grow. Part of that growth is being able to see your flaws. How does that happen? Here are three excellent principles for seeing progress through the gospel.

There are the 5 for this week. Lead well!