The Sermon That Helped Me Raise $80,000 in 3 Months
Fundraising doesn't have to be a terrifying process,
believe it or not, it can be fun at times! Traveling, meeting new people, talking about what you love, etc.
Raising support is especially exciting if you really do believe in the cause you're raising money for.
Nothing beats good-old-fashioned convictions.
That was the case for me and this is the sermon I shared with 13+ amazing churches over this last summer to convey, in short, why I believe that what I'm doing is not optional for me.
Many of you have asked me for this and I'm sorry I couldn't get it to you earlier but I wanted to wait until all the speaking engagements were completed.
Thank you for your patience!
If you want to HEAR the sermon, you can click the link on my homepage :)
The Manuscript is as follows:
Quasi - Exegetical Deut 24:17-22
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Robbie Haddad,
I’ve been a member of a C&MA church in Foxboro, MA since about 2002, I spent the last four years at a small college in Chicago called Moody Bible Institute studying Evangelism and Discipleship, and now am in the process of raising support as I venture to Berlin for the next 2 years to work with Syrian Refugees.
Now I’m doing all of this under the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the organization of which this church is a part, and the process is not a quick one by any stretch of the imagination. At one point in the licensing process, it was required that I take four unique personality tests. They wanted to make sure that I wasn’t crazy, and I did my best to try and fool them.
I want to do a quick true/ false personality test using questions that I had, with you.
- You find it difficult to introduce yourself to other people
- An interesting book or a video game is often better than a social event.
- If someone does not respond to your e-mails or texts quickly, you start worrying if you said something wrong.
- As a parent, you would rather see your child grow up kind than smart.
- You frequently misplace your things.
Before I spend too long on these why am I so concerned with personalities? Well its because I want to look at this idea of personhood and identity.
Our text today is going to be Deuteronomy 24:17-22.
So if you have your bibles, or reach around and you’ll find one, please open up to Deuteronomy 24:17.
The book of Deuteronomy is a speech given by Moses to the new generation of Israelites just before they are to enter the promise land.
This speech is a law for the Israelites that outlines the identity that will set Israel apart from the rest of the world.
I want to focus in on a particular part of this speech because it is so relevant to our world here and now.
In Deuteronomy 24:17-22 Moses tells the people of Israel:
17 You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge,
18 but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.
19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.
21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.
22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.
You’ll notice God is concerned with caring for others.
If I were to ask you, what do Christians do?
You might say, they pray, they read the bible, sometimes they fast, they have worship services, they go to church obviously. And all of these are good things, and we ought not neglect them. But It is made very apparent here that before God let’s his people enter into the promised land he needs them to be concerned for the needy.
I’d like to go through this asking 3 questions:
- Who is it that God would have hie people care for?
- What are we to do for them?
- Why are we to care for them?
Throughout this speech, the same group seems to pop up. The Widow, the orphan and the alien.
Deuteronomy 10:18 —He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.
14:29 — And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
and I could go on and on of other examples in the old Testament where God chooses this grouping of people. But what is so special about them?
When we talk about personhood and identity we talk about our cultural background, our ethnicity, our jobs, etc.
It has to do with what we do and who we are. If someone asks me who I am, I’ll likely say I’m Robbie I’m a graduate, or I’m a rock climbing instructor, or I’m an international worker.
Well in the Bible you have something very strange.
- Psalm 68:5 says “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
- He is the defender of the weak (psalm 82)
- Prov 14:31 if you insult the poor you insult the Lord
- Prov 19:17 if you give to the poor you give to the Lord
What’s God doing? He’s identifying with the lowest of the low. You say to God, “who are you?” and he answers by introducing himself, identifying himself with the people on the bottom of society.
Now what this means is absolutely astounding. Ask any historian and he or she will tell you that there was no other religion at this time where the gods would identify with the low in society. They’d always identity with the highest, the most well off! The Kings and generals and their priests. The reason they were well off was because the gods had favored them!
And yet the God of Israel identifies with the lowest of the low. In this passage in particular he concerns himself with the widow, the sojourner and the orphan.
1. The widow: In a male dominated society women were very often taken advantage of and pushed aside. God says, for example, I am the husband of the widow (like in ps 68).
2. The refugee: or person who passes through. In a society that was very tribal and where a persons nationality and religion were of the utmost importance, God says, “care for the alien, the refugee, the immigrant, the one who is nothing like you.” To put this in perspective, this would very practically in today’s society be refugees, immigrants, or for Christians possibly muslims.
I mean in the New Testament, in Luke 10, a lawyer asks Jesus, “who is my neighbor” and his response is so countercultural. And he tells the story of the good Samaritan who acted neighborly to the Jew. The Jews hated the Samaritans, and yet Jesus said, “that is your neighbor”. Because God is not partial to a particular race like we are. There are people around you who are nothing like you. Jesus says, “Treat them as you would treat yourself.”
And the orphan: Why this passage is of particular importance to me personally is this: The word orphan here in Hebrew is ‘yathom’, used 42 times in the Old Testament. This word is male and means an child with a dead father and a widowed mother.
You see, my father passed away when I was 7.
So, why does this passage matter to me? Why do I find such solidarity with this group of scoundrels, the refugees the widowed the destitute.
Because if I were to have grown up in ancient Israelite society, I would have been neglected for the sheer fact that my father, my provider and caretaker, had died. And God knew this, so he commanded his people to take care of me. And they did.
Now that we’ve seen who, lets look at the ‘what’ are we to do.
Here we get into the command part of this passage:
You shall not pervert the justice…
When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it…. 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again…
21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward…
and three times he says, “It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow…
What’s he saying?
First of all, we have the perversion of Justice. God makes clear that you are to treat the needy with equality. But then something else happens.
He starts in not just with equality, but with special concern. You see, in a very agricultural society, these things ( the olives, the wheat, the grapes) would be the livelihood of the nation. And now God is saying not only should you treat the needy with equality as it concerns the law, but you should give them special consideration and act on their behalf. Sometimes people need more than equality, and God understands that.
The word that he uses here when he says that grapes, wheat and olives are ‘for’ the widow; the needy. This is an outright possession. It may look like it’s yours, but its not. Don’t just care for yourself, go out of your way to make sure that these people are cared for.
I mean he’s talking whole sheafs of wheat! Bound, tied and ready!
And unpicked grapes vines!
And even olives! This was unheard of in any law!
Now why would God ask for all of this?
Because God does not look at our wealth, our resources, our finances, our status the way that we do.
What do I mean?
Well back in Deuteronomy 6:10-12, before the laws were given, Moses said,
“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
- great and good cities that you did not build
- houses full of all good things that you did not fill
- cisterns that you did not dig
- vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant
What is Moses getting at?
Remember, ALL THAT YOU HAVE WAS ULTIMATELY GIVEN TO YOU
Now today, when it comes to money, or if I have status, we’d often say yeah I had a little bit of help but basically I earned it.
What God says is, “if you have money if you have status, yeah you did a little bit, but Basically I gave it to you.”
And you say what do you mean you gave it to me!?
Well for example, God decided what family you’d be born into. What town. What country. What century. What socioeconomic status. And that’s not even getting into him blessing you with talents or money. Yeah, I mean you and I play a part, but not nearly as much as we’d probably think.
So, sure I could have been born into a less fortunate society and family, but why do I have to give away what I’ve been given?
Because the goods, wealth and social-wellbeing of this world are not equitably distributed. This is a broken world.
Half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day? And a person who makes $32,000 a year makes more than 99% of the world population! And that’s just money —
And of even more concern to us, there are places in this world where because a person is born there, he or she WILL NOT have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and be redeemed by Christ unless the more fortunate of us make an effort to reach them.
Save the Children is an organization that focuses on just that, saving Children. In February, they finished a rather large study. It has been released that 70% of pre-adolescent Syrian children are suffering from PTSD symptoms. 70% of pre-adolescent children. Now because of that, these children are going to have to undergo massive amounts of special care, counseling, treatment just to cope with life.
And people can blame this on the war, and they can blame it on governments not stepping in and all that, but no one ever ever ever ever would blame the children for the conditions that they grew up in. And yet we know that depending on where you are born in the world you can have a 1000 times better chance of flourishing than if you had been born in another.
You are fortunate.
The reason God can ask you to give your resources to the needy is because ultimately they’re not your resources.
1 Corinthians 4:7 “for what do you have that you did not receive?”
All that I have is from God. And I’m just a steward of his wealth. He decides where it ought to be used because it is his. And when I withhold God’s resources from the people and things God would ask me to use them for, I’m effectively condoning suffering.
This is not easy to say. A wise professor of mine once said that the sins which you are so quick to point out in others are usually easy for you to see because they are the ones which you are yourself struggling with. And I know this is the case here.
I have one more passage to mention, and then I’ll move on.
In Matthew 25, with Jesus on the judgment seat, it says, “Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me … For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick…. Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
This text in particular is telling because Jesus says if you think you have a relationship with me but don’t help the needy, depart from me.
Now thirdly, I want to look at WHY we do what we do.
- Why do we care for people?
- The motivation for social justice, where does it come from? And what in the world are human rights?
- Stay with me
First, what is a right?
I don’t mean what kind of rights do we have. We know that humans have rights to food, water, shelter, etc. but all of this is predicated on the basis that we have ‘rights’ as a category and in our popular human rights culture this concept of rights is undefined, or poorly defined at best.
So what is a right?
First and foremost a right is an obligation/ due to a characteristic.
If I say that I have the right to shelter, that signals two things.
1. Society around me is obligated to provide me with shelter because
2. I am a human.
It could be your right to be paid because you worked, or your right to be heard because you are an expert in a particular field. It’s most often one person or group saying the other is obligated to them.
But generally when we talk about human rights, we’re talking about people who are treated unfairly because of their status.
Some examples are the Civil rights movement, the creation of trade-unions, and now our concern with refugees.
So we’re told, “These people HAVE RIGHTS and therefore, you, the listener, are obligated to treat them accordingly.”
(usually this isn’t said in a very nice way)
Well what gives us this idea?
1. Classically, people were thought to have rights because of their capacity to reason and make decisions.
But if that’s the case then babies and disabled people do not have rights.
2. So maybe it’s our capacity to suffer, and that we should live tending toward the happiness of all people.
This also doesn’t work. With this line of thinking, you wouldn’t be able to outlaw drugs that make you feel good, because you’d be infringing on my individual rights to property and liberty and happiness. Restrictions would jettison the notion of individual rights in order to focus on maximizing overall happiness. So, nothing has its own rights.
Neither one of these works.
So what is it that gives me rights?
And furthermore, why is it that God can tell the Israelites to treat all people with dignity … and can tell us to do likewise?
Here’s why. That dignity comes from God himself.
You were created in the image of a living and loving God. Therefore, your worth is intrinsically woven into the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And because God IS love, your very personhood is realized in you loving others.
I know this is getting deep.
1 John 4:8, “For whoever does not love does not know God, for God IS LOVE.”
Love is both a verb and a noun.
Knowing Love (God) personally necessitates that you love others.
You were created to reflect the interpersonal relationship that is found within the trinity and the trinity alone. The Father loves the son through the Spirit. And therefore, it is out of your very being that you care about someone else, not out of a desire to be a better person or follow the law.
This is astounding!
This is why God can say, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image”
You infringe upon someone else’s rights, and that person will be vindicated
WHY! WHY! WHY!
Because that person was made in the image of God.
Look, when I see you in this way it changes everything.
This means if i’m having a bad day, or there’s just someone who honestly has been a terrible person to me and those I care about, I will not want to love them, or to be kind…
But by the grace of God, I will try.
This also means that when I come across someone who’s needy or in pain, I can offer them more than the pat answers like, “don’t worry everything will be fine.”
I was at a pottery shop last summer, because my friend worked there. And I began having a conversation with a random girl who was sitting by me, because I like to meet new people whenever I can.
3 days earlier her mom had passed away.
SO we were talking about that, and my experience losing my dad, and she said, “my mom was such a wonderful person. She only ever cared about other people, and yet she had 3 divorces and her last husband hit her and now after a long painful battle with cancer, she finally just died. I just don’t know what to do with that. I want to believe in God but I don’t know what to do.”
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT!?
How am I supposed to console, to help this person who obviously is in need?
“I don’t have an answer for everything, why every bad thing happens. But I do know that what those men did to your mother was horrible. The way she was treated was wrong, and she only ever deserved the love and compassion of her heavenly father.
In any way that you're hurting right now, I know it’s painful but God loved your mother more than you could imagine loving her and because of that he is suffering for her more than you or I could think of.
When my dad died, and I was going through a lot, it was nothing compared to what God went through who loved my dad to the point of literally dying for him.
He hurts with me and with you. He cares more than you could imagine. The reason I can say any of this is this:
There is a God who is in and of himself Love.
You were created in the image of that living and loving God.
And you and your mother were meant to be treated as the image of God.
That means that I am obligated not to myself or to you, but to the God, to treat you with the utmost dignity. But you haven't been, because sin exists. But he has made redemption for those who sin.
He loves you more than you could dare imagine.
He identifies himself with the brokenhearted,
and he gave his life that you might be restored to the right relationship that you were created to have with him.”
And you know where I’m going with this.
Jesus Christ- God in the form of a human, walked this world and felt the brokenness that we feel and yet never sinned once.
He showed us what it looked like to realize the image of God perfectly.
Though we were meant to be representations of God on earth, we assumed the image of fallen man, and incurred the judgment and wrath of God.
But just as when the Israelites would worship false idols and God told the Israelites to crush the images of foreign gods, God took Jesus as the image of us and crushed him as our representative and substitute SO THAT we could trust in his sacrifice to restore us to peace with God.
That is why it can be written, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Our commands in Deuteronomy were bracketed by the phrase,
“You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.” and then from there he gives them their instructions on social justice and loving others.
Church, you shall remember that you were a slave to sin and that the Lord your God, through Jesus, has redeemed you from your bondage; therefore He commands you to love your neighbor as yourself.”
Reflect on the love of God for you and all humanity, and only from there will you find the strength to truly love the widow, the orphan, the refugee.
Now you’re probably thinking, wow thanks for all the homework.
But the merciful caring nature of God is a blessing to you too!
Two summers ago I was on a road trip to a friend’s wedding in Arizona.
- I had driven 17 hours from Boston to Chicago,
- taken a plane ride the day I arrived to Denver,
- drove 14hours the next day from Denver to Flagstaff,
- arrived past midnight.
- Woke up,
- had the wedding,
- I lost my phone for good (because as you remember I misplace things), but we were in a hurry so….
- that night we left Arizona, and drove 25 hours straight to get back to Chicago;
and as much as I would have loved a break when we arrived, we drove all day Sunday and classes started early Monday morning.
On top of all of this our car’s oil was leaking all over the catalytic converter, so smoke was going everywhere and we had to take several turns driving because we were all so tired and had papers to work on while we weren’t driving.
It was hectic!
I was traveling down the highway at breakneck speeds for as long as I could remember at this point, my car was smoking all over the place, and I was just dead tired looking for a break.
Tell me that isn’t a picture of your life.
You’ve been traveling down the highway at breakneck speeds for as long as you could remember, your car is smoking, and you’re tired.
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
It’s not just for the sojourner, the orphan and the widow. It’s for you too. He cares about you.
And out of the gratefulness for what Jesus has done for us, we love.
So as the C&MA what are we doing about this call? To care for the widow, the orphan, and the refugee?
I’m sure you're well aware of the refugee crisis and the last 6 years of war in Syria. Out of those wars, people have travelled fleeing from persecution, from conflict and just trying to keep their families safe. Countless people have died in the conflicts and also in the fleeing. But also countless others have made their exodus and have landed in Europe!
Well Germany is, by far, the most accepting nation for refugees in the European Union. And now, we as the CMA have a center in Berlin which reaches out to these refugees, specifically Syrian Refugees.
The CMA has been trying to get International Workers into Syria for more than 60 years, and now, as God seems to do often, he has called a people out of persecution and now they are able to hear the good news of Jesus Christ for the first time in generations. It’s an amazing opportunity, and the CMA has been responding as well as can be expected. But we need workers.
And that’s where I come in!
I’ll be the apprentice of a couple who have worked in the middle east for 35 years as they teach me the ins and outs of creating centers of outreach for people. We’ll offer language classes, connect them with counseling, child care, kids clubs, game nights, coffee, and it is from this center that we will plant a church among the refugees in Berlin.
I want to make it very clear that if you just throw money and resources and food and water at people, YOU ARE PUTTING A BANDAID ON CANCER.
We are not called to make poor men rich, we are called to make dead men live.
It is my hope that you partner with me to seize the opportunity, whether through your prayers, monetary support, watching the video updates that I’ll have for you, or of course visiting Berlin :)
My website is reachberlin.com and theres all kinds of useful information on there for you, thank you for listening :)