Jesus’ Economy

4 Ways Justice is Today's Christian Cry

At times, justice becomes a bit of a catch phrase, sadly even a cliché. Yet it’s one of the most important concepts we can understand and live. I have seen injustice with my own eyes, and each day the news tells each of us of acts of injustice. But rather than feel defeat, let’s stand up, take action, and do something about it. Here are four ways justice should be the cry of today’s Christian.


In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus taking on our pain and anguish—and on the cross, we see him taking on our sin. Think about these four things Jesus says and prays in the Garden:

“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

“My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will must be done” (>Matthew 26:36–46 LEB).

It is here that we see the man—Jesus. It is here that we find one who walks alongside the downtrodden, the hurting, the poor, the outsider, the refugee, the sinner—all the way to the cross. Here we find the one who walks alongside all of us, all the way to the cross. Here we see God enfolding, through Jesus, all people into his kingdom. Jesus does God’s will, so that we can have life.

In the garden, Jesus asks if the cup can be removed from him; but not his will, but God the Father’s be done. Jesus realizes the burden he is about to carry. This burden is described in Isaiah (over 500 years before Jesus) as:

“By a restraint of justice, [the servant] was taken away and with his generation.

Who could have mused that [the servant] would be cut off from the land of the living? Marked for the transgression of my people.

And [Yahweh] set his grave with the wicked, and [the servant] was with the rich in his death, although [the servant] had done no wrong, and there was no deceit in his mouth

Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush [the servant]; he afflicted him (with sickness). If [Zion] places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, [the servant] will see offspring, [the servant] will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in [the servant’s] hand, it will succeed. Out of trouble of his life [the servant] will see; [the servant] will be satisfied by his knowledge.

[Yahweh says,] ‘My righteous servant will bring justice to many and he will bear their iniquities’ ” (>Isaiah 53:8–11, my translation).

As painful as it is, it pleased Yahweh that Jesus should go to the cross, for it is in this that God found not just ultimate obedience, but also the bridging of humanity with himself. The judgment of God for our wrongdoings was satisfied. Once again, we were put into right relationship with God.

It is in Jesus that we find the refugee on the cross. Here we find the guilt offering for all of our wrongs. Here we find one who carries our sin, bears our iniquities, and intercedes for transgressors. Here we find a restraint of justice bringing justice to those who do not deserve it.

But what will we do with this justice, with this freedom?


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. in his work from Birmingham Jail. And it is injustice that we see today—all over our planet.

Near the end of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. was working to bring equality by creating jobs. And yet, so much of the world still lacks jobs, because we haven’t completed the task. This is injustice.

We look around the world and we also see those who are oppressed—who lack spiritual and religious freedom, who lack knowledge of Jesus. This too is an injustice.

We must stand up, lift up, and rise up—to fight these injustices, boldly proclaiming that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.


We can read Jesus’ call to care for the “least of these” in Matthew 25:37–40 as a direct preface and parallel to what he will do on the cross. Jesus went to the cross to make us who do not deserve to be right before God, made right. And just before doing so, he calls us to live this message—noting for us that whether or not we did will be a primary question when he one day returns to earth.

So when we look around our world, and see a lack of access to basic healthcare, clean water, and jobs—like I have seen in the impoverished region of Bihar, India—we know that we must take action.

Jesus cries out for this. This is the Christian cry. And it is my personal cry, as I am personally broken for the hurting that I know in Bihar—for those who have placed their hands in my hands and cried out to God with me for justice.


We can also read the final words of Matthew’s Gospel, spoken by Jesus, as a commission based on his ministry in life, on the cross, and in his resurrection. And it’s a commission of action. Jesus says:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20 LEB).

Yet, there are still millions of people who have not heard Jesus’ name—again, this is the case in Bihar, India. In Bihar, there are 101 Million people who have never heard the name of Jesus. This again, is an injustice. All people deserve the chance to have access to the gospel.

The question becomes for each of us: What will we do about it? Why are we content with the knowledge of God, but not the actions of God? When will justice become part of the gospel? Because in actuality it is—we’re just not living it.

Do not walk away with guilt; walk away inspired to take action. Let’s continue the work of Jesus, the apostles, the early church fathers, and people like Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s mark this season as the one everything changed, and we began to renew our world again with Christ, by his power and grace.

Photo credit: Unsplash

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

The Christian Response to Disaster

Hurricane Matthew has devastated whole communities—from Haiti and the Caribbean to the U.S. East Coast. In Syria, a war is raging that is killing men, women, and children alike. Part of Nigeria faces a severe famine. The pain of all this is completely overwhelming. It can make us feel completely helpless. We all know that a single person cannot fix the world’s problems. But to sit idly is equally wrong. How should we as Christians respond?


When we as Christians face a crisis of any kind, we must lean on our beliefs. Indeed, right theology results in right actions. We have a theology for crises. It starts with trust in a God who desires order.

If you look at the book of Genesis from an ancient Near Eastern perspective, you see that many of God’s creative acts are about bringing order to chaos. Take a look at the third day of creation:

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven be gathered to one place, and let the dry ground appear.’ And it was so. And God called the dry ground ‘earth,’ and he called the collection of the waters ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good” (>Genesis 1:9–10 LEB).

In the ancient Near East, water was the ultimate symbol of chaos. In several ancient Near Eastern myths, gods tangle with the waters to show themselves superior. But for our God, the Israelite God Yahweh, this is an easy task. He rules over these forces of chaos.

Later, Adam and Eve are appointed to steward God’s creation; God instructs them to bring order as he had done (Genesis 1:28). Our mandate as people, from the beginning, is to believe in a God who creates order and to bring the same order to our world.


We serve a God who walks with us. Even when Adam and Eve sin against Yahweh, he is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day—he is seeking them out (Genesis 3:8–9). God doesn’t need a relationship with us, but he desires one. Today, we continue the conversation with God through prayer—having Christ as the means of a restored relationship with God (Hebrews 4:14–16).

When we see the pain of our world, we must acknowledge that it exists because things are not as they should be. The order that God desires is not fully present. Everything from natural disasters to warfare to famines can in some way be traced back to things being out of alignment with God’s ultimate will for the world.

This is why Paul the Apostle says:

“For the eagerly expecting creation awaits eagerly the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation has been subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its servility to decay, into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:19–21 LEB).

In Paul’s era, many Jews were looking forward to a day when the Messiah would not just reign in Israel but restore order to the created world. They looked forward to a Messianic age. We have this same hope in the Lord Jesus—knowing that he will return and bring order:

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ ” (Revelation 21:1–4).

We must, like the apostles, pray for new creation for our entire world. We must pray, “Come, Lord Jesus come,” while also crying out, “Lord Jesus, please stand alongside the hurting of our world. And help me to be a person who stands alongside them with you.”


The gospel of Jesus requires us to take action. We cannot idly watch the state of our world and still call ourselves Christians. This is incompatible with Jesus’ theology. Jesus makes this clear when he says: “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:37 NKJV). The Letter of James also articulates this idea:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27 ESV).

Note that James does not just speak of right action, but also a right spirit—being “unstained from the world.” In essence, he is saying that if we love the hurting, there is little room for the idleness that leads to sin (compare James 1:13–15).

For James, we—as those who bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27)—are representatives of God’s goodness to a broken and hurting world:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (>James 1:16–18 ESV).

Therefore, as “firstfruits” of God’s labor, let us take action that represents him.

Let us as Christians be unified in our belief in the God of order. Let us have solidarity in our prayer, asking God to intercede on behalf of the hurting. Let us have camaraderie in action—serving the hurting together.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

This Should Be Our Chief Aim in Life

We all struggle with vocation, calling, and purpose. Life is confusing and often dissatisfying. Clarity is our desire. But what if we’re making all this far too complicated?


Overthinking can unnecessarily complicate life. But a lack of focus on our inner life can also oversimplify life.

We should be serious about questioning the meaning of our existence. It’s only in being so that the great innovators and philosophers have had significant breakthroughs. We must look inside ourselves to examine what’s lacking, what’s working, and where we’re failing. We should desire more out of life and ourselves—always.

Yet, if we spend too long staring inward we will lose sight of what is right outside our door. There is beauty and truth in nature itself (compare Romans 1:20). By staring inward, we can miss that entirely. And many epiphanies come through conversation, so we also cannot sell short the value of other people in our lives.

This reminds me of the psalmist who says, “Behold, you [God] delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:1 ESV). Yet, there is a Proverb that says, “Reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge” (Proverbs 19:25). The Bible envisions us learning from others, but also having a diligent and serious inner, spiritual life. God teaches us in secret and in public.


We cannot change the world without first being changed ourselves. As someone who spends a great deal of my time trying to alleviate extreme poverty —a huge problem to tackle—the scope of the work often overwhelms me. The problem is so big that I often lose perspective and begin to despair.

But prayer has a powerful way of keeping everything in check. I find that if my prayer life is in check—meaning it is consistent and driving my daily decisions—that everything else falls into place.

When we look up to God, and then look back down here at what he is doing, we remember. We remember what everything is about—why we do what we do, and who we really are. We can then lean on Jesus. This is why the Apostle Paul told us to pray—in all things, all the time (Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18).


The South African pastor Andrew Murray (1828–1917) once profoundly said:

“It is a duty, for the glory of God, to live and pray so that our prayer can be answered. For the sake of God’s glory, let us learn to pray well” (With Christ in the School of Prayer, page 126).

It is for God’s glory that we are to live and pray. And it glorifies God when we have much to pray about. The answer isn’t to run away from the problems of the world. We should care for the hurting around us—deeply—but do so through prayer. We should tackle the problems of poverty, but to do so through much prayer.

God’s glory is manifest in the answering of our prayers, for the sake of our world.


I think we overcomplicate purpose, calling, and vocation. When it comes down to it, the glory of God is what everything is about.

I regularly have to remind myself of several things. God’s glory is what alleviating poverty is about. God’s glory is what bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth is about. God’s glory is seen in the slice of bread given to the poor beggar and the cup of clean water given to the impoverished child (Matthew 25:31–46). God’s glory is what we’re aiming to show to others—all the time.

God’s glory is seen when we live our lives like we actually believe God’s promises. God’s glory brings perspective to our vocations, callings, and purposes. What are they if they do not glorify him? So question—please. Think—please. Look inwardly—please. But don’t forget the reason. May our prayer today be, “O, my soul, please never forget the reason—for all of it, for everything! God’s glory!”

Our chief aim in life should be the glory of God. Period. Full stop. 

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

4 Reasons Why Fair Trade Matters to Christianity

Our Bible study should inform our practices. Yet when it comes to our purchases, it rarely does. But there is a solution—and it’s biblical.


The term “Fair Trade” describes an economic exchange in which laborers receive a fair living wage. And fair trade is based on Christian values.

Here in the U.S., we believe in equitable exchanges. It’s why we have a minimum wage. It’s why we request raises commensurate with our achievements. But are we really living these principles in all aspects of life? The hard truth is that we aren’t.

Fair trade matters for the sake of our world. And it matters for Christianity—here are four reasons why all Christians should support fair trade.


The majority of what we purchase in the U.S. is based on unjust economic exchanges. The exploitation of labor in developing nations reduces the costs we pay here in the U.S. And as such, a large portion of clothing manufactures, and producers of other items, aim to pay people the smallest amount possible. This is a practice that we as Christians should oppose—not just with our words, but also with our wallets.

While it is not possible yet to buy everything you need from a fair trade manufacturer, there are many fair trade options. One day, God willing, we will be able to buy everything we need at fair trade wages and fair trade will be the norm.


Fair trade represents justice and equality. And justice and equality are key tenants of Christianity. On this point, the prophets especially come to mind. Over and over again the prophets call us to live the principles of justice, mercy, and humility (e.g., Micah 6:6–8). Near the beginning of the book of Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah records God saying:

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:16–17 ESV).

We should plead the widow’s cause by buying products that empower women. We should learn to do good by understanding the implications of our purchases. We should live the principles of justice. If we desire justice, then we should make justice a priority when it comes to our purchases. If we believe in equality, then we should back that with our entire lifestyles.


Work is central to who we are. It was a major part of the lives of the apostles and something they advocated for (e.g., Acts 18:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). But work is not an option for some—they lack the opportunity. And where work is available, it is not a fair exchange. We can change that through creating fair trade jobs.

If done right, fair trade is one way to change lives through business. Fair trade products are purchased at a price that allows for people to overcome poverty. Fair trade creates safe, sustainable, and profitable jobs. It also provides high quality products for people around the world to use and enjoy.


If Jesus was to create an economy, it would be based on love and self-sacrifice. But fair trade isn’t even asking for self-sacrifice; it’s asking that we simply respect people—that we show them the dignity of being paid what their work is worth.

Fair trade represents life transformation for impoverished artisans. It represents a chance for their dreams to become real. It means their families having sustainable incomes and real money coming into their economies.

Jesus envisioned a world where we truly loved our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Fair trade is a way for us to show his love. It’s a way to live what we believe.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, a non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. For further information on fair trade, see the Jesus’ Economy Fair Trade Standards. Also, check out the Jesus’ Economy online Fair Trade Shop, where you can purchase beautiful products made by developing world artisans.

The Controversy of Loving the Unlovable

Jesus’ life was surrounded by controversy. From the impoverished town of Nazareth and the disrespected region of Galilee, Jesus was an unexpected leader. Yet the controversy surrounding Jesus only began with his origins. The true controversy—the one that led to Jesus’ death on a cross—was how often he questioned religious leadership. Jesus loved the unlovable and commanded other leaders to do the same.


“Then children were brought to [Jesus] that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away” (>Matthew 19:13–15 ESV).

The disciples’ response is understandable; Jesus is a busy rabbi. Jesus was constantly traveling, for three years, and had many people requesting his attention. But Jesus shows the disciples that they lack understanding of the true purpose of his ministry: to love people and show them the way to salvation.

Jesus wasn’t looking for those in power, or for those who could give back to him. He wasn’t in search of a donor, benefactor, or bigger platform. Jesus was in search of opportunities to offer mercy and justice. So what does Jesus do? Receive the children. Jesus ministers to those at the bottom of the social latter, who literally could do nothing for him. This shows true love.


Jesus’ decisions to love the unlovable were controversial. He didn’t act like the ordinary rabbi and didn’t put up with the viewpoints of ordinary rabbis. At one point, Jesus said the following of his contemporary religious leaders:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (>Matthew 23:23–24 ESV).

The scribes and Pharisees focused on small matters to the neglect of larger principles. They pointed to the Law (the first five books of the Bible) and demanded giving as a result. Yet they neglected the principles behind the Law. In essence, Jesus was saying: You’re choking on your own words.

Standing here today, it is easy to accuse the Pharisees. But it is much more difficult to realize how we are the same.

We too often ignore mercy and justice. Just think of the children whom Jesus so openly embraced. And now think of all the orphans in our world, and all the mothers who cannot provide for their children. These are real and manageable problems that we can do something about, but we fail to act. We may give and tithe, but there is so much more to do.

Truly loving other people is inconvenient. And loving the unlovable, or those who could never love us back, is difficult and painful. Yet we must make justice and mercy our priority, lest Jesus also call us hypocrites.

Let’s embrace the controversy of loving the unlovable.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

Our World is Unstable and God is the Answer

“In those days there was no king in Israel; each one did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 LEB).

Our problems start with each person doing what is right in his or her own eyes. Justice, mercy, and reconciliation should not just be buzzwords—they should be ideals we live by. We must live by God’s views of equality and the value of human life. God’s ways must be our ways.


Our world seems unstable. Each person seems to do what is right in his or her own eyes. But it is not as if our God has stopped talking. God is still enthroned in heaven—we just need to give him room in our lives here on earth.

Sometimes it helps to take a step back and think about the God we serve. I think of what God said to Job:

“Where were you at the my laying the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you possess understanding. Who determined its measurement? … Or who stretched the measuring line upon it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars were singing together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (>Job 38:4–7 LEB).

If we serve a God who can establish the earth, what can he not do? Certainly this God can reconcile people. Certainly this God can establish justice, bring mercy, and teach us to walk humbly before him (Micah 6:8). Certainly this God can bring stability to our unstable world.


The beginning of reconciliation is the recognition that we do not truly understand where others are coming from. But that should not stop us from attempting to empathize. I regularly think of my experience as a child who could not speak correctly—and being discriminated against simply for my speech impediment. It helps me to feel a little bit of what my brothers and sisters living on the underside of power feel. It helps me empathize.

Yet I also recognize that I still don’t know what it is like to be someone else. I can empathize, but I shouldn’t pretend to understand another person’s full experiences.


Truly loving other people demands action. When we witness people discriminated against, we must desire change and advocate for it, or we lack love. When we hear about people being needlessly killed, because of hatred, we must show love to fight the hatred. When we see the poverty in our world—and realize that we have the resources to alleviate it—we must act. If we ignore it, we show ourselves to lack love.

“No one has greater love than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 LEB).

And who should our friends be? And who should our neighbors be? The citizens of this earth, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We should love others to the point of being willing to give up our very lives for them.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

The Questions that Hold People Back from Belief

I was under a publishing deadline and had been working for 12 hours straight. I suddenly caught a glimpse of the time: “What, it’s 6:50?” I was scheduled to deliver a sermon in 10 minutes. My destination was exactly 10 minutes away. I ran to my car and hopped in the front seat. I sped so fast out of the parking garage that as I rounded the last corner of the garage roundabout, the back tire of my Chevy Blazer hit the final curb.

At my destination, I rushed up the ten concrete stairs, in the front door, and straight down the aisle. The crowd was clearing the room already. It was 7:05pm. I was five minutes late and the homeless men were getting restless. I was at a rescue mission.

On the drive over, I had realized that I wasn’t just late, but that I had also failed to prepare a sermon. “What kind of preacher was I?,” I asked myself. But I had an idea: I had recently heard about a successful preacher who had started his ministry by doing Q&A (Question and Answer time). He had described it as one of the most rewarding ministry experiences of his life. So I went for it. “Ask me anything and everything about God, the Bible, or religion,” I shouted. It made the few guys on their way out the door sit down. I had their attention.

As you can imagine, the night was pretty wild. I sweated more that night than I do during my standard cardio workouts. But I survived, and incredibly, I saw several men accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior that evening. It turned out that a simple question had been standing between them and Jesus.

I spoke in that rescue mission chapel for years. And after that one evening of tardiness and a lack of preparation, I stopped preparing sermons altogether. I simply did Q&A. I have seen more people come to Jesus through this simple ministry than any single effort of spreading the gospel.

And lest you think this is just a personal ministry theory. Take a look at Jesus’ ministry. He regularly asked questions. One scene in particular comes to mind. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his closest disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples answered Jesus by noting that some say the Son of Man is John the Baptist, others that he is Elijah, and others still that he is Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

Jesus, not content with the answers of his disciples, asked another question: “But who do you say that I am?” It is in this moment that Simon Peter says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” He not only recognizes who the Son of Man is, but also that Jesus is the Son of Man (>Matthew 16:13–16 LEB).

In many regards, it was Jesus’ questions that led Peter to the right answer.

When it comes to helping someone who is hurting or dealing with a faith issue, it’s important to realize that simply being open to talking is often all that is needed. I don’t feel that it’s my answers that have brought people to faith; it’s really the openness that has made the biggest difference. I’m unafraid to talk about difficult issues, and you should feel the same. If our God can withstand our sin, then certainly he can handle our scrutiny.

The questions we ask reveal our heart. In this regard, questions often reveal more than answers. And Jesus’ questions reveal the most of all.

What questions are standing between you and Jesus? And how can you answer the questions of others? 

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economya non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. John is actively working to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world, where few have heard the name of Jesus. Jesus’ Economy is renewing Bihar through empowering women via micoloans, planting churches, drilling water wells, and establishing a medical clinic. Learn how you can partner with Jesus’ Economy to Renew Bihar by visiting their website.

Laying Down Our Lives for the Gospel

"We have come to know love by this: that he [Christ] laid down his life on behalf of us, and we ought to lay down our lives on behalf of the brothers" (1 John 3:16 LEB).

What does it mean to lay down our lives on behalf of our brothers and sisters? Who are our brothers and sisters? Can 1 John 3:16 actually refer to giving up our lives for someone else ... to the point of death?

Interpreting 1 John 3:16

One could argue that "the brothers" mentioned in 1 John 3:16 refers only to fellow Christians, since the apostles often refer to their fellow ministers of the gospel as "the brothers" (1 Corinthians 16:11; 2 Corinthians 9:33; 3 John 3; Acts 21:17). You could even quote Jesus in support of this argument:

"Who is my mother and who are my brothers ... For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, my sister, and my mother" (Matthew 12:48-50 NIV).

However, the book of James strongly urges us to show no partiality when it comes to loving others. James goes so far as to say that if we show partiality, we are sinning and are convicted under the law as transgressors (James 2:9).

Christ Shows What Impartial Love Looks Like

Christ is the greatest example of impartial love, for he went to the cross for all humankind, the unrighteous and the righteous alike. As the apostle Paul put it:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV).

We know we are meant to lay down our lives for all humankind, not just Christians or those who practice righteousness. But to what extent are we to go in order to complete this task? Are we really to die for someone else (1 John 3:16)?

To answer this, I will go again to the example of Christ. Christ's sacrifice shows that we are meant to love one another to such an extent that—though it may not be required of us by God—we would be willing to suffer the punishment of death on behalf of another. A love like this changes the world.

Loving Everyone, Even Our Enemies

Christ once said:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and 'Hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, because he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?" (Matthew 5:43–46 LEB).

Paul elaborated on this point in Romans 12:9–18 (LEB):

"Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; be attached to what is good, being devoted to one another in brotherly love, esteeming one another more highly in honor ... Bless those who persecute, bless and do not curse them. ...Think the same thing toward one another; do not think arrogantly, but associate with the lowly. ... If it is possible on your part, be at peace with all people."

Many of the earliest Christians gave up their lives not just for the God they served, but also for the people they were serving. In the case of many believers, their lives were taken at the hands of evil men and women who hated God. And yet, their sacrifice has become an example of faith to us all (see Hebrews 11:36–38).

God Requests Self-Sacrifice and Love

God himself requires only one death from every believer: that we die to ourselves and live for Christ.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all; as a result all died. And he died for all, in order that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14 LEB).

And in living for Christ, we become an example for all people of his love. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

So I urge you, brothers and sisters, to think this day about the life you have to give and to whom you have to give it. And I pray that in giving of our lives together, we can change this world for the better, for sake of the Kingdom of God.

Kalene Barry is the Chief Projects Officer for Jesus’ Economy, a non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the impoverished, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. Join the movement: Sign up for the Jesus’ Economy email list at

Jesus in Thrift Stores and Alleyways

As a young punk rocker, I spent my fair share of time in thrift stores. I was always on the hunt for another weird shirt, like the bright orange one that said “I agree with Tyler and Pete” or the black one with white block letters that read “Please Don’t Feed the Snowboarders.” I also became a connoisseur of polyester pants, considering them both classy and cool. In those years, the thrift store represented a treasure hunt. But today in the thrift store, I saw the faces of the people—I saw the despair and economic gaps present in our society.

In the thrift store, I witnessed the frazzled mother, hoping to find the clothes her children needed. I saw the elderly man who was trying to make his social security check go a little further. I looked in the eyes of the hurting and felt their anguish and pain. My perspective is different than it used to be: I see more than I used to and feel more too. Perspective and exposure transforms our Christian walk.

Alleviating Poverty and Perspective

For many people, the problems of poverty are not pressing because of a lack of exposure. If you don’t see the face of poverty everyday—or at least regularly—you don’t realize just how real the problem is. When you see poverty everyday, it is hard to ignore it.

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus aims to transform our perspective. He makes remarks like “Blessed are the poor in spirit, because theirs if the kingdom of heaven” and “Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:3, 7 LEB). When our perspective changes to being poor in spirit, or exuding mercy, our entire lives also change. We realize that we too are poor and we too are in desperate need of mercy. And thus, we are willing to help and give.

Think about it for a moment: If you are poor in spirit, suddenly you see the poor just like you. If you are merciful in spirit, suddenly mercy becomes the norm. You desire to help the hurting. The thrift store becomes a place where your heart aches.

Walking in Alleyways, the Homeless, and Jesus

Exposure is critical. I realized this in my early twenties and thus started making intentional decisions to witness pain. I would walk through the downtown alley instead of the street. This forced me to walk by the sleeping homeless man, smell the urine around me, and witness a man dumpster diving. It made me aware everyday that poverty was real.

My time in alleyways often resulted in conversations. These conversations gave me chances to suggest to dumpster divers that they visit the local rescue mission. And of course, my alleyway conversations often gave me the opportunity to tangibly bless people by buying them a meal or cup of coffee. And then there were the times when Jesus came up—and I had a chance to spread the gospel. But at the very least, these alleyway walks forced me to change my perspective—to be aware of the wealth and poverty gap.

During my time in alleyways, I would often think of Jesus’ comments on poverty. Jesus equated himself with the impoverished—noting that in their faces is his face. He said that when we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, or visit the imprisoned, that we are serving him—we are doing it for him (>Matthew 25:27–40).

How are you exposing yourself to poverty? How are you serving Jesus today?

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, a non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. Partner with Jesus’ Economy to bring the gospel to unreached people groups and help the poor: You can shop or give to help. Learn more at

How God Uses Pain to Help Us Grow

Watching the day-old calf frolic across the field—full of life and hope—I am filled with joy. I then see its mother, nudging it forward. I am reminded of the way God cares for us. He knows the difficult life ahead, just like this mother cow, but he wants us to enjoy our time in the green pasture nonetheless (Psalm 23). He nudges us along.

“Every age has its turn. Every branch of the tree has to learn. Learn to grow, finds its way, Make the best of this short-lived stay.” —José Gonzaleź, “Every Age”

We all have to learn to find our way. We all have to grow. And we cannot do so when we are stagnant. We must move along. We must stand up and walk, even run, like that day-old calf. We must embrace the uncertain ground, knowing that in this field and in the next, and in the one after that, we will grow and learn. If God says it is in his will to move along—if he nudges our heart—we should do so (Luke 9:62). Yet the uncertainty of life often overwhelms us.


If you look back at the lives of the prophets—from Moses to Elijah to Jonah—it is clear that their lives were often lived in the uncertainty. God nudged them to unknown places—from wildernesses, to mountain tops, to foreign cities—but he was there each step along the way. God gave the prophets the words to say and the provision they needed (e.g., 1 Kings 17; Jonah 4:6–7; Exodus 16).

The prophets had to learn and grow. And in the uncertainty, God made that happen.

Knowing the future sounds wonderful, but it would ruin the present. The future is only God’s to behold (compare Ecclesiastes 8:7).


Growth often means pain. And growth without pain is an oxymoron. Suffering is often how God shows us himself. Suffering is part of the call to serve Jesus:

“If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 LEB).

It may be hard to hear these words, and I know from experience, that they are even harder to live. But when lived, these words will transform us.

Think of your growing pains as a child—that summer when your legs hurt so bad that you couldn’t seem to drink enough milk. Your body was transforming. Without that pain, you wouldn’t be who you are today. This is how faith is; it is often like growing pains.

“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4 LEB).

We know why suffering should be counted as joy, because it will change us for the better. It will draw us closer to God.

If the mother cow didn’t nudge her calf along, it would never see the green pasture outside the barn. It would live a life that was boring, sad, and stagnant. If God didn’t nudge us along into the unknown, we would never experience the joy of others coming to Christ, of our relationships with him growing. We wouldn’t see the pierced hands of Christ for what they really are—redemption, relationship, and the freedom to know God.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

Faith is Not a Straight Line

Faith is not a straight line. It is following the windy road that God leads you down. On a recent trip with my wife—during which God called us to follow him into the unknown—this truth became very real to me. God took my world, turned it upside down, and turned me back around.


Until a few weeks ago, I considered myself to be someone who really knew Jesus. But it turns out my knowledge about Christ was much more progressed than my relationship with him. Look inside yourself for a moment and ask if the same is true for you.

I have known Jesus for nearly my whole life—in fact, I dedicated my career to knowing him. I made my living creating Bible reference resources. But to know about Jesus and to truly know him as a friend are two very different things.

For some of us, we treat Jesus as a general (Rev 19:11). We listen to his commands, but he is not our close personal mentor.

For others of us, Jesus is a savior. He redeems us from sin. He has paid the ransom (John 3:16–17; Romans 8:28). Yet we do not know him personally, as the leader of each step of our lives.

For a few people I know, Jesus is more like a judge. He is waiting to bring them justice, or to condemn them. But for these people, Jesus is not the Messiah who weeps for Lazarus who died (John 11:35).

To know Jesus as our closest friend and ally, as the Scriptures proclaim, is a great gift indeed. To see prayer as our ongoing conversation with him—as if he were closer to us than a spouse or our closest confidant—is wonderful. Jesus desires to know us and for us to know him. He does not need our love to know his worth, but we cannot know our worth until we know his love (1 John 3:16).

For God to really get through to us, he has to break down our walls. And that process is well worth the pain.


God has asked me to do some difficult things, but one of the greatest challenges is when he asked my wife and I to sell our house, most of our stuff, and follow him on the road on behalf of the ministry we run: Jesus’ Economy. We did it. But something shocking happened: In a little over a week, it was obvious that God was telling us to turn around and go back to our hometown.

It takes just as much faith to obey God when he calls you back as it does to listen to him when he says, “Go.” I knew this deep down. So broken, hurting, and confused, my wife Kalene and I agreed to turn around.

Two nights later, and nearly 750 miles later, Kalene’s grandfather, who was suffering from cancer in our hometown, went on to be with the Lord. We arrived about 18 hours before his passing. Death had a lesson for me again, and so did God: You never know how short the time remaining is or what God is really doing with the time you have.

After processing my thoughts, I realized that if God had not called us on the road, my heart would not have been as tuned in to him. I would not have been ready to lead a bedside worship service during grandpa’s final hours or have been prepared to lead a graveside service later. But God had prepared me by forcing me to my knees in prayer through the struggles we faced on the road, and by driving me to him.

Above all, I was ready to cry out to God, weeping with others. I knew that understanding of most of life’s challenges is not ours to possess—we merely get a glimpse of God’s ways. I also knew in that moment that there is nothing more precious than holding onto Jesus, our savior, who endured the cross—especially during our time of need.


While the way to Jesus represents a straight and narrow path (Matthew 7:14), the roads he takes us down after we find him can sure seem to wind, loop around, and lead us straight back where we started—in terms of how he is using us. (God would never lead us back to the lives of sin where he first found us.) But this does not mean that God does not know what he is doing on the faith journeys he leads. It means that we need to follow, be obedient, and wait.

If love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4), so should we be for God’s guidance. We never know where we’re going, after all—it could be to the bedside of a loved one. And that is a difficult but beautiful place to be, if it means comforting those whom Jesus loves.

So I encourage you: listen, follow, and wait upon the Lord in your journeys. And may the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding be with you always.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

Where is the Messiah in the Midst of This Pain?

John sits in prison knowing he has only a few days left to live, and for the first time in his life, he has second thoughts.

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Even if Jesus isn’t the Messiah, John isn’t giving up. He’ll wait. Confident his whole life, never wavering and faithfully trusting—one more disappointment won’t derail his lifetime of ministry so easily. He believes the Messiah is coming, and until now, he’s believed it could be Jesus. 

The reason for his doubt is that nothing has changed. No governments have been overthrown, Jesus hasn't been crowned Victorious King, and wickedness seems to be winning.

The voice crying in the wilderness finally falters.

Quick waves of doubt begin crossing his mind—maybe it wasn't him, maybe it isn't Jesus. So, John sends his friends to find out what he is desperate to know.

Are you the one?

As the world bends beneath increasing chaos...

In these difficult times, our questions might begin to sound like John's. Violence is everywhere. Disease threatens thousands. Despite our best efforts, poverty rules neighborhoods and lives. What can be done? Is there any hope?

In our grief for the world we remain faithful, but grow discouraged. Faced with the responsibility to care for the sick, the persecuted, and the impoverished, maybe we become disillusioned—sick with helplessness; we feel persecuted by the lacking nature of our efforts and perhaps by those who are simply apathetic.

We become impoverished ourselves. 

We become poor in spirit. We are impoverished of hope—clutching the bars of our prison cells with white knuckles, our once confident voices now desperately crying. 

Jesus, are you the one, or are we to wait for another?

John's messengers came back with a news report of their own.

"The blind receive their sight. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised."

True to form, Jesus doesn't answer directly. He lets the kingdom of God speak for itself; the very kingdom John had proclaimed was at hand (Matthew 11:3–6). “There are miracles everywhere, John,Jesus seems to say.

Where is the Messiah?

I recently traveled to Central America to interview families affected by the poverty and gang violence destroying communities and driving hundreds of children from their homes—fleeing to other countries to save their lives from corruption. There are almost no jobs, no way to get ahead, and even fewer ways to stay alive. 

I sat with bereaved parents whose tears moved me to an angry, overwhelming sadness. My heart cramped in pain as I spoke with mothers who sent their children away for safety, possibly never to see them again. I met eyes whose sparkle had faded in some combination of hopelessness and wearied resignation, and felt my own eyelids grow heavy, my shoulders slump, wondering how this world could ever be made right.

John's anxious question made more sense than ever.

Jesus, are you?

Are you the one who is to come, to put the world right, or are we to wait for another?

Jesus knew the impoverished weren't just following him throughout Galilee. He sends John—the poor in spirit, the man with failing hope—good news, and asks him not to give up for lack of understanding.

"And the poor have good news brought to them.

Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

Jesus sends us the same message.

As illogical as it seems, there is good news for the impoverished—including the poor in spirit, the hopeless—even when the world imprisons us in confusion.

Call me bitter, but Jesus' message can sometimes seem a little unrealistic in the wake of my experiences in Latin America. John was discouraged in prison, but how many more questions would he have if he were here now? He would be inundated, certainly, by the amount of suffering. Today, there are thousands of lame not walking, deaf not hearing, and dead not raised. Everything seems different. Where is this Messiah and his reigning kingdom? What if it wasn't Jesus?

We're Waiting

Yet despite the world's many differences, we're more or less in the same place as John the Baptist was when he asked the same questions. We're waiting for God to make good on a promise while the world seems to worsen by the minute. And what consolation does Jesus offer us; the poor in spirit, the impoverished of hope?

Two things.

He gives us a promise that those who aren't misled by offense—by continued suffering, by increased violence, by unending poverty—will be blessed. Trust me, no matter what the world looks like, he says. 

He also offers good news for the impoverished (Luke 3:17–22).

He answers John's questions, and our own.


Yes, he is the one.

Jesus' kingdom is near. Where wrong is made right, and the poor are made rich, the dead are brought to life, the sick are cured, and the lame walk. In his kingdom no child flees his home for fear of persecution and no one goes hungry or thirsty, homes are safe and love is victorious.

But also, yes, we are to wait, but not for another person—for another moment. There will be another time when he will come to bring this good news to its fullness to last forever. Yes, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick, because, yes, he is the one. Yes, we are to keep holding on to this desperate hope—a hope that feels absurd when faced with impossible suffering, because yes, he is the one.

He invites us to trust that we don't see the full story, that there are better things coming, because, just like John the Baptist spent his life proclaiming, the kingdom of God is at hand—both now, and not yet.

Though John died in that prison, though families and children I met in Central America might suffer until they die, and though I might lie awake at night—wondering in doubt at whether there really is hope—the reality is yes.

Yes, He is the One, and there is good news for the impoverished.


Note: We don’t actually know if John’s inquiries showed doubt on his part, or if his understanding of the Messiah aligned with messianic expectations of his day (such as the Messiah reigning as immediate king in Jerusalem). Meredith's interpretation reads into John’s questions a probable emotion and probable cultural explanation.

Meredith Hastings guest writes for Jesus’ Economy, a non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Jesus' Economy provides an online fair trade shop and is working to Renew Bihar, India. She currently writes for World Vision International's Global Youth Initiative team and on her personal blog.