Recently, I was asked to review a new book, Your Next 24 Hours: One Day of Kindness Can Change Everything by Hal Donaldson and Kirk Noonan (Sorry, but I believe ghost writers should get equal billing.) Social justice has taken front stage in our world lately and I was interested in reading what was billed as a Christian book on the subject.
Before I share some of the very serious issues I have with this book from a Christian perspective, let me say I don’t actually have many problems with this book if it were marketed as a secular book. Ultimately, that’s what this book really is – a secular book on social justice – with the lightest coat of Jesus varnish on it.
The subjects covered range from serving others to showing kindness and more. The discussions include a wide range of topics on a rather basic level. Each of the 22 chapters ends with several ideas of concrete ways to implement the concepts in that chapter. Most are what you would find on any list of service project ideas for kids and honestly, a couple of them sounded almost trite, or at least forced.
As this book was published by a Christian publishing company and marketed I would assume as a Christian book, I have some serious issues with it. The first issue I have may seem trivial to some, but I think it conveys a message I am not sure the author intended. Throughout the book, Donaldson constantly holds up celebrities as wonderful examples of altruism (my word, not his). While I don’t know any of these people personally, I seriously question the wisdom of setting them up as examples of living a Christian life. They may very well be, but in our celebrity obsessed culture, most people will automatically assume many of these things were done for publicity. (Don’t kid yourself, celebrities are very aware they are constantly being filmed by strangers.)
Yes, the examples he gives of things they have done, were by and large nice things to have accomplished. I also understand it is very possible for a celebrity to do what appears to be something altruistic and still live a life of self-centeredness (studies have shown in a proportional sense, the average poor person actually gives more than the average wealthy person in this country). I would have preferred the author to give examples without calling attention to celebrities or anyone in particular for that matter. It just gives the impression we should be kind because Adam Levine did something nice, and not for the real reasons God wants us to be kind to others and serve them. (Which, granted Adam, it was a really cool thing you did!)
My biggest concern with the book though is that the author makes the mistake of many Christians who are trying to be “cool” and Christian. Social justice for them has become their religion. They have taken the ways a Christian should treat others and made it the entire purpose of living a Christian life. God is removed from the picture and a sanitized Jesus who only helped others and never taught, challenged them or called them to obedience is put in place of the real Jesus.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 ESV) The biblical purpose of good works is not just meeting the felt needs of mankind. Yes, it should and does accomplish that, but ultimately the goal was to point people to God. The good works would make people want to glorify God and hopefully worship and obey Him.
As the Apostles went about the world after the Day of Pentecost, they still did many good works like Jesus had. But notice this key verse in Acts: “Every day they taught in the temple courtyards and from house to house. They never stopped telling people the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5:42 NIrV) The Apostles didn’t just do good works. Those good works laid the ground work for their ultimate mission – teaching the Gospel and baptizing disciples.
My problem with the author’s view of social justice is that it provides a very small bandaid for the giant cannonball size hole Satan has left in the lives and souls of people. I will always hopefully, be first in line to give food to the hungry and help widows and orphans. But – and this is an eternity changing but – if I help meet the felt worldly needs of people, but don’t help them understand their sin and their need for repentance and Jesus in their lives….I have given them a meal (or a thousand meals) and left their souls in eternal danger.
Is that what Jesus has really called Christians to do? Christians have often struggled with finding a godly balance in their lives. It was never to be social justice/service OR teaching and converting. It was always meant to be AND. That is the message I so badly wanted this book to convey. Ultimately, it was the failure to communicate the full message of godly social justice that caused this book to leave me feeling hollow.
If you want a secular book on service to give a young teen, this one has value. If you are looking for a great book to help teens and adults really examine the full, rich depth of social justice I believe God intended for Christians to have, this is not the book. I can’t wait to find the book that finally does paint the richness of giving others eternal social justice. I will let you know if I ever find it.
P.S. Although it is not about social justice per se, the book Mission Drift by Peter Greer is (I think) a must read for any Christian hoping to make a difference in the lives of others.
Your next 24 Hours was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.