Just…Property.

Greetings my English-speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

“Mine!” It is an idea learned early in our childhood. This is mine. That is yours.

What is “ours” is important to humans. In English we call things we own, “property.”
Sometimes we are given property. Sometimes we earn property. Sometimes we take property that is not ours. We call that, “stealing.”

Governments provide justice when something is stolen. In fact, one of the main reasons that governments exist is to protect property. Governments sometimes go to war with other governments because of arguments over property.

How should we think about our things? How should we treat property?

Here, the Constitution of Peru (1993) guarantees all persons the right to own and inherit property. Of course, under our current form of government, there are people who own more things than others. There are rich people. There are also poor people. Such differences can lead to greed and jealousy.

To deal with problems of greed and jealousy Karl Marx created Communism. Communists tried to make a world without rich or poor. However, communism failed. As a wise man once said, “The poor will always be with you.” People are selfish beings. Humans are by nature greedy. We desire control. We desire power. We want more property. Think deeply about yourself and your own desires. If you are honest with yourself, you will realize that what I am saying is true. We are born with a selfish nature. As adults, we still claim, “Mine!” A form of government is not the answer to this problem. The answer comes from God.

From early in history, God gave laws about property. He told people not to steal. He told us not to be jealous of other people’s property (Exodus 20:15-17). God does not only tell us what not to do about property. He teaches us to treat property in good ways. He teaches us to love others by sharing our property. Sharing is honorable and loving because it gives away ownership. You cannot truly share without the idea of ownership.

Early Christians lived this way. In the Bible, we find that followers of Jesus shared everything with each other. They sold their land and other possessions and gave the money to anyone who needed it.

Why do followers of God want to live this way? It is because they believe that properties, all things, are a gift from God. From this viewpoint, property “owners” might be better understood as, property “managers.” Followers of God consider what He wants them to do with His property.

What does God want people to do with His property? Jesus told His followers, “Whoever has two shirts should share with the person who doesn’t have any. Whoever has food should share it too.”

When tax collectors asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” Jesus told them, “Don’t collect more money than you are ordered to collect.”

When soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” Jesus told them, “Be satisfied with your pay, and never use threats or blackmail to get money from anyone.”

Property is important but, as Jesus warned, “Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust don’t destroy and thieves don’t break in and steal. Your heart will be where your treasure is…”.

I’m Leon Smith.

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Just…End Slavery.

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Greetings my English-speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

The headlines open our eyes. It was reported recently that police in Peru rescued nearly 300 women from sex trafficking. Among those rescued from about 50 brothels were at least 10 minors – the youngest was a 13-year-old girl.

Human trafficking is a growing problem in our world.  It is a crime that knows no borders. It is modern slavery, and slavery is wrong.

There are estimates of 10-30 million slaves today around the globe.  That means there are more slaves today than ever in the history of the world.  After illegal drugs and weapons trafficking, it is the third-largest crime.

Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar business. Yet, the average price of a slave is less than $100.  Victims are trafficked for many purposes, such as commercial sex, agricultural work, or housekeeping.  They all share the loss of the basic human right to freedom.

Many children are victims. To buy young children for sex is very evil. If I must explain to you why it is so evil, you have a problem. Get help.  As a popular campaign says, “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.”

Slavery is not only a problem in poor countries.  Between fourteen to eighteen thousand people are trafficked INTO the United States each year. Studies have found that just New York City has nearly four thousand sex trafficked children. That number does not include children from foreign countries.

Slavery has been a problem since the beginning of time.  But why is there such a big problem with human trafficking today?

There are several reasons for this problem.  One cause is a need for money. There is a great divide between the rich and the poor in today’s world.  Poor people struggle to live.  In order to stay alive, they need their children to work.  It is easy for a poor person to be tricked for money.  Bad people come to villages and claim that there is money to be made in big cities.  They offer poor parents money if their children will come to work for them.  It sounds like a good deal when you are hungry for food.  But, it is a trap.  The children are brought into a life of slavery.

A large cause for sex trafficking is the growing pornography business. New technology allows sexually graphic material to easily enter our homes. The Internet, for example, is full of evil material. Even satellite TV with “X-rated” shows can be found in the smallest villages of the Andes Mountains.  The use of pornography can become an addiction and often leads people to the purchase of sex.  Again, there is money to be made.

C.S. Lewis once said, “All that we call human history–money, poverty…war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Brothers and sisters, it is right to fight for freedom.  Never stop.  Die for it if you must.  But always remember that true freedom for our world can only be found in God.

As the Bible says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…Serve.

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Greetings my English-speaking friends and those wanting to learn, welcome to Just English!

We all want justice in our world.  We want people treated fairly.  Where I work, at Paz y Esperanza, we have a passion for justice.

Today I want to talk about one of the most important ways that you, as an individual, can help to build a culture of justice. That is through service.  When you learn how to truly serve others, justice will be served.

Do you know how to serve others?

When I was a youth, my family lived in Africa.  My African friends told many stories about animals.  One story went like this:

Once there was monkey who lived by a river.  One day he looked down from his tree and saw a fish struggling in that river.  The fish was working hard:  he was jumping high out of the water.  The monkey had compassion.  He wanted to help.  And so, the monkey reached down from his branch and grabbed the fish.  He then threw the fish onto the bank of the river. 

The monkey was very proud of himself.  He thought that he had helped the fish.  The fish looked happy…it was flopping on the ground.  In fact, after a while, the fish calmed down and it did not move at all:  it was very peaceful.  The monkey was very proud…

Did the monkey serve the fish?  No!  The monkey killed the fish!

Do you understand the moral of the story?  Sometimes we want to serve others but we do not help them.  We think we know what is best for them but we may not know the right answer.  First, we need to listen to their needs.

To serve best, we must listen first.  Is this difficult for you?  It is difficult for me.  I often think I know best and sometimes I act before listening.

For both justice and service, we must listen first.  This is true for individuals.  This is true for organizations.  This is true for churches.  This is true for governments.  Listen.  And then fulfill needs.

How does this proper service relate to justice?  It relates by helping to raise people’s dignity. Cultures that do not work to raise people’s dignity usually have trouble providing justice for all of their people.

My father once said,  “One serves best when one fulfills the needs of others in order to raise their dignity so they can also glorify God.”

What exactly is dignity?  Dignity is proper respect.  It is based on the idea that every person deserves to be treated equally well.  And why should all people be treated well?  It is because you and I, and all people, were created in the image of God.  We are all made to glorify Him.  Universal human dignity is a difficult idea to accept if one does not believe in God.

Even for people who believe in God, some other people can be difficult to serve.  Some people are bad people.  But they still deserve human dignity.  Maybe they do not know that God created them.  Maybe that difficult person does not know the purpose of his or her own life.  Serve them, and they may come to know their own purpose through your service.

Sometimes we can only do small things to help.  Of course, Mother Teresa once said, “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.”

Serve the poor. Serve widows and orphans.  Serve victims of violence and abuse. Even serve people in prison. Serve and raise someone’s dignity.  Justice will be served.

I’m Leon Smith.


Just…a Place to Begin.

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Greetings my English Speaking Friends and those wanting to learn! Welcome to Just English.

It is said that, “every journey begins with one step.” Everything has a beginning—including this radio segment. So, if we are going to talk about justice, we must start at the beginning.

We cannot speak about justice, fairness under the law, unless there is a reason for justice.  That reason is what we call human rights.  But why do we have human rights?

Do people have human rights just because a government makes a law or an excellent human rights organization like Paz y Esperanza says you have rights?  How might a person or group come to the conclusion that another person or group needs to be treated with equal value?

For example, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution does not help us to understand human rights.  In fact, it leads us away from human rights by the idea that “only the strong shall survive.”

To fully understand and value human rights, we have to understand that we humans are not here by chance.  A God creates us and gives us value.  We reflect that God.

The Bible, in the book of Genesis, says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  He then created humans in His image. Male and female he created them.  Tall and short, South American, North American, European, Asian, Latino, Quechua, African, Red, yellow, black, white…whether we are a governor or a person who works in a garbage dump, we are all created by God.  We are not trash.  No person should live in trash or be treated like trash. We are all of great value.

Even if you are a baby growing inside your mother’s womb, or a person nearing death, you are of great value—to God if nobody else.  Each of us has God-given human rights, starting with life itself.

King David, from the Bible, understood this topic. In Psalm 139 he wrote about how God created each of us.

David wrote,

Oh yes [God], …
      you formed me in my mother’s womb….
   You know me inside and out,
      you know every bone in my body;
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
   The days of my life all prepared
      before I’d even lived one day.  (Psalm 139:13-16 from The Message)

David knew that in order to go about life, in order to have purpose, in order to have justice, we must first understand that we each have value because God made us and prepared our days.

Also in the Bible we read that God even knows the number of hairs upon your head.  You are valuable to God.  So then, because of this, you can treat others with respect, honor, and fairness…with justice.  We are empowered by God to do to others as we would have them do to us!

You, your neighbor, even your enemy is of great value as a created human being – made a person by God.  Life, each life is valuable.  Each life is precious.  This is where justice begins.