Disciples and Stewardship: Give Without Expecting Anything Back

Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions (New Studies in Biblical Theology) “…[T]he Bible’s teaching about material possessions is inextricably intertwined with more ‘spiritual’ matters.”  So writes Craig Blomberg in his helpful Bible survey of money, wealth, and possessions: Neither Poverty Nor Riches (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999).  Specifically thinking of Jesus’ teaching and parables about wealth/possessions, it’s important to note that stewardship is a big part of being a disciple (cf. Mk. 12:1-2, Lk. 12:16-20, Lk 16:1-13, etc.).   In the Gospels “Jesus is not crucified for his teaching about material possessions, but the controversies with the Jewish leaders that become increasingly pointed include items of stewardship as one prime arena in which they do not please God” (Blomberg, 145).

Here’s one of the summary statements Blomberg makes at the end of his survey:

“A necessary sign of a life in the process of being redeemed is that of transformation in the area of stewardship.  Ultimately, one’s entire life should be dedicated to God, but a particularly telling area for determining one’s religious commitment involves one’s finances.  The wealthy but godly patriarchs and kings of the Old Testament are, without exception, said to have shared generously with the poor and needy.  Old Testament laws mandated tithes and taxes to support ‘full-time religious workers’ as well as to aid the otherwise destitute.  One of the most frequent refrains of Torah, Psalms and Prophets is God’s concern for the ‘widow, fatherless, alien and poor’, a concern which should lead his people to ruthlessly avoid every form of exploitation and seek ways to meet the genuine needs of the marginalized and to address the causes of their misery.”

“In the New Testament, Luke and Paul enjoin generous almsgiving, while Jesus simply presupposes the practice, most notably in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:1-4).  James and John agree that someone who is aware of his Christian brothers’ or sisters’ material needs, is in a position to help, and fails to utterly do anything, cannot be saved (Jas. 2:14-17; 1 John 3:17-18).  Peter and Paul are particularly consistent in their challenges to the Greco-Roman system of tit-for-tat reciprocity in the giving and receiving of gifts.  Both build on Jesus’ own command rooted in the Old Testament jubilary theology to lend (or give), ‘without expecting anything back’ (Luke 6:35).

Craig Blomberg, Neither Poverty Nor Riches, p. 244-5.

Shane Lems

 

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