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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Gifted Stewards or Stewards of Gifts

The Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 55 says that one aspect of the “communion of the saints” is this: “Each member [of Christ’s body] should consider it his duty to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members” (Rom. 12:4-8, 1 Cor. 12:20-27, Phil. 2:4-8).  Os Guinness says the same thing, only he looks at it from a different – and helpful – angle.

“God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness”

“In the biblical understanding of giftedness, gifts are never really ours or for ourselves.  We have nothing that was not given us.  Our gifts are ultimately God’s, and we are only ‘stewards’ – responsible for the prudent management of property that is not our own.  This is why our gifts are always ‘ours for others,’ whether in the community of Christ or the broader society outside, especially the neighbor in need.”

“This is also why it is wrong to treat God as a grand employment agency, a celestial executive searcher to find perfect fits for our perfect gifts.  The truth is not that God is finding a place for our gifts but that God has created us and our gifts for a place of his choosing – and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there.”

“God does call us to ‘be ourselves’ and ‘do what we are.’  But we are only truly ‘ourselves’ and can only truly ‘do what we are’ when we follow God’s call.  Giftedness that is ‘ours for others’ is therefore not selfishness but service that is perfect freedom.”

These quotes can be found in chapter 6 of The Call by Os Guinness.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Managing God’s Money

Cover: Managing God's Money If the polls are correct, many Christians spend more on their pets than they give to missionaries (our pets are better cared for than our missionaries).  If the polls are correct, most Christians only tithe about 2% of their income.  Even if those polls are a bit off, I think it is safe to say all of us need to hold a little (or a lot!) less tightly to our cash and coin.  So when I saw Randy Alcorn’s Managing God’s Money on the Tyndale Blog Network, I quickly requested a copy.  I’ve not read anything by Alcorn before this one; I was happy to see he did his best to summarize the Bible’s teaching on how Christians should handle the money God has given them to utilize as pilgrims and stewards.

The book consists of six sections: 1) Money and possessions in the Bible, 2), Perspectives that hinder biblical money management, 3) Stewardship in light of eternity, 4) Giving and sharing, 5) Wisdom and money, and 6) Training our children (and churches) about biblical money management.

One part I appreciated was (in section 2 above) Alcorn’s discussion of materialism.  He writes about the materialistic aspect of Western culture, how it affects all of us, and how we can fight it.  Alcorn also rightly criticizes the prosperity gospel: “Prosperity theology is like chocolate-covered rat poison.”  He mentions the suffering Christians are often called to and also explains that God often gives his people wealth so they can give it to others who need it.  Alcorn gives a great quote by Augustine: “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.”

One part of this book I wasn’t completely convinced by was Alcorn’s discussion of rewards in chapter 11.  He wasn’t suggesting that our giving earns us a place in heaven, but he did mention that heavenly reward should motivate us to give liberally.  There wasn’t anything terrible in this chapter, but it was ambiguous and could have been more nuanced and theological.  I also was disappointed that Alcorn never mentioned gratitude when it comes to managing money.  The book would be much better if he had discussed the gospel and how it motivates us to a life of thankfulness – including managing money in a way that shows gratitude to God for his saving grace.  To be fair, Alcorn did mention the gospel and he didn’t veer into legalism – I was just hoping for a clearer grace/gratitude discussion.

Having noted my critique, I still do recommend this book.  It is easy to read, full of wise biblical advice, and very applicable to all Christians.  From young married couples to older Christians who want to be better stewards of the money God has given them, the book will be a good help for many.  I’ll end with a few of my favorite quotes.

“God entrusts riches to us, not so we can keep them, but so we can give them” (p. 72).

“Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury.  It’s his provision for me to help others live.  God entrusts me with his money not to build my kingdom on Earth, but to build his Kingdom in Heaven” (p. 133).

“Whatever role saving has in our lives, it should always be secondary to giving.  And it must never be a substitute for trusting God” (p. 194).

“The almighty dollar bequeathed to a child is an almighty curse.  No man has the right to handicap his son with such a burden as great wealth.  He must face this question squarely: Will my fortune be safe with my boy and will my boy be safe with my fortune?” (Andrew Carnegie) (p. 209).

Read more about this book at Tyndale’s website (here).  My thanks go out to Tyndale for providing this complimentary review copy.

shane lems