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Craig Blomberg’s Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions is an invaluable resource for thinking through a theology of what we own and how we are to steward it. I find his exegesis invariably careful and reasonable, though I think he at times imports unwarranted liberal presuppositions into his applications. But one of his concluding words in the book is something all of us should take to heart:

The bottom line is surely one of attitude. Does a discussion of issues like these threaten us, leading to counter-charges about guilt manipulation or to rationalizing our greeds as if they were our needs?

Or are we convicted in a healthy way that leads us to ask what more we can do to divest ourselves of our unused or unnecessary possessions, to make budgets to see where our money is really going, to exercise self-control and delayed gratification out of thanksgiving for all that God has blessed us with that we never deserved?

Are we eager to help others, especially fellow Christians, however undeserving they seem to be?

Are we concerned to expose ourselves widely to news of the world, including news from a distinctively Christian perspective, to have the plight of the impoverished millions not paralyse us but periodically reanimate our commitment to do better and to do more?

We may disagree on models of involvement, on to whom to give and on how much to give, but will we agree to continue to explore possibilities compatible with our economic philosophies and try to determine what really will do the most short-term and long-term good for the most needy?

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6 thoughts on “A Balanced Word and a Challenge on How We Think about and Use Material Possessions”

  1. Looking forward to reading this! At a time when many either push guilt or avoid the issue, it is good to have a theological approach to thinking about what we have and what we do with it! As one working with the materially “poor” in Tanzania, it is an issue we are continually thinking about and figuring out how to relate to people in the materially “richer” places in the world!

  2. So timely for me as I am preaching on the end of Philippians tomorrow.

    Thanks JT. I probably should thank you (but my book budget fears you).

  3. Hi Justin,
    These questions are very helpful, and thanks for sharing them! I’ve also found it very helpful to think as much in terms of “how much am I keeping?” as “how much am I giving?,” just as Jesus emphasized with the most generous widow who only gave two coins but kept nothing. Very few of us can follow “Oprah” or “Bill Gates” role models (give millions but keep millions), but we can all decide how much God would truly have us keep and give the rest away.
    Plus it’s really really fun. :)

  4. Oh, and sharing and crediting this on my blog next week if that’s OK!

  5. Curt Day says:

    What we share is part of the issue, but Martin Luther King had something to add to this discussion. He said that charity was not good enough by itself. He said that we also have to look at our current system to see if it is putting many people in need of charity.

  6. Thanks for keeping an important conversation going. I’ve tried to live by the “simplify and prioritize” approach in a context of generosity centered in the mission of Christ. I need to keep working at it!

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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