Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Neither Poverty nor Riches - book notes

Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of PossessionsNeither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions by Craig L. Blomberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

According to Don Carson, this book is “the best one on the subject” (p.9)!

Blomberg’s book is intended to fill a gap in the Christian written response to widespread poverty in the world by being an evangelical biblical theology of possession, surveying both Testaments with sensitivity to the backgrounds of Scripture and to the issues throughout the world. “Ironically, this is a book by the rich for the rich” (11).


Reverse discrimination may be as immoral as the initial discrimination it seeks to rectify (49, this is softened in following sentence).

Inspired by Nehemiah’s example, Blomberg writes: “Christian leaders today need to model generosity in their giving, so that the average church-goer, whose offerings prove paltry in comparison, can see that greater sacrifice is both possible and necessary” (55).

It is better, therefore, to see these [verses in Ecclesiastes] as genuine commands to enjoy the material world…from within an eternal framework that keeps life’s transience in perspective…One can enjoy creation without worshipping it, especially by keeping the life to come in clear focus (3:21; 12:7). (62)

Thus it is clear that [The Rich Fool - Luke 12.16-21] is condemned not just for being rich. Still, it is important for professing Christians today to ask themselves how many unused surplus goods, property or investments they accumulate without any thought for the needy of our world. If the parallels become too close, presumably Jesus would say that their professions of faith are vacuous. (119)

But this discipleship will inevitably produce a tangible impact in the area of stewardship of material possessions. Indeed, this area is often the most important test-case of one’s profession of discipleship. (126-7)

It is arguable that materialism is the single biggest competitor with authentic Christianity for the hearts and souls of millions in our world today, including many in the visible church. (132)

There is no repentance in Luke that does not practice sympathy toward the poor and outcast, no welcoming the saving act of God in Jesus Christ that does not do justice and kindness, no waiting for his return that does not expect and anticipate God’s vindication of the humble poor, no participation in his community that does not give alms or share one’s goods or practice hospitality. (239, quoting Verhey 1984: 95)

  5 conclusions (243-6)

1) Material possessions are a good gift from God meant for his people to enjoy

2) Material possessions are simultaneously one of the primary means of turning human hearts away from God.

3) A necessary sign of a life in the process of being redeemed is that of transformation in the area of stewardship.

4) There are certain extremes of wealth and poverty which are in and of themselves intolerable.

5) Above all, the Bible’s teaching about material possessions is inextricably intertwined with more ‘spiritual’ matters.

  5 corresponding applications (247)

1) If wealth is an inherent good, Christians should try to gain it.

2) If wealth is seductive, giving away some of our surplus is a good strategy for resisting the temptation to overvalue it.

3) If stewardship is a sign of a redeemed life, then Christians will, by their new natures, want to give.

4) If certain extremes of wealth and poverty are inherently intolerable, those of us with excess income…will work hard to help at least a few of the desperately needy in our world.

5) If holistic salvation represents the ultimate good God wants all to receive, then our charitable giving should be directed to individuals, churches or organizations who minister holistically, caring for people’s bodies as well as their souls, addressing their physical as well as their spiritual circumstances.

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