NPNR: Conclusions and Applications 2

neitherpoverty.jpgFurther applications from Neither Poverty Nor Riches by Craig Blomberg, including some interesting personal practices of Blomberg himself:

First, is wealth is an inherent good, Christians should try to gain it. If some of us succeed more than the majority, our understanding of it as God’s gift for all will lead us to want to share with the needy, particularly those who are largely victims of circumstances outside their control.

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

Third, if stewardship is a sign of a redeemed life, then Christians will, by their new natures, want to give. Over time, compassionate and generous use of their resources will become an integral part of their Christian lives.

Fourth, if certain extremes of wealth and poverty are inherently intolerable, those of us with excess income (i.e., most readers of this book!) will work hard to help at least a few of the desperately needy in our world.

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

There is a danger of speaking too autobiographically in a context such as this, but lest my own motives be misinterpreted, or lest people simply wonder what kind of lifestyle I myself lead, I think it is important to share at least a few of my personal circumstances….

I was challenged early in my adult life by two different pastors, one in the US and one in the UK, who each gave 25% of the total income back to the Lord’s work and let the fact be known, not in any arrogant way, but simply to encourage others that is could be done. …I have become convinced that the concept of a graduated tithe [giving at a higher percentage the higher one’s income] is both biblical and foundational for contemporary Christian stewardship. …This was our fifth consecutive year of topping 30%, following the principle of the graduated tithe.

…I do not assume that others making the same amount as our family would in general be able to give as much away. But when the American Christian average of total giving per family is below 3% of per capita income, surely we can do considerably better! I am convinced that a substantial majority of American Christians…could at least tithe if they made it a priority. And I am confident that many of my suburban friends could do even better than that.

…So how does one do it? Obviously, by not spending money on things so many Westerners do. We must remind ourselves and our children regularly of the lies, half-truths and pagan values on which is based the advertising that bombards us daily. With relatively minor hardships, our family has freed up considerable funds by doing with less of many items that most Westerners routinely take for granted. We have refused to go into debt for anything except property and education, bought cars only that we could afford to pay cash for, bought other goods in bulk, at discounts, at garage sales and at thrift shops. …We have not heated or cooled our home quite to the extend that most North Americans do, or amassed the number of nature of clothes most Westerners seem compelled to accumulate. Even as simple a decision as not to eat out with the astonishing frequency of so many of our acquaintances has freed up enormous amounts of money.

…Ronsvalle and Ronsvalle have demonstrated that the amounts of money theoretically need to eradicate world poverty could be amassed simply if all American Christians would tithe.; every other existing Christian ministry could still continue to be funded at its current level. …There is so much more that we could do without ever coming close to reversing positions with the poor….

‘Give me neither poverty nor riches,’ prayed the writer of the proverb; but, since most of us already have riches, we need to be praying more often, ‘and help me to be generous and wise in giving more or those riches away'” (247-253).

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22 thoughts on “NPNR: Conclusions and Applications 2”

  1. Amen! And that is a good example you set.

    Two comments:

    1. Paul Washer, 20-year missionary and director of HeartCry Missionary Society, is a huge advocate of ‘indigenous missions’. He claims it costs 40$ a month to support an indigenous missionary (third world), whereas it is thousands to support an American in the third world.

    He makes a point that there are two parts of missions: going down in the well, and holding the rope for those who do. With our great surplus in this country, I think Americans should both strive for ‘alien-ness to our American cult-ure’ AND holding the well for third world missions.

    2. In no way WOULD the tithe by American Christians eliminate poverty. It COULD, if several impossible premises were met

    a. the poor in the third would would utilize the money over a long term in necessary ways

    b. the powerful in those countries–the militias and thug-government forces–allowed the poor in those countries to utilize the money.

    As you know from Scripture, man is totally depraved. Merely getting funds will not change things that much. That is why it is, in my assessment, folly to give money to secular charities. $40 to the peace corps keeps hell-bound people alive a little bit longer, but also keeps a motivated indigenous missionary off the field.

    JDH

  2. PB.

    I may need to read this book! I know I have a lot on my plate now but I may need to squeeze it in. Not so much squeeze it into my schedule, I can make time for that, but squeeze it into this peanut sized brain.

    JDH

    I was with you to a point. We are totally depraved, and know one can do “good” outside of Christ, but I think you are mixing two view points. One is that of a spiritual point of view and that of a physical point of view.

    In God’s eyes, yes, their work is futile in regards to their salvation, but in our natural world do you really think its folly to give to the Red Cross? Or to One.org or anyone of many charities that are doing great works? I would be very careful saying who is Hell bound and who isn’t!

    The verdict is in my friend. We as Christians give the same as non-Christians. As for me? I will give as my heart leads. The first of my fruits to Christ. No questions asked. But I know a lot of secular charities that are doing great things for humanity. If they’re dead we can’t preach to them. I also know a few Christians “missionaries” who aren’t doing jack squat. You tell me where the folly is.

  3. Well, to be fair, One.org doesn’t do much good. The One Campaign promotes the idea that governments and money will solve the problems of the world, having not learned the lessons of history. Africa has been kept largely in the dark ages because of the free money flowing into it. Rather than set up the native Africans for individual, personal success, Western governments continue to line the pockets of their corrupt regimes. We’ve put how many trillions of dollars into that continent, and have almost nothing to show for it. After all, more Africans have been massacred and died from disease since the West got involved in “humanitarian” efforts than in all of history prior.

    I would generally agree with JH, one should at least be quite careful about giving monies to secular charities. There are some exceptions, but few.

  4. I have a question about the “cash only for cars” principle. I have heard this before… I don’t quite understand how one gets started in this practice. Maybe I’m missing the obvious, but how someone living in Minnesota make the cash to buy the car, without first having a car?

  5. Darius,

    You get my point. If you’d like I could find different examples of non-Christian organizations that are doing good things?

  6. steve

    car thing: all must live by my example in order for this to work — when you’re 15, get a job washing dishes at the hole-in-the-wall diner down the street (within walking distance). When you’ve saved $500, buy a 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra that will then drive you to the better job you can get when you’re 16. Then you save a couple thousand at said job, buy a better car, and so on and so forth through life.

    😉

    I’ve never owned a new car though either.

  7. Yeah, I get your point Jesse. And I would agree that just because a charity is “Christian” doesn’t necessarily make it efficient or worthy of your money.

  8. It isn’t that those organizations aren’t doing good things, but how efficient the donations are. With the Red Cross and any other organization, a % of every dollar you give goes to cover their overhead. The Red Cross number is about 9% (and theirs is probably one of the best)http://www.redcross.org/article/0,1072,0_312_7273,00.html

    You give them $40, about $36 will go towards their “mission.” That same $40 put into the hands of a Myanmar or Darfur national will probably go almost 100% to their “mission.”

    I have an uncle who has been working in his “retirement” to train and assist local churches in Asia. Much of his work/travel is self funded or raised through his church. In recent weeks, he has been able to funnel medications, water purification and other supplies directly into the hands of churches in Myanmar. He has also been able to train them in the administration of the medications, etc. It is a mere drop in the bucket, but more than many other US or other world aid organizations have been able to do in this case, because the real work is being done by those who live in Myanmar and can move about without gov’t hinderance.

  9. One thing that has been bothering me lately – with the issuance of the “Economic Stimulus” checks/deposits, why does it seem giving in the local church has not risen in the last few weeks?

    Maybe people are using it to give to other ministries/services, but I’m not sure this is the case.

  10. That could be. I know the direct deposits were done by mid-May, but maybe fewer people have direct deposit of tax refunds than I realized, as well as people who didn’t get a refund but will get a stimulus check. Maybe I’m just prematurely annoyed.

  11. Well, I haven’t received mine yet and I chose direct deposit. And from what I’ve heard, a bunch of direct deposits are behind schedule. Rumor is that the DDs will be completed by the end of June.

  12. Real Jesse S.

    I appreciate the spirit of your points, but I maintain my aversion to secular giving. In my case, the only exception is the Red Cross or other secular sources I’ve personally used (ex in the Military I’ve given blood, since we get blood from them).

    As for missionaries doing squat, that is why I carefully cited HeartCry Missionary Society 🙂

    The way I see it, there is such a great gain to supporting effective missionaries–like HeartCry’s specifically–that any money spent on bodily needs is a waste.

    I also think you have too much faith in man’s ability to effectively use money in those poor regions. It takes much reform in the 3rd world mindset to become sustainable; when can we stop blaming imperialism for illogical (even by survival standards!) decisions!

    I keep thinking of AIDs, how infected men will *still* have sex with their wives–as if sex is so important they are willing to spread the disease. This is anecdotal, but from a lecture I attended by a leading AIDS researcher at UW-Madison!

    As Pastor Brian teaches, God does all things for His Glory–which includes expressing His love even to the lost while they are alive. But $40 to a secular charity does not bring Him glory, whereas $40 to a HeartCry Missionary supports a motivated (by the Spirit) missionary who preaches and/or administers aid WITH the Gospel of Salvation.

    John Piper even argues that helping the lost, without any hope of sharing the Gospel, is idolatry–either fearing men or loving the image of man so much that you don’t think the Gospel is worthy to be shared in light of giving aid.

    I don’t work for HeartCry BTW, but if you want to see how efficient they are, check out this sermon:

    (2006 Heart-Cry) Journal Reading and Message by Paul Washer

    http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/viewcat.php?cid=442

    I admire your spirit.

    Of course, piecemeal might be an exception, if the Spirit leads you–but in general I I just don’t see any reason to,
    *in light of a better option for donations* (in addition to a local church),
    support a God-hating (if you believe in Total Depravity) organization.

    Blessings,

    JDH

  13. “But $40 to a secular charity does not bring Him glory,”….

    Woah….. I’m just stunned by this. The logical extension of your argument is that Christians shouldn’t cooperate *AT ALL* with secular organizations. Think about what you’re saying. If a Christian giving money isn’t glorifying to God in and of itself, neither is any other form of cooperative effort (giving money shouldn’t be counted any different than giving goods or services or time).

    At our last church, our small group led a small effort to reach out to a local women’s shelter. Our leader simply called them up and said “We’d like to help. What can we do?” It ended up creating a low-key, but ongoing, relationship — they occasionally called with needs, and we met them when able.

    I believe that effort — even though it’s essentially no different than donating $40 to a secular charity — was glorifying to God.

    I’d go so far as to say that the Church would be more effective in reaching the lost if its members focused *more* on giving to (and working with) secular organizations. We have a lot of cynicism to overcome with regard to the perception of Christians; if people saw we were less concerned with indoctrination and more concerned with simply loving people — the kingdom would be richer for it.

    Piper’s comments in no way suggest to me that an organization needs to be holistically focused on providing every piece of the Gospel puzzle.

    I am convinced it is a mistake to divide the Gospel into “physical” and “spiritual” needs. The Gospel is a united whole that encompasses the entire reach of human experience. As such, I don’t think it even makes sense to talk about meeting someone’s “physical” needs as if those are somehow separate from their “spiritual” needs.

    Best wishes,

    BMR

  14. Brett,

    Man, this is spot-on: “I am convinced it is a mistake to divide the Gospel into “physical” and “spiritual” needs. The Gospel is a united whole that encompasses the entire reach of human experience. As such, I don’t think it even makes sense to talk about meeting someone’s “physical” needs as if those are somehow separate from their “spiritual” needs.”

  15. “I believe that effort — even though it’s essentially no different than donating $40 to a secular charity — was glorifying to God.”

    To be fair, there is a key difference: donating money to a secular charity means you have no idea how or when it is spent, and in what manner. Giving time and energy to a local women’s shelter allows you (a Christian) to directly involve yourself in the lives of the lost. You know exactly what your time, energy, and/or money goes to, and can see for yourself the fruits. Furthermore, you are being a beacon of Christ’s light and love at the shelter, while the gospel is not furthered AT ALL by a random gift to a secular charity.

  16. But I do agree strongly with the need to keep spiritual and physical needs tied closely together. And I think that is what JH is arguing for… why only care for the physical when you can care for both with your giving to a Christian charity? On the flip side, I would disagree vehemently with any Christian charity that wouldn’t serve people’s physical needs if not allowed to preach the gospel. Like you said, BMR, the kingdom is rarely furthered when Christians appear to care more about indoctrination than loving others.

  17. I thank God for your guys practical spirit! I think in practice you all are glorifying God.

    Darius correctly exegeted my point with his careful reading: why not donate to organizations that BOTH care for the physical needs and the spiritual needs at the same time! Red Cross and One Org don’t do that.

    A lot of my “Gospel is priority” comes from personal experience building ’10 ton bridges’ with people over YEARS, only to see them trample on the pearls when I shared them–or worse, being grand-motherly (‘hmm that’s interesting… now let’s move on’). Then I heard Paul Washer, John Piper, Jesus our Lord, and Paul the Apostle basically say:

    preach the Gospel boldly and let the Holy Spirit do the Work, ex: Romans 1

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for IT is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

    Should we donate to Myanmar? Yes, but preferably through Gospel + medical/food orgs. I think people–including me I’ll admit–can mis-exegete the weight of Scripture so that we distort it to fit our pagan side. For instance:

    ‘love your neighbor as yourself’

    Vs

    2Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.

    1 Tim 6

    I think part of the reason is this: we think we need to be ‘relevant’ in the eyes of men. Part of that is this un-Biblical thinking of ‘oh, if the God-hating only saw Jesus in His believers, then they would convert!’ I think the Apostle Paul addresses that in Romans 1–believers suppress the Witness of the Spirit and don’t seek God.

    We are to be true Christians, for His Glory and out of being genuine. But I am extremely skeptical of the argument that people will go to hell because of seeing hypocritical church-men. Rather, I think Total Depravity is the reason Scripture gives. Remember, very few followed our Lord and Savior, who gave the Perfect Witness! “This is a hard teaching, who can accept it?” Also 1 Cor 1

    I also think we must remember the consistent theme of the first Christian Fathers and the Lord:

    4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

    James 4

    also John 15:8

    I’m not saying we should be the Qumranites and be isolated. But I do think God says to treat brothers–which means believers, not ‘fellow man’ in the context of letters written to Churches!–with more passion and effort than the God-hating.

    We are to be better than the World, not allies–which might dilute the Gospel.

    I’d recommend reading the Social Science Commentary of the Synoptic Gospels by Malina and Roughbaugh. The Ancient Near Eastern mindset is way different than ours…and it affects how we view our Lord and Savior. For some key examples, look at entries on ‘brothers’ and ‘turn the other cheek’. Even when Jesus says to the Pharisees, ‘have you not read the Scriptures?’ that was considering extremely insulting! But we would think ‘oh, he’s promoting dialogue!’ No he wasn’t… the original audience would have gasped and essentially ripped the Expert’s worth up by Jesus saying that (it was an honor challenge!)

    Just some things to think about. I’ll keep and eye on ‘who is my neighbor and how to treat him’ more because of ya’lls insistence.

    Blessings back,

    JDH

  18. Hmm… a key mis-type in the paragraph after 1 TIM is cited. It should read:

    I think part of the reason is this: we think we need to be ‘relevant’ in the eyes of men. Part of that is this un-Biblical thinking of ‘oh, if the God-hating only saw Jesus in His believers, then they would convert!’ I think the Apostle Paul addresses that in Romans 1–UNbelievers suppress the Witness of the Spirit and don’t seek God.

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