Saturday, June 20, 2009

Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Still More Quotes

More Quotes from Craig L. Blomberg's book entitled Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Material Possesions:

“While the materially impoverished of our world should provoke Christian compassion, irrespective of their world-view of religious allegiance, James 2:5 in not teaching anything about automatic religious superiority based on low socio-economic standing, even if it is often the case that the materially poor more quickly recognize their dependence on God than the material rich.” (152)

“So, too, professing Christians today who have surplus income (i.e. a considerable majority of believers in the Western world), who are aware of the desperate needs locally and globally, not least within the Christian community (a situation almost impossible to be unaware of, given our barrage of media coverage), and who give none of their income, either through church or other Christian organizations, to help the materially destitute of the world, ought too ask themselves whether any claims of faith they might make could stand up before God’s bar of judgment.” (155)

“Together, these two examples in verses 10-11 [James 5] strongly suggest Christians today should besiege God with complaints about injustice, particularly among the oppressed poor of our lands, and plead before God’s people for a greater measure of compassion, generosity, and sacrifice.” (159)

On the earliest Christian community: “There is no once-for-all divesture of property in view here, but periodic acts of charity as needs arose.” (162) “What is more, it is only consumption and not also production that is shared in Acts’ model.” (162) “Interestingly, what does not appear in this paragraph [Acts 4:32-5:11] is any statement of complete equality among believers. Presumably, there was quite a spectrum, ranging from those who still help property which they had not sold (cf. the reference to the home of John Mark in Acts 12:12) all the way to those who were still living at a very basic level. But the church was committed to taking the principle of Deuteronomy 15:4 very seriously: ‘there should be no poor among you’.” (165)

“On protestant presuppositions, all Christians should be committed to modeling patterns of generous benefaction without the expectation of reciprocity. The various particulars will change from situation to situation, but generous giving rather than selfish hoarding, accompanied by compassionate commitment to doing what will most help the genuinely needy, must remain a priority for God’s people.” (175)

Although one cannot move directly from these texts [1 and 2 Thessalonians] to determine in detail what modern welfare reform should look like, one can find certain precedents here, namely: 1, the Christian community taking great pains to ensure that the genuinely needy in their midst do not suffer because of the lack of an adequate government programme for them; and 2. a concern to put as many to work as possible, even in conditions of higher unemployment than in most First World countries today.” (182)

“Contemporary applications of these principles [as found in 1 Corinthians] should lead congregations to seek to compensate generously those who lead them in Christian ministry.” (187)

“Just as we pointed out the Israelites would have gathered and consumed varying amounts in the wilderness according to their needs, so, too, Paul is not enunciating the ideal of some fully egalitarian communism. But he does recognize that there are extremes of wealth and poverty which are intolerable in the Christian community.” (194)

“In 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, Paul returns to the theme introduced briefly in Galatians 6:6…Wealth is portrayed as a good, particularly if it leads to generosity.” (196)

“But there appears to be no support in either Testament for God’s people to refuse to pay taxes simply because they disagree with the way their government spends that money. Particularly if part of Paul’s purpose in penning these words was to respond to civil unrest in the late 50s ‘centering upon abuses in the collection of taxes’ (Byrne 1996: 386), it must be God’s will that Christians render financial tribute to the government even when the authorities spend some of that money in ways that displease God. Otherwise it would have been impossible for Paul to commend paying taxes to a pagan, totalitarian regime that ultimately came to deify itself.” (200)

“Paul may not issue any of Jesus’ wide-ranging or radical calls to abandon everything, although we have already argued that none of those calls was intended to be normative for all believers in the first place. But he does insist that Hellenistic Christians be equally counter-cultural in rejecting the systems of patronage and reciprocity so endemic in their culture. And he calls all believers to act as generous benefactors regardless of their net worth and with no thought of any material reward in this life. Should they fall into acute need, they should be able to count on their fellow believers to minister to them, even as they are expected to give from their surplus at the moment. In short, Paul commands generosity simply because it honors God; the only guaranteed rewards await in the life to come.” (212)

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