Thursday, September 25, 2008

Themes in Stewardship

I've just finished the fifth book I'm reading for this class and will be writing about it more later, but I've noticed some common themes in what I've read so far:

They also stressed that Christians should not work only to satisfy their own needs, but also in order to have something to share with their needy fellow human beings (Volf, 72).

First, God wants all people to have the productive resources to be able to earn a decent living and be dignified members of their community. Second, God wants the rest of us to provide a generous share of the necessities of life to those who cannot work (Ronald J. Sider, 86)

Correspondingly, the mere refusal of the wealthy to aid the poor can be considered a criminal act [Ezekiel 16:49](Volf, 194).

He [Jesus] fed the hungry. And he warned his followers in the strongest possible words that those who do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoners will experience eternal damnation [Matthew 25:31-46](Sider, 47).

These are just a few of the similarities. Discussions on being a good steward of time, the Sabbath, environment, and spiritual gifts show more similarities. I've also read a lot more about Adam Smith and Karl Marx than I expected I would, but when one is talking about stewardship, finances and the economy are usually where people start.

People are increasingly aware that the tradition that Smith started does not have solutions to some major problems plaguing the world today (such as widespread abject poverty, dehumanization, and global ecological disaster). The Marxist brand of socialism being completely discredited, the capitalism being completely inadequate, concerned people worldwide are searching for a still-elusive third way (Volf, x).

Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which I'll be posting about next, talks about this idea of a third way. Both authors spell it out pretty clearly - this third way is the way of sacrifice and sharing. This doesn't mean socialism or communism, at least not in the sense Marx intended and how we understand it today. Volf and Sider are talking about the way the earliest Christians lived. They held property, but sold it if one of them, or if anyone in their community, had a need. They lived together and took care of each other. They gave money to the poor. This third way is a generosity so wide it allows us to sell our cars, diamond rings, and houses so that we might make sure that a family had groceries, or a child could have emergency surgery.

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