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Evy McDonald: One vs. Overconsumption

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

“Overconsumption has not always been a pattern of life in the United States. Though history shows that there was a constant tension between material acquisition and spiritual transcendence, most households until the twentieth century were not consumers but producers and manufacturers. People grew their own food, built their own homes, barns, and furniture, poured their own candles and see their own cloths.

Then a complex series of events moved our country into the consumer society. Just before the Great Depression, social innovators were planning self-sufficient communities that would give people a sense of belonging and integrate urban and rural towns…With the collapse of the economy these dreams disappeared. As the United States got back on it’s feet the American Boom Era began.

Leading economists felt that perpetual economic growth was possible. We, the public, only needed to be taught to want and consume more and more. In 1955 economist Victor Lebow wrote, “We seek our spiritual satisfaction or ego satisfaction in consumption…We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.” Industry flourished as long as planned obsolescence reigned.

A theology of consumption began to invade our culture — and our churches. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, we wandered away from the foundational teachings of Jesus — sharing our wealth, identifying with the marginalized, living a life of grateful stewardship — and began to identify our worth with how much money we made or how many possessions we owned…Our identity has changed: from being American citizens to being American consumers.

We now produce little for ourselves. We have become voracious consumers of not only goods but services, all in an attempt to increase our quality of life. But has our affluence and consumption given us more fulfilling, happier and just ways of living? Today people admit to feeling stressed and tired with little time to care for and nurture relationships, family, friends or the environment.”

Evy McDonald in “Spending Money as if Life Really Mattered?” in Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective, ed. Michael Schut (New York: Morehouse, 2008) 60.

Jesus sums up the path of simplicity in a world of over consumption: “few things are needed — or indeed only one.” We live in a world that says, “You need this, and this, and this, and this, and this…” and the list goes on. All the while He whispers to us that He is all we need.

Yet still, we chase after these things by spending the resources God has supplied for generosity or by purchasing them with debt and because they do not satisfy, the pattern continues, leaving us empty rather than enriched. There is a better way to live. When seek God first, everything else falls rightly into place.

I am speaking at the fall retreat for Sarang New Harvest Ministry this weekend in Seoul. What a joy to serve two of my former Torch Trinity students, Eddie Chun and Andrew Gu, who serve as the pastors! God has led me to point them to a simple way of living shaped by praying Scripture and practicing spiritual disciplines.

Pray with me for God to show up with power. If there people like Mary in the room, may they attune to what the Holy Spirit has for them. And for those who come like Martha (and we have all been Martha at various moments in our lives), pray they latch hold to the one thing they need. What’s that? Again, it’s Jesus!

And lift up a prayer for my wife this weekend too. She’s back in Denver helping to facilitate and speak at the Women’s Retreat for our home church, The Bridge Church at Bear Creek. Christ be with her! Lastly, I pray that everyone reading this chooses “the One” rather than overconsumption. He is all we need!

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Stephen F. Olford: Continual Sacrifice

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 1 Corinthians 15:55-16:2

“In the original Greek there is no break between what we call the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters. So Paul is virtually saying that a shared resurrection life in Christ is a serving life. The Lord Jesus gave Himself in death and resurrection, no in order to save us from sacrifice, but rather to teach us how to give ourselves and our substance in continual sacrifice. Thus, Paul finds no difficulty in moving from the theological heights of chapter 15 to the practical depths of chapter 16.

The occasion of this instruction in the grace of giving was a crisis in the church at Jerusalem. Because of persecution and opposition, many believers had suffered the despoiling of their goods and some even the loss of their lives. Paul felt it was his duty to provide financial assistance for such poverty-stricken saints in the mother church. Embedded in Paul’s admonition are principles that will abide for all time: giving to God with regularity, out of personal responsibility, and in reciprocity.”

Stephen F. Olford in The Grace of Giving: A Biblical Study of Christian Stewardship , third edition (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000) 36-37. This book is another good one in the long bibliography of great books I share with my students.

Olford uses sketches the nature of our share resurrection life in Christ that is a serving life in which we give ourselves and substance in continual sacrifice. It contains three timeless principles, namely, that we give to God with regularity, out of personal responsibility, and in reciprocity.

These three principles build upon one another. To give with regularity might mean it comes out of our accounts automatically. We get paid on a cycle so we give on a cycle. The other two, however, seek to drive us much deeper.

To give out of personal responsibility is to embrace our role as stewards of substance. For example, if about 70% of people don’t have a spending plan to live within their means (commonly known as a budget), they are exhibiting recklessness and not personal responsibility.

This was our story when Jenni and I got married. Only 13 months into our young marriage, we were paying the bills and realized we only had something like $7.34 in the checking account. We had to call our behavior what it was: irresponsible. We repented, that is, changed directions.

Lastly, because so few have a spending plan, they certainly cannot be practicing reciprocity. Generosity in the New Testament is always measured according to our means. As we are blessed, we bless others. That’s God’s design, His economy.

Few grasp this deep level like the Korean brothers and sisters whom I am serving this weekend. The two main pastors at New Harvest Ministry are my former students, Edward Chun and Andrew Gu. It’s beautiful to see them raise up a congregation aimed at continual, generous, and sacrificial service.

What about you? Does your continual sacrifice reflect giving to God with regularity, out of personal responsibility, and in reciprocity? Or in theological terms, is the victorious resurrection life of Jesus Christ manifested in your service and generosity?

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Adam Hamilton: Pumpkins and Jack-o-lanterns

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

“One day in a chapel service, some members of my church staff offered a wonderful and compelling illustration of how God works within us. They noted that in some ways human beings are like a pumpkin that is to become a jack-o-lantern. If you’ve ever picked pumpkins from the field, you know that no pumpkin is perfect. The task is to incorporate your pumpkin’s imperfections into the design you carve into it. You look at the pumpkin and begin to imagine what it can be. Next you draw on it a face of some sort. Then you come to the first step of actual transformation of the pumpkin, which is also the messiest. You open it up, and you begin to scoop out all the nasty, slimy, smelly stuff inside. Then you carve the face or design, which is no doubt a bit painful for the pumpkin. And, ultimately, you replace all of the muck with a light that shines from within.

This is a picture of what God intends: that greed and envy and materialism have been replaced, and that God’s light shines within us in a way that gives light to others. As we allow Christ to work in us, seeking first His kingdom and striving to do His will, we begin to sense a higher calling — a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to look at ways we can make a difference with our time and talents and resources. By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. If God calls us to go or to do or to give, we can because we are free.

A key part of experiencing financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising restraint. I am not suggesting we should never buy anything for ourselves. I am not suggesting we should not buy a new car or go on a vacation to buy new clothes or something else we might want. I am suggesting that, with the help of God, we aim to simplify our lives and silence the voices constantly telling us we need more; that we live counter-culturally by actually living below, not above, our means; that we build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit; and that we build in what we need to be able to live generously and faithfully.”

Adam Hamilton in Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity (Nashville: Abingdon, 2009) 24-25.

It has been 12 amazing days of fruitful ministry and priceless fellowship in Manila with Anjji and Lynda Gabriel. My visit culminated with a trip to CCT Tagaytay Retreat and Training Center where the flowers were absolutely stunning (pictured above).

Shortly, I head back to Seoul for 4 more days to lead a church retreat for New Harvest Ministry before heading home. Thanks for your prayers as God graciously continues to sustain me and watch over my family back in America.

Back home it’s the time of year when people set out pumpkins to celebrate the fall harvest season. What a beautiful picture Hamilton and members of his staff paint for us in connecting the transformation of the pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern with what God does with our greed and envy and materialism.

What’s in your pumpkin?

If we liken our lives to a pumpkin filled with yucky patterns of overspending, self-indulgence, and foolishly storing up treasures on earth rather than in heaven, we cannot shine until we allow God to remove all that. Think of it this way: Generosity is not us doing things for Him; it’s allowing Him to do His best work, to shine through us.

God’s design and desire is to make us beacons of light that no longer exhibit slavery to money and all its stinky sins. Instead, when we make money our slave by avoiding debt, living simply, and giving generously, it positions our proverbial pumpkins to shine like jack-o-lanterns in a dark world.

Whenever you see a pumpkin this season, take a moment to ask God if there is anything needs to come out of your life so that, like jack-o-lantern, you shine brightly for Jesus.

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Richard Foster: Frantic Scramble or Freedom

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:24-25

“For Christ money is an idolatry we must be converted from in order to be converted to Him. The rejection of the god mammon is a necessary precondition to becoming a disciple of Jesus. And in point of fact, money has many of the characteristics of deity. It gives us security, can induce guilt, gives us freedom, gives us power and seems to be omnipresent. Most sinister of all, however, is its bid for omnipotence.

It is money’s desire for omnipotence, for all power, that seems so strange, so out of place. It seems that money is not willing to rest contented in its proper place alongside other things we value. No, it must have supremacy. It must crowd out all else. This is, I say, the strange thing about money. We attach importance to it far beyond its worth. In fact, we attach ultimate importance to it. It is tremendously instructive to stand back and observe the frantic scramble of people for money.

And this does not just occur among the poor and starving. Quite the contrary — the super-wealthy, who have really nothing to gain by more money, still seek it furiously. The middle class, who are really quite adequately cared for (and who are from a global perspective the wealthy), continue to buy more houses than they need, to acquire more cars than they need, to have more clothes than they need. Many of us could live on half what we now receive without much serious sacrifice…”

Richard Foster in The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power (San Francisco: Harper One, 1989) 28.

In my post yesterday as well as today, I am focusing on the deeper spiritual issues that hinder our service to God and our generosity. Our class was courageous to “go there” with Kuya Anjji and me, and I pray you too will go there with me in this post. The central spiritual issue that hinders generosity is idolatry to money.

You don’t figure it out until you live it out that the call to let go of it and to deploy to those with less than enough is a righteous response, a declaration of dependence, and the path to freedom. By righteous, I mean, it’s the right or obedient response to Jesus. We proclaim Him as Master and depend on Him rather than the power money alleges.

Neither Jesus in today’s Scripture, nor Richard Foster who penned these words, nor I have lost our minds. Crazy are the people (including many so-called followers of Christ) participating in the frantic scramble rather choosing the path to freedom. We must “go there” because it is Jesus who forces people to declare their allegiance.

Jesus speaks far more pointedly than I am in the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. In plain terms, he says, “Pick a side, and if you don’t choose to reject the side that everyone follows you have succumbed to serving it.” There have been many highlights on this trip to the Philippines. Among them was watching the students choose the pathway to freedom and life.

It’s fitting for today’s post to call us to serve God and not money as the title of my last series of talks with Kuya Anjji is “The Seminar About GOD: Governance, Obedience, Discipleship.” He came up with the cool title for this event at the Philippine Bible Society office. Pray for us as we facilitate discussions with ministry board members and administrators all aspects of the faithful oversight and administration of God’s work.

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Loren Cunningham: Selfless and Obedient

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

“Obedience in giving is an act of spiritual warfare. For instance, if a person in Chicago responds in generosity, giving way his money — say, to help with a missions project halfway around the world — the forces of Satan are driven back in Chicago. The amount is not important but the attitude is. Any amount — even a widow’s mite — given selflessly and in obedience batters the powers of darkness right to Lucifer himself. Giving selflessly means that the gift will not help the giver in any way. It’s not given so that he or she can have a more comfortable pew or a safer neighborhood. It is given away, and only God can return the blessing to that giver. This kind of giving shakes Satan, loosening his control in the country receiving the gift but even more in the country of the giver.”

Loren Cunningham in Daring to Live on the Edge: The Adventure of Faith and Finances (Seattle: YWAM, 1991) 62. The new header photo is a picture from our Good and Faithful training time with the CCT Support Office staff. CCT is the largest Christian group of ministries in the Philippines.

Cunningham echoes the Apostle Paul in raising our awareness to the spiritual battle going on all around us. Selfless and obedient giving shakes the forces of evil and brings the kingdom of God around us on earth as it is in heaven.

On this trip to the Philippines, Anjji Gabriel and I have witnessed the breaking down of spiritual strongholds. People are finding freedom in understanding and living out the truth of God’s Word related to money. The struggles have been real and the victories visible.

I like to pray the Lord’s prayer when I stretch each morning. Join me, and when you do, ask God what role He wants you to play today in making His kingdom come and His will be done. Our selfless and obedient giving releases heaven all around us.

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Michael Blue: Open Hands

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:7-11

“God has been challenging my understanding of giving and generosity over the last few years. I have always held too tightly to money and relied on my control of money for security. I have realized that through giving, and particularly through spontaneous giving, that I am being freed from the power of money. My dad often says that “giving breaks the power of money.” I have seen this to be true more often in my life recently because of a new understanding of what it means to give. If I rightly connect that God owns it all, then I must hold all that I have with an open hand. This means that if I feel God telling me to give, I give. It is so freeing to sit back and listen and watch how God teaches me to use money as a tool to accomplish His will instead of letting it be used as a tool to control me. Giving is such a remarkable blessing. Don’t miss the adventure and the joy!”

Michael Blue in Master Your Money: A Step-By-Step Plan For Experiencing Financial Contentment by Ron Blue with Michael Blue (Chicago: Moody, 2016) 249. This is one of the required texts for my Faith and Finances course.

Remember not to read today’s biblical text prescriptively as instructions to manipulate God to find the path to material prosperity, but as descriptively for discerning God’s design for life. And consider three thoughts in response to the Scripture and meditation.

Firstly, whatever we hold tightly to in our hands, actually holds tightly to us. When our hands our open, they can both receive and give. When they are clenched, they are free to do neither. We fail to function according to God’s design for us.

Note the connection between the head and the heart. The text says not to harden our hearts or shut our hands. When we don’t share what God supplies, we are guilty of sin. Holding back what God designed to be enjoyed and shared is stealing (cf. Eph. 4:28).

Secondly, there will never cease to be poor in the land. I chuckle when I hear people talking about eradicating poverty on earth. I say this because the Lord declares that the problem will persist, so who do they think they are that they can say otherwise?

Only in the new heaven and new earth under the reign of Jesus will that condition be gone. Why make this point? Blue rightly notes our role in the meantime. We get to be people who share with open hands and experience the remarkable blessing for doing it!

Thirdly, don’t miss the journey language today. It’s “challenging,” “freeing,” and an “adventure!” My students here in Manila this week like to quote my oft-used saying, “You don’t figure it out until you live it out.”

Sure it’s hard. It requires faith to take this journey. That’s the challenging part, but it’s also an invitation to freedom, and the pathway to adventure as we realize the privilege of blessing others with open hands in gratitude for all we have received from God.

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Denny & Leesa Bellesi: Uncharted Territory

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Luke 10:33-35

“Uncharted territory. Each of us is often so busy and preoccupied with our own-charted agendas that we can easily miss the opportunity God presents to make a difference in someone’s life. A kind work, a simple gesture, an investment of time, attention, compassion, generosity. The opportunities are all around us every day. We live and work in a world of people who need to see that God cares and makes a difference. You and I may be the only glimpse of Jesus some people will ever see.”

Denny and Leesa Bellesi in The Kingdom Assignment: What Will You Do With the Talents God has Given You? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 86.

In what new territory might God want you to move? The beauty of the Good Samaritan story is the simplicity of it. He “saw” a person in need and “had compassion” on him. Are we to blind to see, and too busy and self-absorbed to have compassion on those in need around us?

Each of us can chart a new course right where we are. We must determine what in our normal pace of life that we walk by, that we miss, because we are just focused on our own agendas. God cares as much about how we treat people on the journey as He does the destination we are headed and what we do there.

This is very hard because we realize the little things are really the big things. It’s stuff like giving a person our undivided attention or greeting by name and with gratitude a person who serves us. We can be so focused on what we are doing or planning to do that we miss what God has for us, right in front of us. In so doing, we ourselves become the Levite or the priest in the Good Samaritan story (Luke 10:25-37).

Today I will speak at a “Put Your House in Order” Governance Forum sponsored by CCTA and ATS speaking on themes from The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance (forthcoming this month). Pray for God to give the group eyes to see and receptive hearts to apply what they learn, because the content will likely push listeners into uncharted territory.

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E. Calvin Beisner: Gleaning Today

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:9-10

“Charity does not always mean giving something for nothing. Individuals’ charitable giving, just like churches’, needs to be governed by the four principles connected with gleaning: (1) if they are able, recipients should work in return for their aid; (2) giving should be privately controlled and as direct as possible so that givers can know well the needs of recipients; (3) givers should distinguish worthy from unworthy recipients (2 Thessalonians 3:10); (4) the main goal of charitable gifts should be to meet basic survival and health needs. Private givers need to be as careful as churches not to foster dependency or pander to sloth or prodigality in recipients. At the same time, they need to be ready to give generously where needs are real and recipients are willing to do all they can to comply with biblical patterns for living.

The early Christians took their responsibility to care for poor fellow believers so seriously that they were even willing to sell houses and lands to do it (Acts 4:32-37). Though no one would have excused taking another’s property without permission by appealing to the needs of the poor, still believers considered their property entrusted to them by God for the good of the whole Body of Christ (Acts 2:44-46). Their great generosity contributed to the credibility of the gospel so that preaching was fruitful (Acts 2:47), confirming Christ’s prediction, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).”

E. Calvin Beisner in Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2001) 222-223.

In developing countries like the Philippines where there is much poverty, Beisner’s four points provide a solid summary for structuring assistance of the poor in accord with God’s design for gleaning today. As we have discussed in class in plain terms, we must not merely give hand-outs that result foster dependency but hand-ups that build disciples. In so doing we position the poor to contribute to their own flourishing.

Of course, the Good Samaritan provides us a snapshot of this (Luke 10:25-37). He was keen to the needs of those around him. He stopped what he was doing and inconvenienced himself to assess the situation. He contributed time and money to help the hurting man get back on his feet, and he promised to return to see to his full restoration. Jesus instructs us to go and do likewise. That’s my prayer for my ATS students as our class draws to a close: that they will go forth like Good Samaritans!

Over the next week, I will do a series of seminars on governance, faithful administration, and resource development for ministries like Center for Community Transformation (CCT). CCT is known across the Philippines for providing aid that aligns with this biblical design. Check out their website to see an example of an organization whose work transforms the lives of the poor and shapes entire communities for our Lord Jesus Christ in a manner that does not create dependencies but rather builds disciples.

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Jeff Anderson: Heart prompts

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

“Giving prompts — whether the direct kind or the more subtle whispers — are like snowflakes. No two are exactly alike. Not everyone experiences them in the same way.

I once experienced a heart prompt while listening to a man share his story about giving. Meanwhile, a friend who heard the same testimony found it to be offensive. His heart was not prompted at all.

On another occasion, I was listening to a giving message at a banquet. The message did nothing for me, but it generated heart prompts for other people seated at my table. Sometimes heart prompts strike us uniquely at different times.

Have you ever read a familiar Scripture passage, but this time the words jumped off the page in ways they had not done before? The command may not have been new to you. But this time it penetrated your heart different, calling for obedience and action.

Or maybe you see a needy person on the street differently than how you’ve seen the needy in the past. It might even be the same person you’ve seen before, but for some reason this time you feel something different inside.

God initiates heart prompts to draw you near to Him. He knows what a particular giving opportunity will do for you and what it can do for Him too. When you notice a prompt in your heart, you should take it personally because it is personal.”

Jeff Anderson in Plastic Donuts: Giving That Delights the Heart of the Father (Colorado Springs: Multnomah; 2013) 56-58. I love to direct my students to this book. It’s a must-read generosity resource if you have not already read it.

When God gives us a heart prompt, it’s a personal invitation to be His hands and feet. He’s resourced and released us to distribute joyfully His material and spiritual blessings, whatever they may be.

The paradox of Christian generosity is this: when we respond, we don’t end up empty, but rather, God enriches us for greater generosity (Proverbs 11:24-25). That’s life in the abundant kingdom!

The converse is strikingly true: if we don’t respond, we miss out. God will nudge someone else because His purposes are never thwarted. His plans cannot be hindered. Who knows if or when He will ring non-responsive persons again?

Perhaps you are on your knees right now, asking God to meet a need you may have. Or maybe it’s a need for someone else. I remind my students that sometimes we must wait patiently because those God is prompting are not responding.

God loves it when we are responsive rather than reluctant. When we give cheerfully but not when pressured by compulsion. As my weeklong course at Asian Theological Seminary wraps up, this is one of my last words of advice to my students, so I share it also with you.

Be ready, attuned and attentive to the still small voice of God. As He prompts you, live, give, serve, and love like Jesus. The rest you will only figure out as you live it out, because generosity is a fruit of God working in you.

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Ben Witherington III: True Riches, Trustworthiness, and Reputation

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? Luke 16:10-12

“The real litmus test of trustworthiness is what one does with someone else’s resources. In an honor a shame culture, where being shamed was worse than being poor, there was a profound concern with reputation: thus we see here that it matters more how one handles people’s property than how one handles one’s own. The second half of this saying suggests that even when what is one’s own is in fact something that is given to a person. This is ambiguous but probably reflects Jesus’ general view that all material creation belongs to God, so even what we might count as our own is in fact given to us by God. We are merely stewards of what property belongs to us.”

Ben Witherington III in Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis (Brazos: Grand Rapids, 2010) 69.

In the Faith and Finances class here at Asian Theological Seminary, I deliver the material in discussion format by showing short videos of myself teaching (so students realize they have that resource to use in their contexts long after I am gone), then with the aid of Anjji Gabriel, we enjoy rich discussion. I let them do most of the talking because I have found that’s how adults learn best.

The ideas of true riches, trustworthiness, and reputation have come up in our dialogue. For example, Anjji shared a powerful story of almost losing his reputation and his job as a partner with a prominent accounting firm linked to the possibility of being labeled untrustworthy. Everyone sat at the edge of their seat as he testified to nearly losing everything.

Thus, he often proclaims this core question with passion: Can God trust you? He says it to wake people to the reality that God sees all we are doing: whether we relate honestly to money or not, whether we accumulate it or give generously, and whether we treat it like it belongs to us or not. Riches test our trustworthiness.

Though you are not enrolled in the class, you too must pass this test. Will you? Can God trust you? The paradox that comes into view is that only those who are honest with themselves and demonstrate that through faithfulness to using riches as the Master instructed will attain true riches.

Feel convicted to chart a new course? That’s where the students are at right now. The good news from the Parable of the Shrewd Steward (Luke 16:1-9), which immediately precedes this text, is that what matters for dishonest stewards is not how we start (because we all start out as dishonest squanderers of money), what matters is how we finish.

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