Five Conclusions about Material Possessions

Andy Naselli —  February 23, 2009 — 4 Comments

Here’s how D. A. Carson introduces Craig L. Blomberg‘s Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions (ed. D. A. Carson; New Studies in Biblical Theology 7; Downers Grove: IVP, 2001) in the series preface (p. 9):

Dr Blomberg’s volume is an extraordinary achievement. With remarkable compression, this book not only guides the reader through almost all the biblical passages that have a bearing on poverty and wealth, but weaves the exegesis into a biblical theology that is simultaneously faithful to the historic texts and pastorally sensitive to the immense issues facing today’s church. Dr Blomberg cannot simplistically condemn wealth: he has learned from Abraham, Job and Philemon. Nor can he exonerate acquisitiveness: he has learned from Amos, Jesus and James. The result is a book that is, quite frankly, the best one on the subject. It will not make its readers comfortable, but neither will it make them feel manipulated. Read it and pass it on.

Its scope and insight is indeed impressive.

After summarizing the 300-page book, Blomberg offers five additional conclusions (pp. 243–47):

  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.”

Blomberg then applies these “five summarizing themes” (p. 247, numbering added):

  1. “First, if 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.
  2. Second, if wealth is seductive, giving away some of our surplus is a good strategy for resisting the temptation to overvalue it.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Fifth, 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.”

Blomberg puts his money where his pen is. If I recall correctly, he strategically gives something like 50%  of his salary, including donating his book royalties.

Related:

  1. What We Should Do with Our Money” lists other useful resources.
  2. On April 9, 2008, Craig Blomberg presented a lecture at TEDS (sponsored by the Henry Center) entitled “Neither Poverty Nor Riches: On the North Shore? You Must Be Joking!” (MP3 | video). The next morning he was interviewed on the subject (MP3 | video).
  3. Update: Master Scripture Index for New Studies in Biblical Theology

4 responses to Five Conclusions about Material Possessions

  1. This looks like a great and timely resource. I’ve been looking for something like this. Thanks for the review.

  2. Thanks for this. It fits perfectly into a study I am doing with our church ladies.

  3. Andy,

    Good call. I agree that this book is the best thing I’ve read on the topic. Blomberg’s exegesis is outstanding. He also knows that good biblical exegesis serves a devotional purpose and he does it well. Also, in the same series, Blomberg’s volume “Contageous Holiness” is quite good.

    todd

  4. Remind me: which one is the one I really don’t much respect? Blomberg, or Bock? Or was it some other B-guy?

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