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Such a thing as Too Much: Thought's after meeting Craig Blomberg
As a student there I was able to attend the session and in the process got the chance to talk a bit with professor Blomberg.
Though the session itself was far more in-depth than a blog post can do justice to, I wanted to touch on a key issue it brought up for me.
That, according to the Scriptures, there is such a thing as having too much.
This is in part because wealth can lead us to rely on ourselves rather than God, in part because of the destruction involved when one person uses so many resources (gluttony), but mostly because in the Scriptures there is also such a thing as having too little.
Not too little, not to much. As Blomberg's book puts it, neither poverty nor riches.
A Biblical view, a kingdom view, of economics will - of course! - challenge and critique any worldly approach to possessions. Neither communism, nor feudalism, nor capitalism will fit perfectly for a Christian approach to poverty and wealth. All systems will inevitable have points of tension with the life we are called to live with each other.
So that, although we may turn to Acts 2 or to God’s provision of manna and say “look, we should all have the same amount, and give up on personal property”, we find when we study that it’s not so simple.
In the wilderness some had more and some had less, depending on what they gathered for the day, but they all had enough. In the early church people still had possessions of their own, but those who had much from time to time sold their excess to provide for those who had need.
Or, on the flip side, when we look to the giving of the land in Joshua, the advice of the Proverbs on gaining wealth, or the Biblical concept of freedom and insist that “what’s mine is mine, and I gained my wealth by honest hard work” we again find push-back in the Biblical text.
The system of debt-relief, crop gleaning, and Jubilee in the Old Testament were set up to set parameters on how much one could gain from others, and how much one could lose before mercy was shown. Indeed the Prophets call out the economic sins of Israel not because possessions are inherently bad, but always because their misuse of possessions is oppressing others and ignoring the needs of their neighbor.
Likewise in the New Testament we see a freedom yes, but a freedom to give and serve and love each other in the way Christ loved us. One of Paul’s central missions as he traveled was raising money from those who had more (even if only a little more) to give to the suffering church in Jerusalem.
He could rightly assume that these churches, if they understood the Gospel, would be eager to give and to hold their possessions in such a way as to leave them open for those with more need than they.
In our polarized times we so quickly turn any discussion of economic choices into a debate between socialism and free-market capitalism. But in reality neither is the “Biblical” framework.
In fact, the Scriptures don’t give us just one framework. What they do is show many people, in many times, living in their present system with the understanding that those who have much have a responsibility to care for those who have less. The frameworks change, the principle doesn't.
Mason at Zondervan Academic
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