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Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Paperback – 2000
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About the Author
Craig L. Blomberg (Ph.D., Aberdeen) is Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Denver, Colorado. His books include Interpreting the Parables, Neither Poverty nor Riches, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel, commentaries on Matthew and 1 Corinthians, Making Sense of the New Testament: 3 Crucial Questions and Preaching the Parables.
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Blomberg divides the Old Testament study into Torah, the Prophets and the Poetry or Wisdom literatures, where the principle he outlined in the first chapter is specifically applicable, namely, the principles of the original texts can be practiced in changed contexts. This is important to note because "the closer the situation in any given portion of our contemporary world corresponds to the features, in this case the socio-economic features, of the world behind any given biblical instruction, the more straightforwardly one can transfer the principles of those texts to our modern age. The less the correspondence, the higher one has to move up the ladder of abstraction to look for broader principles that may transcend the uniqueness of specific situations" (p.30). Those embracing the prosperity gospel and liberation theology would do well to reflect on this since they mistakenly apply the Old Testament contexts that lead to some Old-Testament views, such as material blessings for obedience. But even with the abundance that God may bless someone with, Blomberg comments, "One can hardly claim that God's people were free to enjoy unbridled prosperity from their material resources" (p.47). It is sobering to note that when pro-rated annually, all the offerings instituted in the Old Testament added up to 23.3% `tithe' (p.46), that leads to the conclusion that tithing in a 10% sense shouldn't be the rule but something to start with, with the ultimate goal of the so-called graduated tithe for contemporary Christian stewardship (p.248).
The study of the inter-testament documents, though I love the lessons, needs to be digested with caution since some teachings might be potentially heretical. For example, consider the impression that almsgiving atones for sins, "For almsgiving delivers from death and it will purge away every sin. Those who perform deeds of charity and of righteousness will have the fullness of live (quoting Tobit 12:8-9 on p.94). Other examples that need to be treated with care include some verses in the book of Enoch that seem to equate the rich and the oppressor, and the treaty of Shem that links fortunes entirely to the signs of the zodiac (p.95). Here I believe Blomberg assumes the readers are able to discern what is to be imitated and what is false since he rarely points out the fallacy of the verses he quoted.
The New Testament studies, the choicest meat of the book, consist of the parables of Jesus, the gospels, Paul's general, prison and pastoral epistles, and other epistles, where a particular attention is given to James, the treatment of which is combined with Acts; among others like Hebrews, Jude, Peter, and John, which includes Revelation. There are so many precious lessons to learn here. I dog-eared so many pages and wrote so many side notes in these sections that I was worried that I dog-eared every page because the studies are simply too good not to be marked, re-read and studied all over again. Rather than writing the highlights from these sections that would cause this review to take up several pages, I would invite the readers to dig-in and enjoy the feast for themselves instead.
There are two additional reasons why I appreciate the entire study. First, Biblical principles on stewardship are pointed out carefully with numerous references and sincerity avoiding harsh and uncharitable language. Consider for example, in the last point in last chapter when summarizing the study, "Above all, the Bible's teaching about material possessions is inextricably intertwined with more spiritual matters. No ungodly poor people are ever exalted as models for emulation. No godly rich people, who are generous and compassionate in the use of their wealth, are ever condemned. But in a remarkable number of instances throughout history, poverty and piety have been found hand in hand, as have wealth and godlessness. There is no inherent connection between the items in either pair, just recurring trends" (p.246). Second, Blomberg is also sincere and realistic when using himself and his family to show he talks the walk and walks the talk. He goes to great details on how he applies the principles of generosity and moderation taught in the Bible to his family and ministry. His honesty is displayed when he wrote, "Nor is anything I have written meant to suggest that I believe savings, investments, insurance or pension schemes are wrong. I have all these and hope their earnings continue to grow. While I know of others who, for a variety of ministry-related reasons, have adopted a much more radically simple lifestyle, and while I admire and approve of their approaches, God has not yet led me to follow them, even after considerable discussion, prayer and soul-searching. In short, I feel I have a very rewarding life, materially speaking, and am not a particularly exemplary model of sacrificial giving (p. 249).
In recommending "Neither Poverty Nor Riches," I can not find better words but agree with Prof. D.A. Carson's comment on this book,
"On a subject as sensitive as this one, it is extraordinarily rare to find balance and prophetic voice rolled up in one. In my view, this is now the best book on the entire subject,"
though the difference between he and I is that I have not read much literature on material possession. Nevertheless, it has been a great joy and blessing to find a book like this to learn from.
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Special thanks to my friends Clark & Bryn for buying this book for me as a gift.Read more