Giving to God: The Bible's Good News about Living a Generous Life

Giving to God: The Bible's Good News about Living a Generous Life

by Mark Allan Powell

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Overview

Giving to God: The Bible's Good News about Living a Generous Life by Mark Allan Powell


We all know that everything we have is a gift from God. But sometimes it’s hard to know just how to give back to God. How much is enough? What does the Bible really say? What should giving look like in our everyday lives? Filled with good news for followers of Jesus, Mark Allan Powell’s Giving to God shows Christians the way to a better life and a better relationship with their money — and with God. Powell presents stewardship as an act of worship, an expression of faith, and a discipline for spiritual growth. Faithful use of our time, talents, and money starts with a deep, satisfying relationship with the God to whom we belong. We can then learn, says Powell, to give gladly and generously out of our heartfelt connection with God. Informative, concise, and eminently practical (including discussion questions), Giving to God gives us resources for best using the treasures, material and otherwise, that God has given us.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802829269
Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date: 03/28/2006
Pages: 186
Sales rank: 769,269
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author


Mark Allan Powell is a Bible scholar and theologian widely recognized for his work in spiritual formation and congregational ministries. The Robert and Phyllis Leatherman Professor of New Testament Studies at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, he

Read an Excerpt

Giving to God

The Bible's Good News about Living a Generous Life
By Mark Allan Powell

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2006 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8028-2926-0


Introduction

Getting Completely Wet

Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth. Deuteronomy 8:18

Have you heard the story about the baptism of the Gauls? It may not be historically factual, but this is not a history book, so we won't worry too much about that.

The Gauls were a warlike people who in ancient times inhabited what is now France and Belgium. They spoke a Celtic language and were Druidic by religion. By the time of the Christian era they had been conquered by the Roman Empire and were supposedly under its control. The extent of this control varied, however, for the Gauls never did take too well to being conquered and there were numerous Gallic uprisings.

A number of Christian missionaries ventured into Gallic territory and, over time, many of the Gauls became Christians. As the story goes, when a converted warrior was baptized in a river or stream, he would hold one arm high in the air as the missionary dunked him under the water. This seemed a peculiar custom and the missionaries soon learned the reason for it. When the next battle or skirmish broke out, the warlike Gaul could proclaim "This arm is not baptized!", grab up his club or sword or ax, and ride off to destroy his enemy in a mostun-Christian manner.

As I've indicated, this story is probably not historically authentic. My guess is that it's a medieval version of what we would call an "urban legend" and I certainly do not intend to cast any aspersions on the Gauls or their descendants by repeating it. I just find the image so compelling: the picture of someone - anyone - trying to keep one part of their body, one aspect of their identity, free from the influence of baptism.

This book is about stewardship, and stewardship is about getting completely wet. It is about looking at ourselves, discovering what it is that we would like to keep dry, and then immersing whatever that is in the waters of Holy Baptism.

Stewardship is about giving to God. It is about turning total control of our lives over to God. It is about taking seriously the words that we so easily pray: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done." When we pray, "Thy kingdom come," we ask God to rule our lives. When we pray, "Thy will be done," we ask for what God wants to happen in our lives to take place - already, now, on earth as in heaven.

But when you hear the word stewardship, what is the first thing that you think of?

Many people say, "Money," and there may be two different reasons for that. First, there is a lingering misconception among many Christians that stewardship is just a fancy word for "fund-raising." Churches are partly to blame for this because many churches refer to their annual fund appeal as a "stewardship campaign." But stewardship is not fund-raising. It is a way of life.

Still, there is another reason why people associate stewardship with money, and I think that this second reason is completely appropriate. In today's world, money is the one thing that many of us would most like to keep dry. I picture modern Christians going under the water with that outstretched arm clutching ... not an ax or a war-hammer, but a purse or wallet. And that is why, when we talk about stewardship today, we often talk about money more than we do about anything else.

For some years now teachers in the church have been trying to get people to realize that stewardship is not just about money. Someone came up with the alliterative phrase "time, talents, and treasures." There is also the whole matter of "stewardship of the earth," taking proper care of the planet that God has given us (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 8:6): conserving water, recycling paper and aluminum, preserving wetlands and rainforests. And there is "stewardship of our bodies" (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20): getting exercise, eating right, managing stress, flossing our teeth. Or we might speak of "stewardship of our families" (Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 22:6; Mark 7:9-13; 1 Timothy 5:8): nurturing our marriages, raising happy and healthy children, caring for elderly parents. We might even speak of "stewardship of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 4:1; 9:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; 1 Peter 4:10): preserving the life-giving message of what God has done through Jesus Christ and sharing that message with the world. In truth, stewardship may involve lots of things.

Properly speaking, stewardship is about all of life, about giving ourselves to God and using all that God has given us in grateful and appropriate ways. Still, in this book we will talk about money more than anything else because I find that for many of us this is where the issues become most real.

The Bible reports Jesus as saying, "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24, RSV; mammon refers to money and the things that money can buy - material possessions). Jesus might have said this about "God and politics" or about "God and sports" or about God and any number of other things that might become obsessions. But he didn't. He said, "God and mammon." Money.

The Bible also presents the apostle Paul as saying, "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Paul might have said this about "the love of status" or "the love of power" or the love of any number of other things. But he didn't. He said money.

These biblical figures knew something that is still true today. Money and material possessions are especially prominent candidates for idolatry (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5), chief contenders for unwarranted affection. Martin Luther is reported to have said that humans need to experience three conversions: of heart and mind and purse. Even baptized people like to keep their money dry. In fact, many of us try to rope off this one area of our lives as "off-limits" to spiritual inspection. "It's nobody's business what I do with my money," we say, realizing too late just how foolish that sounds. It's God's business, isn't it? Of course it is.

But here is something that many people do not know: what the Bible teaches about stewardship is good news! When we come to understand and practice what the Bible says about stewardship, we will have happier, better lives.

The purpose of this book is to offer a biblical vision for financial stewardship, a vision that turns out to be filled with good news for followers of Jesus Christ. The vision is presented in two parts.

First, we will try to arrive at a better understanding of what stewardship means. Part One of this book presents stewardship as a joy-filled aspect of our relationship with God and describes giving to God as an act of worship, an expression of faith, and a discipline for spiritual growth. The overall focus is on understanding stewardship as a way of life, indeed as the way of life for people who belong to God.

Second, we will explore ways of being more faithful in our practice of financial stewardship. Part Two of this book moves beyond theoretical understanding to deal with pragmatic concerns, such as "How do I use all of my money in God-pleasing ways?" and "How much money should I give to the church?" The goal will be to address such questions in an appropriate and realistic way, taking into account both what the Bible says and the context and challenges of modern living. I try to lay out a program for living and giving that most Christians will be able to embrace as both a duty and a delight.

(Continues...)



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