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(6.) Ministries of Mercy: Giving and Keeping—A Balanced Lifestyle

May 12, 2008

If you haven’t picked up this book yet, this chapter is worth the price of the whole. There’s no way to go into the many helpful details that Keller discusses.

The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him, “ he said, “ and when I return, I will reimburse you for any exta expense you may have.”

Overview: Christians must give sacrificially, until their lifestyle is lowered. However, giving must be in accord with calling and ministiry opportunities. Also, every believer must be a steward of possession so as not to become a burden and liability to his or her family.

There are many who would say “Christians should meet their bare necessities and give away every additional cent (Ron Sider, John Newton, John Wesley). There are certainly no lack of passages which mandate a moderate, content, and simple lifestyle. Yet other passages instruct “those who are rich” which must assume some Christians are endowed with more money and were not ever instructed to “become financial paupers”.

“We must conclude that, while there may be rich Christians, there should not be rich-loving Christians. [They] must invest in their own comfort. A good steward for the Lord knows that wealth, if held and managed properly, will produce more good deeds over a long period of time that if it is given away for good deeds all at once.” (Keller)

Principle 1: We must give so that we feel the burden of the needy ourselves (see 1 Tim 6, Heb 13:5, Gal 6:2).

Principle 2: We may only keep whatever wealth we need for our calling and ministry opportunities.

Principle 3: We must not be generous in such a way that we or our families become liabilities to others (see Prov 6:8, 1 Tim 5:8).

Lastly, Keller points out from that from the perspective of Scripture it is a matter of justice to take care of the poor. This is not an issue like that of the firemen holding buckets for donations at an intersection. This is an obligation as mankind to care for God’s own.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2008 3:01 am

    I can’t help but thing of food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, and clothes for the naked as bait to draw them in to hear the gospel. I think it is very dangerous to meat someones physical needs and neglect their spiritual needs. I think I will put Keller’s book in the stack of books I need to get to. Good stuff!

  2. May 13, 2008 2:17 pm

    It could be viewed as bait in one light, but then we have to ask, “Why did Jesus’ ministry have such a large physical aspect to it?” If our faith does not manifest itself in good works, caring for physical needs, isn’t our faith “dead”? That seems to be the only way to read James 2:14-26, esp. 14-17. I am still wrestling with the balance between good works in general, and those done to believers. There’s a priority for the latter, but how much? The parable of the Samaritan shows there’s an obligation toward everyone, yet “do good esp. to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).

  3. May 29, 2008 3:03 am

    i think i just need to break down and buy this. it hasn’t shown up on yet.

  4. May 29, 2008 3:41 am

    The bigger picture, as I see it, is that we make a false dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual, which leads us to “formulas” and “plans” for evangelism, and then if we don’t “share the gospel” we somehow failed. This is a product of modern evangelical churches that is rooted in the last one hundred year history or so of the Protestant church. A more helpful conceptualization is one of holistic ethic. All of being is ethic, and all of ethic is being. We cannot separate our daily life from ethic/ministry. We almost would have been better off without the word “ministry” as it implies something we add to our daily to-do list. It is a way of being, that while manifested by doing, does not consist materially of doing. If our churches emphasized and taught how to be the right person and grow into deeper union with Christ, then “ministry” is spontaneous. The flip side of the coin is that meeting physical needs IS gospel, IS ministry, IS love, and needs no specific “Jesus died for your sins” evangelical message. There is a profoundly deep experience that heals our souls when a need is met, that IS Christ in us and through us to the enlightenment and blessing of the other person. Rare is the person that recalls verbal messages as pinnacle touchpoints of their lives. It is more likely the wordless proclamation of gratitude in the abyss of your soul that marvelled at the grace shown to you in deed AS the physical or emotional need was met. As a nurse, I see this all the time. The physical is inseparable from the spiritual. So as I get older I find such a distinction in these discussions is sometimes not that helpful and perhaps we should wear a different pair of glasses for viewing life.Thanks, dear son, for thought-provoking posts! God bless you.

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