« Theology and Economics: The Answer to Poverty is Stewardship | Main | Sorry, you can't have the internet... you're over 70 »

Sep 07, 2006

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RonMck

Great Effort. All this hard work deserves a comment. I have found this series very helpful.

Michael Kruse

Thanks Ron. It was an effort but it was also a lot of fun.

Bob Robinson

Oh CRAP!!

This is a LOT to read!

I think it should take about a year.

Thanks for the index!

Michael Kruse

Hey. It only took seven months to write it. Surely it couldn't take more than, say, three months to read. :)

This is a brain dump of twenty-five years of reflection. I felt like I just needed to spew it out and then see what to do with it. I needed to write it and see if I really agree with all of it. My thought was that it would empty out the old noggin and bring clarity but all it did was raise about fifty new avenues I want to explore! (Blogging in general does this to me.) I am copying all of it back into MS Word and will try to rework it to something more manageable over the coming weeks and months. There is a general flow to it, especially in the early posts, but then it just kinda went out of control. Since wrapping it up earlier this week, I have checked myself into the local rehab center until the DTs subside.

Nate

Mike,

I must have missed this post, but I wanted to say thanks for writing this series. I have grown a great deal as I wrestle with it. Making this into some kind of publishable form would be really cool. I might even buy a copy.

If you get it somewhere can I suggest Lulu: it is a business setup to help people self publish books. They print the book when you order it, you set the price, and there are no setup fees or minimum purchase requirements.

So thanks again for this huge body of work, I look forward to your blogging continuing and hope to see you again in NM.

Nate

Michael Kruse

Thanks Nate for your affirmation of my ramblings.

I have indeed heard of Lulu. I am not sure what I will do with it yet. My Friday morning men's group at church has agreed to suffer through a reformatted version of this stuff so I can get their feedback. We begin in a couple of weeks.

When I finally get something together I'll be sure to let others know but I doubt it will be before the end of the year. We will see.

As to NM, I will not be there this year and that is a big disappointment. Conflicts prevent me from doing so. I hope you have a great time and I am sure we will cross face to face again before long.

D.L. Webster

The links to these two topics seem to incorrect: "Prosperity" and "The Answer to Poverty is Stewardship"

Michael Kruse

Thank you for catching these D.L. I think I got the them fixed now.

S

I know that this is an old thread, but I just wandered into it while searching Christian approaches to poverty online. Re: relative poverty - my experience says it's a common evangelical approach to think of "the poor" as the other, and to view economic contribution as an indicator of virtue, even value. I noted the options given here were providing resources for the able and a nod to providing for incapacitated "children of God." As one tied firmly to the lowest rung of Richland's ladder due to chronic illness (not to mention a seriously flawed soc sec system - no help there), I have a few concerns. Is economic productivity essential to stewardship? And what of the pervasive perception among evangelicals of those struggling, even other believers, as immature, unmotivated, or worse? Is the burden to connect on those already burdened by misfortune? How does the church embrace those unable to gain financial independence? In rightly seeking to promote responsibility, do we wrongly live out a works gospel?

Michael W. Kruse

S

“…my experience says it's a common evangelical approach to think of "the poor" as the other, and to view economic contribution as an indicator of virtue, even value.”

My experience is that the tendency to find our identity and worth in our work and wealth is a widespread American malady. I haven’t noticed it at as particularly Evangelical problem.

You do raise some critical issues. There are two prevalent misconceptions I see. One (as you’ve noted) is finding our identity in our work. The other is denigration of work as necessary evil of no eternal consequence.

The word “steward” is from the Old-English “sty-ward.” Centuries ago, the most trusted servant in an English manor was the keep of the sty because the herd of swine was usually among the Lord’s most valued possession. “Steward” is the word used to translate oikonomos. The oikonomos was the most trusted servant or slave in the Greco-Roman household who acted in the master’s stead. In both cases, the household is a not just a residence but a business. The “steward” is expected to be productive and profitable with the master’s assets.

In the first two chapters of Genesis we see creation pronounced good but humanity is placed over it to bring the created order to a sense of completion. We were created as material beings to work a material world. We the oikonomos of the world entrusted to us, seeking the master’s mind in all we do. So I would say that creativity and productivity are indeed essential qualities of stewardship.

I would not, however, too closely link stewardship with paid employment. Paid employment is a dominant venue where most of us carry out much of our stewardship energy. But all of us have some material resources at our disposal, we have our physical abilities, we have our mental faculties, we have our relationships and social networks, and we have whatever other gifts God has entrusted to us, over which we exercise our stewardship. We all have a call to use and develop whatever is God has entrusted to us. That includes (but is not limited to) development of the material world.

Chronic illness, diminished mental capacity, and physical limitations will shape the nature of the stewardship we are able to exercise. Society, and particularly the church, does have a responsibility to care for those who can’t provide for material needs. But it cares for them as fellow image bearers, not as objects of pity.

I’m not sure in what sense you perceive that these posts might be encouraging us wrongly live out a works gospel?

S

Hi and thanks for indulging my rant :-) . I agree that this is fundamentally an American rather than evangelical problem, but it seems to be one rather uncritically embraced by much of the evangelical community. The "works" comment was not addressed to your posts specifically, but to a tendency I've seen for Christians to reward performance and reject those who don't participate in acceptable ways (regular employment, church attendance and formal service). I have seen this result in overestimating the spiritual and personal maturity of those who meet the standard, as well as a tendency not to risk rejection by admitting weakness, and a lack of compassion and appreciation for those left behind. My only suggestion re: your posts would be to interact more fully w/how we should deal with those in vulnerable situations that can't be resolved thru enhanced opportunities, including those within the body of Christ. I applaud you for looking at these issues so thoughtfully and extensively. Blessings!

Michael W. Kruse

Thank S. Have you come across resources you've found helpful in processing these issues?

S

Well, there is the Bible...actually, I was looking for information when I found this thread. Over the last few years I've had a chance to talk to a few Christian leaders about some of the need, and have observed the church in action in my life and the lives of others. I remember talking to a director of a Christian ministry degree program at a well - known evangelical university and seminary. Not only did she not have answers, but she shared the difficulty her church leadership ( I got the impression she was part of this group) was having in trying to figure out how to help ONE parishioner experiencing complex, but alas not uncommon, trials. Other leaders of similar standing have admitted to me their frustration about this issue. On the ground, the situation can be even more dismal. I have seen some wonderful bright spots; I have also experienced apathy, suspicion, and outright hostility in the church. There seems to be a real hole in Christian thought and life right now.

Michael W. Kruse

I agree, S. I think part of the problem is its complexity and the likelihood that there is no simple formula for approaching the issue.

If you come across resources in your search I'd appreciate a heads up. If I come across useful items I'll be sure to post them here.

S

Thanks - I would appreciate any insights. Many Christians want to serve in this area, but the don't have the conceptual framework, much less the practical framework, to adequately address complicated needs in their midst. People in crisis can be overwhelming, draining, frustrating, destabilizing, and demoralizing in a church context, particularly when simple answers won't suffice. There is good news, tho - if you ignore them, they will eventually go away :-P. Thanks again for resurrecting an old thread for a couple days. Maybe this issue would be worth exploring on a new one...? Just a thought :-) Blessings !

Michael W. Kruse

"Maybe this issue would be worth exploring on a new one...?"

I'll see what we can do.

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