Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Maya Angelou: A Trophy of God’s Grace

I dared to do anything that was a good thing.
I dared to do things as distant from what seemed to be in my future.

If God loves me,
if God made everything from leaves to seals and oak trees,
then what is it I can't do?

These are the words of celebrated civil rights leader, writer, playwright, poet, and teacher Dr. Maya Angelou in a 2013 interview with The Times-Picayune.  Many of us have respected Dr. Angelou for her grace, beauty, reverence, and wise, articulate manner.  My favorite encounter with this lovely woman was in the Tyler Perry movie, Madea’s Family Reunion.  Perhaps you remember Ms. Angelou from her role in the 1977 TV Mini-Series, Roots.

Maya Angelou passed away on May 28, 2014 according to her only child, Guy B. Johnson who released a statement confirming her death and honoring her life:

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

Dr. Angelou's illustrious career testifies that it is possible to endure seemingly tragic experiences as a child and yet rise above them by the grace and power of the One True God.  According to Brownie Marie, writing in Christianity Today,  Ms. Angelou was born Marguerite Anne Johnson on April 4, 1928.   She and her brother were shipped between Missouri and Arkansas throughout their youth, and she was raped at the age of eight. The assault was life-changing, and it was in the dark years that followed that Dr. Angelou discovered her love of literature.

Maya Angelou and Cicely Tyson in the Mini-Series, Roots
Today, when it seems that Americans are becoming increasingly divided over race, gender, socioeconomic status, and a host of other factors, we must remember that many Americans distain the politics of division and patronization being spewed by those seeking votes, power, and position. Although their disadvantaged beginnings are undeniable, many members of ethnic minorities like Maya Angelou have become overcomers.  Instead of surrendering to adversity and its frequent companions, fear, hate, cynicism, and blame, Maya found peace, restoration, and courage through the love and redemption of God. 

Again, according to Brownie Marie, Dr. Angelou authored several autobiographies including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  She rose to positions of leadership in the Civil Rights Movement, and had close friendships with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, and Nelson Mandela.” 

How is it possible for a little black girl without the benefit of a stable home and family, neglected and abused, to rise above great adversity?  Today, there all too many children facing similar circumstances and many will not be overcomers.  But, for Maya Angelou, victory over adversity came as she surrendered to a loving God Who rescued her and restored her dignity.  In the 2013 interview cited above, Dr. Angelou says it was God Who “allowed her to achieve such incredible feats.”

"I found that I knew not only that there was God
but that I was a child of God,
when I understood that,
when I comprehended that,
more than that,
when I internalized that,
ingested that,
I became courageous."

Maya Angelou has encouraged many a downcast soul to look up in faith to a God Who has overcome this world of division and despair.  And God does lead those who surrender to Him in a “victory parade” in triumph in Christ, and manifests through [them] the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place (2 Corinthians 2: 14).   May God help us to be mindful of the downcast and needy all around us each day. 

Perhaps as a reader, you are struggling with adversity and are discouraged or in despair.  Don’t bear it alone, but reach out to God through a local Bible-teaching church in your area.  Or go to one of many online resources that explain how to become a child of God by faith such as this link provided by the Billy Graham Association.  God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life (John 3: 16; Romans 5:8).

If you are a child of God through faith (John 1: 12), the teaching of the Apostle Paul can be a challenge to you and to me to be Christ’s ambassadors to a needy world.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5: 19, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  May God help the tribe of Maya Angelou to increase; and, may God help members of the body of Christ to be “ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 18).

Related Oikonomia article on overcoming adversity:  Jackie Robinson -- “YOU Don’t Belong Here!”

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Stewards of Love and Compassion

Perhaps like you, I was surprised to learn of the emergence of Caitlyn Jenner as a trans-woman from the person we had known as Bruce Jenner, the decathlon winner in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.  The bold display of Caitlyn on the cover of Vanity Fair has challenged millions to think about men and women who experience a confused or transgender identity.  How should Christians respond to trans-women and trans-men?  How will we respond to transgendered persons who profess Christianity?

Bruce Jenner          Caitlyn Jenner
As a Christian, I have more questions than answers.  I am trying to refrain from forming an opinion of Caitlyn until I have read and studied more.  Therefore, I will not write much more on the subject at this time.  Instead, I will refer you to an article that has been very helpful to me—one I selfishly wish I could have written.

In his blog, Kingdom in the Midst, Marty Duren expresses godly wisdom that suggests he has been spending time with Jesus in the Word of God.  In “For God So Loved Caitlyn Jenner” Duren doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.  But, he points me in the right direction.  Looking in that direction, I can see Jesus looking with His holy, all-seeing eyes upon the multitudes, seeing every possible physical and spiritual condition—all of the “weights and besetting sin” (Hebrews 12: 1) that plague us, in 2015.  According to the Gospel of Mark, When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things (Mark 6: 34).

What did Jesus teach them?   I would like to have listened. Yet, I am thankful for the Gospel accounts that reveal His great heart of compassion toward sinners that He came to rescue.  Indeed, it was Jesus’ compassion from the outset (indeed, from Eternity past) that enabled Him to see the people as “sheep without a shepherd.”

Consistent with a biblical view of Christ, Marty Duren challenges me to exercise compassion toward my neighbor who struggles with gender identity or identity in so many other ways in a society in which boundaries have fallen and truth is relative.  But seeing my neighbors as sheep needing a shepherd is only the beginning.  What if they understand my compassionate approach as judgmental and condescending?  My only hope is to see myself in the mirror of God's Word which reveals my shortcomings.  There, I can realize the infinite gulf across which God reached to rescue me.  Then, in humility, perhaps I can embrace others who are no less in need of God’s salvation and grace than I?

If you choose not to read “For God So Loved Caitlyn Jenner,” consider at least reading Duren’s conclusion:

We have no option but to love those so affected, so afflicted and so decided. There are among the gender confused and the gender reassigned future children of God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Whatever it is Caitlyn Jenner seeks, no amount of surgery, hormones or editing of a Wikipedia page will bring it.  Joy comes from the One who made us to find joy in Himself.  For God so loved Caitlyn Jenner. And you.  And me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Birthday and Memorial Day Tribute

Grave Marker, Dundee Cemetery, Dundee, Ohio
Today, my uncle, Glen Silvius, would have been 104 years old.  My tribute to him is appropriate because this beloved uncle had such a large part in my own development as a young man.  But also, I want to honor him at this time when Memorial Day is approaching because he served honorably in World War II as a member of "the greatest generation."

Discharged in 1945, Corporal Glen Silvius, U.S. Army, had served above and beyond that which was required of him.  To my recollection, he never mentioned that he was awarded a Purple Heart.  Uncle Glen, or “Shorty” as he was known in our family, participated in the Normandy Invasion and the subsequent liberation of France and Germany from Nazi domination.  He seldom spoke of what must have been some horrendous experiences in World War II, but his letters from the battle front which I was able to read after his death, in 1997, revealed much about this chapter of his life.

Glen Silvius, U.S. Army
Just two weeks after the Normandy landing on June 6, Uncle Glen wrote the following letter to his parents, Jesse and Edna Silvius, of Dundee, Ohio from “Somewhere in France.”  I publish it here with posthumous thanks to my uncle who understood and accepted the saving grace of God and won his greatest victory, the victory “over sin and self,” by faith in the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For my earlier tribute to Glen Silvius, see “Memorial Day Tribute to a Rich Uncle,” Oikonomia, May 27, 2013.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Supporting Integration of Science & Biblical Faith

Recently, Abby and I were privileged to attend the annual Academic Honors Day Chapel at Cedarville University where we joined with the Department of Science and Mathematics in celebrating the announcement of a new academic scholarship.  The Science and Faith Integration Scholarship will be awarded annually to an outstanding student majoring in biology or environmental science.  According to the criteria for the Scholarship, each recipient should demonstrate exemplary academic achievement in the classroom and give evidence of a commitment to the development of his or her profession of faith and science through participation in opportunities to apply knowledge – i.e. scientific research or significant involvement in science-related travel study or short-term mission.

Both the name and selection criteria for The Science and Faith Integration Scholarship emphasize the aim of promoting biblical integration of science and faith.  The ultimate goal of biblical integration is to know God and display His wisdom and character.  Godly character is the fruit of internal consistency, or integrity—a wholehearted obedience to God’s Truth (Psalm 119: 9-11).   The submissive heart, at one time impervious to the wisdom and will of God because of pride, can begin to absorb and apply God’s Truth.  Hypocrisy of the divided heart and mind gives way to integrity. 

The integration of biblical Truth applied in every area of life is expressed in the virtue of love for God, love for neighbor, and love for the creation.  Biblical integration specifically applied to science and faith, means the Christian scholar highly prizes integrity in his or her pursuit of an accurate understanding of creation.  As a result, the Christian scholar gains insights into the workings of creation and exercises stewardship of creation based on “good science” and respect for the authority of God and His Word.

Perhaps our enthusiasm in support of The Science and Faith Integration Scholarship is moving you to consider investing in the scholarship fund for future students.  If so, please read on and consider two lasting benefits you would receive. 

First, you will share the personal satisfaction of supporting Christian higher education at Cedarville University and the heritage of academic excellence in science-faith learning that has characterized the Department of Science and Mathematics. As we watched  the first recipient receive her scholarship in Academic Honors Day Chapel and then became acquainted with her over lunch, our hearts were filled with joy in knowing we could have a small part in this university and departmental mission.

A second lasting benefit of investors in science-faith integration at Cedarville is the blessing from demonstrating our stewardship of God’s treasures by sharing money that in reality is “God’s money.”  Our March Oikonomia article, There’s No Such Thing as Private Property,” calls us to “possess property as though we didn’t possess it.”  We can affirm to ourselves that we are practicing stewardship instead of ownership by giving generously in ways that honor God and help our neighbor?  And, we can rejoice in God from Whom all blessings flow while we watch how He will use this scholarship for His glory in the life of each recipient.

The first Science and Faith Integration Scholar is Grace Revenaugh, a junior biology major.   Although Grace grew up in Cedarville, Ohio, her family now resides in Butte, MT.  At the luncheon for award recipients and sponsors, Grace enthusiastically shared her student experiences with us.  Highlights included her opportunity to conduct research on the role of microRNAs in autoimmune disease pathogenesis and her experience as an EMT with the Cedarville Township Volunteer Fire Department.   It became clear to Abby and I that Grace loves people, the campus environment, and the opportunity to pursue God’s calling for her.  In partial fulfillment of her application requirements for the Scholarship, Grace had submitted an “integration scholarship essay” in which she reflects on her experiences during her short-term mission trip to Republic of the Congo.   After our luncheon discussion with Grace and then reading her essay, it became clear that she is committed to pursuing God, His creation, His compassion for people in spiritual and physical need, and His call upon her to serve Christ.

Below you will find two excerpts from Grace’s writing.  In “Miriam,” Grace reflects on her Congo mission experience, particularly her relationship to a young abdominal TB patient.  In the second excerpt, “Environmental Context,” Grace shares her observations of environmental health and nutrition within which medical missions in the Congo are being conducted.  She hints at the need for a comprehensive effort to educate the Congolese in the importance of adequate sanitation and nutrition.  In both of these accounts, Grace demonstrates that she observes God’s world with eyes of compassion and with insight into the interdisciplinary challenges Christians face in bringing the Gospel to those with both spiritual and physical needs. 

Grace and Miriam
My seven weeks with Miriam and her family and many other patients at Pioneer Christian Hospital taught me about perseverance, the joy found in pain, and the good that a single person who longs to share the love of Christ can bring.  I was first motivated to join the medical field and subsequently go on this mission trip because I love science, especially anatomy and physiology, and because I am fascinated by the process of maintaining homeostasis; but, I have learned that so much of medicine is beyond science, dependent instead on caring for individuals and meeting their unique needs.  I believe that God has called me to use my life to illuminate the Gospel specifically through science and medicine by becoming a PA; but whatever His plans, I pray that God will use the lessons I learned in Congo to help me to bring glory to Him always.

“Environmental Context”
From what I have seen, environmental health is not something that even concerns the people of Impfondo with whom I primarily interacted.  On the other hand, the influence of western and eastern culture has brought with it a huge influx of imported products which have been integrated into the community.  These products, primarily portable, non-perishable items, are nutritionally degrading.  While we were visiting a patent at Pioneer Christian Hospital, Dr. Joseph M. Harvey said that products such as MSG, convenience goods, snacks, soft drinks, and processed goods in general are contributing to an exponential increase in diabetes, high blood pressure, and other western diseases now common in Impfondo.  Because the majority of people in Impfondo struggle to feed their families with any food that is available, no one really cares about the nutrition of food.  For example, if you told someone that they should not eat a certain root vegetable because of the high arsenic content they would most likely reply "it is this or nothing for our meal" and then eat it. The staff at Pioneer Christian Hospital are constantly working to educate people, but in my opinion the overall impact of this training has been rather small.

An Invitation to You:
In conclusion, Abby and I are are excited about the interdisciplinary experiences Grace is having, and pray that God will continue to direct her growth in profession of faith and science.  Maybe you too have been encouraged by this account and Grace Revenaugh’s testimony of how God is using the new scholarship to foster the heritage of science-faith integration through the Department of Science and Mathematics at Cedarville University.  If so, then why not become a fellow investor? Perhaps you gratefully attribute your own profession of faith and of science to the teaching and mentoring of department and university faculty during your days at Cedarville. If so, we invite you to pray about how you might participate.  If God leads you to invest in this way, you may send your check to Cedarville University with “Science and Faith Integration Scholarship” on the memo line.  Or, you may contribute online at http://cedarville.edu/giving. Just click on “Scholarships” and follow directions to “The Science and Faith Integration Scholarship.” Thank you for considering how you can steward a portion of God’s blessings to you by honoring your faculty mentors and encouraging leaders for tomorrow.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

There’s No Such Thing as Private Property

As the title suggests, I am calling for the demise of “private property” as we generally define it.  But you can relax.  I haven’t joined those who are singing the praises of socialism.  Instead, I am offering a biblical definition of private property; one that is essential for a free market, capitalist economy to operate in a just and moral fashion.  But first, let’s consider some context.

Western culture is steadily evolving; or perhaps more accurately, devolving.  At the heart of this devolution is the crumbling moral foundation of institutions that have supported civilization for several millennia.  The institutions of marriage, family, and citizenship are all being redefined based on moral relativism in place of objective truth claims from the Bible.  For purposes of this article, allow me to suggest that the definition of private property has also changed.  And I contend that this change in how we view “private property” explains why many have become disgruntled and critical of capitalism.

Replacing Capitalism with Socialism

During the past decade, the call for social justice has focused attention upon the plight of the poor, the ethnic minorities, and other groups who are considered disenfranchised.  Meanwhile, there has been a growing sense that social justice cannot be complete without major changes in two aspects that form the context of the injustices. 

First, there is the perceived need to change how material wealth is distributed.  Liberal scholars and leaders call for a shift away from free market capitalism toward some form of socialism to assure that each person gets their “fair share.”  Second, there is a perceived need to change the way in which humans interact with the environment of planet Earth.  According to this view, the Earth’s limited natural resources are too overtaxed to support the growing human population.  What’s more, natural resources are being consumed disproportionately by the rich and powerful.  To remedy these perceived duel injustices, one against the disenfranchised and the other against the Earth, the social planners have a solution which is summarized by Ralph Chaplin,
(1887–1961), American writer, artist and labor activist:

It seems the most logical thing in the world to believe that the natural resources of the Earth, upon which the race depends for food, clothing and shelter, should be owned collectively by the race instead of being the private property of a few social parasites.  

Chaplin speaks for many today who believe the answer to injustice toward people, animals, and the Earth is to move from individual to collective ownership of property—i.e. to “spread the wealth evenly.”  Never mind that to bring about this massive transition and then to maintain the collective in a just manner would be a difficult task, even with strong coercion and tyranny.  Furthermore, based on the history of socialism, how can we assume that those placed in charge of managing the collective would be any more just and fair toward people, animals, and the Earth than the so-called “social parasites” they now condemn?   Ben Shapiro points out that socialism has its own moral flaws:

Socialism violates at least three of the Ten Commandments: It turns government into God, it legalizes thievery and it elevates covetousness. Discussions of income inequality, after all, aren't about prosperity but about petty spite. Why should you care how much money I make, so long as you are happy?

On the other hand, capitalism offers the promise of freedom, but also a two-edged sword.  It depends upon individuals owning private property which in turn motivates a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit which often paves the road to prosperity.  But there is also the temptation toward greed and unjust practices that earn some capitalists the name “social parasites.”   As Shirley Chisholm states, “When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.”

Although capitalism invites injustice, it is also true that greed and injustice thrive in both the private and public sectors.  It doesn’t matter whether the material resources of Earth are privately or collectively held; corruption has no favorites.  The source of trouble is not the material resources or the sector of the economy in which they are managed.  We must go deeper to find the cause.  The trouble comes from the depraved human heart.  Two writers, one a prophet of God and the other a Russian novelist and historian, expose the truth about the nature of the human heart:

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?  -- The Prophet Jeremiah (17: 9)

the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. -- Alexander Solzhenitzyn

Reviving Our Concept of Private Property

Because moral depravity is rooted deep within the heart of man, if free market capitalism is to be moral, I believe we must also dig deep to identify and extract the cause of injustice; and then, revive the heart with a biblical concept of private property.  In Scripture, we discover the basis for the title of this article.  According to Scripture, “There is no such thing as private property.”  Although it is possible in America and some other countries to hold legal title to property, Scripture teaches that we do not own anything.  “The Earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24: 1) and He has given humans dominion over creation (Genesis 1: 26-28) to manage it on His behalf as His servants or stewards (Genesis 2: 15).  We are stewards but not owners of “private property.”  Therefore, biblically speaking, private property is any portion of the Earth over which an individual has responsibility to God to manage for His glory.  In this definition, “private” refers to our individual responsibility.  And although we may hold temporary legal title, the property belongs to God.

The “stewardship view” of private property is a key by which humans can open the door and allow intimate relationship with God.  We can see this truth throughout Scripture from Adam and Eve all the way to the Apostle John in Revelation.  For example, Abel’s offering was a pleasing aroma to God, but Cain’s wasn’t (Genesis 4: 3-5).  This distinction rested at least partly on how these two men submitted themselves and their “property” in their worship of God.  Later, Noah worshipped and obeyed God; and God gave him dominion over the living creatures resulting in their salvation from the flood by means of the ark he had built (Genesis 6-9).  Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, was a nomad.  Although he had great wealth, Abraham’s grasp upon it, even upon his beloved son Isaac, was very loose compared to his tenacious pursuit of God (Genesis 12-25). 

Remembering God Is Our Provider

Four centuries after Abraham, King David typified the same stewardship view that he learned from the patriarchs, but adds an additional principle.  King David not only understood that his kingship or dominion was a stewardship granted by God, but he also understood that even his ability to acquire material wealth was from God.  Listen as David prays before the people at the dedication of the material resources for the temple that Solomon would later build (1 Chronicles 29: 11b-14):

Yours is the dominion, O LORD,
and You exalt Yourself as head over all.
Both riches and honor come from You,
and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might;
and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.
Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.
But who am I and who are my people that we should be able
to offer as generously as this?
For all things come from You,
and from Your hand we have given You.

King David wanted his worship of God to be a picture of how all God’s people ought to exercise stewardship of the material resources of Earth day in and day out—managing “property” as that which comes from God’s hand and which, by God’s grace, He enables us to give back to Him or to our neighbor.  The Apostle Paul reiterates this principle in 1 Corinthians 4: 7:

For who regards you as superior?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as if you had not received it?

The Scriptural view of private property means we view the “property” as God’s, the “private” as our individual responsibility to work and manage it as unto Him, seasoned with an attitude of humility that recognizes all we have is ultimately a gift from God.   Elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31, Paul teaches us that having a continual awareness of the eminence of Christ’s return will help us to “possess property as though we didn’t possess it” (emphasis mine):

But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none;  and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess;  and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.

Notice Paul cites the relationship of husbands to wives, and the relationship of humans toward material property (ultimately the Earth) in a similar sense.  Husbands are responsible to love and nurture their wives as unto the Lord; likewise, those who buy are responsible as stewards to act as “husbandmen” to care for their property as unto the Lord.  Here, Paul teaches that God’s people are to undertake both responsibilities with a “stewardship view”—a view that aims to glorify God as Christ’s return draws near, rather than an “ownership view” that aims to multiply wealth without regard to moral and ethical responsibilities toward God and our neighbor.

Realizing Even Our Bodies Are Not Private Property

But there is a third principle that deepens the biblical meaning of private property even further.  God’s redeemed not only do not own their spouses, cars, houses, and land; they don’t even own their bodies.  The redeemed are bought by Christ’s blood from the slave block of sin.  Paul wrote,” …you are not your own?  For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6: 19b-20).  Paul summarizes the biblical responsibility of the Christian toward God in a comprehensive manner in Colossians 3: 17:

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

But how do we know whether we are actually “possessing as though we do not possess?”  Thankfully, God has instituted two routine tests by which we can check our attitudes and priorities when it comes to our “property”—our regular responsibility to give back to God our tithes and extra offerings; and, our weekly responsibility to set aside a day in which we celebrate God through our worship and rest from routine labor.  These observances provide a routine check on the tightness of how unselfish we are with material resources and time.

Renewed Hope for the “Free Market?”

I have provided a brief sketch of a biblical definition of private property. Now, if free market capitalists were to adopt this definition of private property, do you think they would still be considered “social parasites” by many who are disgruntled with capitalism?   The second question is, does this “stewardship view” of private property address the accusation by many that capitalism and its biblical roots are to blame for our insensitivity to disenfranchised people and to the deterioration of planet Earth?  I believe the answer to both questions is “yes” based on the account of the early church in Acts 4: 31-35 (emphasis mine):

And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.   And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.   And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.  For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

Although some who advocate social justice and socialism interpret the sharing of property in common by the early church as an advocacy of socialism by Christianity, the passage does not support that notion.  Instead, notice first that these folks were born-again believers on the basis of having trusted in Christ’s redemption from their sins through His death and resurrection.  As “new creatures” in Christ, they submitted their wills in obedience to His Word under the power of the Holy Spirit.  The resultant unity of Spirit enabled them to view their material possessions as “common property to them.”  From their perspective of “possessing as though not possessing,” they were able to see with eyes of compassion the physical needs among their number and therefore to voluntarily share generously.   Many acted upon their concerns by selling their “private property” and making the moneys available to the leadership to distribute funds to those in need.

At the time of the events recorded in Acts, persecution and ostracism often severely impoverished Christian converts and their families.  Therefore, the outpouring of generous sharing among these people of faith was nothing less than an essential, voluntary expression of the compassion of the Risen Christ toward those in need.  The expression of charity (agape love) by the 1st century church has been reproduced in countless congregations throughout the world, often going unnoticed except by the recipients.  Note also that this “voluntary sharing” distinguishes this biblical economy from a socialist model.

Yet, the Christian church is not immune from selfishness and greed as we have noted previously in “Greed, Charity, and Capitalism.”  Therefore, one of the challenges of today’s evangelical church is to provide the setting in which God’s Word is taught under the direction of His Holy Spirit to believers who are Spirit-filled and receptive to Christ’s example as One Who had “nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9: 58).   Christ lived as an example of “possessing as though He did not possess” and cautioned against attitudes that would oppose this “stewardship view” of private property.  For example, he warned against the love of money (e.g. Matthew 19: 16-25) and contrasted those who give out of their surplus with the poor widow who freely gave all she had (Mark 12: 38-44). 

Revival by Church and Civic Institutions

The evangelical church must function as a counterculture in which individuals and families learn to implement biblical stewardship of private property.   Local schools and the local community have historically contributed to this lifestyle as I have explained in Environmental Stewards Are ‘Grown’ within a Moral Community.” Historian Thomas Woods comments on the importance of individual responsibility and other virtues in a free market economy:

One of the market's virtues, and the reason it enables so much peaceful interaction and cooperation among such a great variety of peoples, is that it demands of its participants only that they observe a relatively few basic principles, among them honesty, the sanctity of contracts, and respect for private property. 

Arthur Brooks noted, “what America needs is not less capitalism but better capitalists.”  In my view, better capitalists are those that adopt a “stewardship view” of material possessions, one that is taught in the context of family, church, and community.  But as explained in “Dominion 101 - Spheres of Responsibility” government has the important role of maintaining the rule of law.  Rep. Paul Ryan makes this point well:

We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility.

Our Founding Fathers understood the depravity of mankind and the danger of power in the hands of one or a few.  Therefore, the U.S. Constitution calls for a system of checks and balances, and includes a justice system to maintain accountability and rule of law.  Today, greed and corruption are common at every level of both public and private sectors.   Many are asking, “Is capitalism moral”?   Arthur Brooks answers, “Of course not. Only people can be moral.  We're not asking the right questions."  Instead, we should ask, “What economic system will most likely encourage moral behavior in us?”  For me, that system is capitalism in which individuals have a “stewardship view” that sees private property as a temporary trust to which God holds title.   As temporary title-holder, the “owner” is responsible to use it for the glory of God and for the benefit of his or her neighbor.  A free market economy in the hands of such responsible stewards will address both of the concerns of social justice advocates—provision of assistance to the poor and disenfranchised that respects the dignity of human beings, and good stewardship of the environment of planet Earth.

I welcome your comments.  The following questions may stimulate your thinking further:

1.   How would the “Rich Young Ruler” in Matthew 19: 16-25 define private property? 
2.   Does Jesus’ condemnation of the “Barn Builder” in Luke 12: 16-21 suggest that it is immoral to be rich?
3.   What does the following quote from Lewis Black tell you about Christianity versus socialism? 
Socialism appeals to me.  It's like imposed Christianity. You've got to share.
4.   In what sense do advocates of socialism express a different view of humankind than advocates of capitalism?
5.   Is a free market economy really a better system to address the needs of the poor and disenfranchised than socialism?   Which one better addresses environmental problems?
6.   How would you grade your attitude toward your “property” based on your material giving and your observance of “Sabbath rest?”