The Question of Radical Sacrifice

Have you ever thought about a full-orbed theology of mission and money? Trevin Wax has posted a great article on this subject.

Last Thursday, James MacDonald gathered a group of mega-church pastors for a conference called “The Elephant Room.” The sessions featured lively discussion and friendly debate regarding a number of controversial methodological, theological, and practical issues related to church ministry. (See notes here.) One of the most interesting sessions was David Platt and James MacDonald’s conversation on sacrifice and generosity.

David Platt made the case that wealth and money, though not inherently sinful, are dangerous in the hands of sinful people. Our current context of self-indulgence needs to be challenged. Spiritual transformation leads to material transformation. The gospel gives us generous hearts that overflow into radical sacrifice for God’s eternal purposes. When God blesses us financially, He intends us to give to others.

James MacDonald warned that a distorted version of Platt’s teaching equates “poverty” and “spirituality.” Instead, MacDonald believes we need a full-orbed theology of joy in God that includes joy in the good gifts God has given us. Emphasizing radical sacrifice can lead to poverty theology that is all about the immediate divesting of money rather than the multiplication of money that will lead to greater involvement in mission.

The Points of Agreement

The MacDonald/Platt discussion was tense at times, perhaps because the practical ramifications of how we think about money always hit close to home. Still, there are three major points on which Platt and MacDonald agree:

  1. Money and possessions are a good gift from God.
  2. Money and possessions can become idolatrous.
  3. We are called to exercise stewardship of our finances in a way that pleases the Lord and furthers the spread of His name.

The Debate

Even though Platt and MacDonald would “Amen” each of these points, they have diverging views on the particulars of how these truths should be applied. MacDonald believes we need a theology of joy that reiterates point #1. Platt believes we are underestimating the idolatrous pull of point #2. Then, because MacDonald emphasizes #1 and Platt focuses on #2, they have radically different notions about how to apply #3.

Read the rest here.

Conclusion

The more I think about those three points, the more I am convinced that it’s not a “balance between the three” that is necessary, but a radical, unshakeable commitment to all three.

  • We need to pursue joy in the God who gives us good gifts to enjoy, basking in His goodness to us, growing in gratitude for His provision, and enjoying His gifts as the good things they are.
  • We also need to be radical in our realization of how idolatrous good things can become when they take the throne of our lives. Our commitment to enjoying the good things of life should be matched by our ruthless efforts to root out idols from our lives, to find our satisfaction in God alone, and not just the gifts He gives us.
  • In the end, radical stewardship will look different from person to person, from church to church, – but we are all called to be good stewards, to prioritize rightly, to sacrifice for the King out of gospel-soaked generous hearts. Radical sacrifice must always overflow from a heart that is gripped by the gospel; otherwise, it becomes a joyless and fruitless effort of self-righteousness.
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