Oikonomia Network: Seminaries Teaching the Biblical View of Work

At the creation, God the divine Worker created man the human worker. The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it, (Gen 2:15 NIV).

The Disciple Nations Alliance has long taught the integration of Biblical faith and human work, about stewardship and economics. We believe all these are central to the life of the Christian and central to God’s purposes for humanity. Work is a gift and calling. We built something called Monday Church, an effort dedicated to “renewing culture by helping Christians function from a Biblical worldview in every sphere of society.”

work the subject of Darrow's book LifeWork

In 2009 Darrow published LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day, a book-length treatment of this vital subject.

Currently we are writing a book on Proverbs.  After all, Proverbs has a lot to say about work. And about a related subject, human flourishing. God intended that the creation flourish. That’s the context of human work.

All of that is to say that we were excited recently to come across a parallel effort by a partnership of evangelical seminaries. It’s called Oikonomia Network, “a community of evangelical seminaries equipping pastors to connect biblical wisdom and sound theology to work and the economy.” Eighteen schools (see the list below) are currently part of the network.

Work is a gift and calling …

To read their page is to see a reflection of the DNA teachings!

For millions of churchgoers today, Christianity is a leisure time activity rather than a way of life. The main reason is that discipleship has been disconnected from the largest portion of life – our economic work in the home, in our jobs, and in communities. Work takes up most of life because God designed human beings to spend most of their time serving one another, cultivating blessings and making the world a better place.

Oikonomia, by the way, is the Greek word behind economics. It means “a task involving management and organization” (Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd Edition). We have written about this word here at DMF several times:

The Oikonomia Network articulates goals which we fully embrace and have ourselves promoted. For example,

Pastors should be prepared to:

1) Affirm the basic goodness of work and make it a priority to empower people in their callings and responsibilities outside the walls of the church.

2) Prepare people to discern their callings and how they are equipped for service, encourage them to pursue excellence in their work and help them nurture a sense of meaning and fulfillment in how they do it.

3) Encourage people to live morally and spiritually integrated lives; avoid language and practices that cultivate a dualistic mindset (e.g. “I left my job in order to go into full-time ministry”)

4) Affirm the importance of work done by the least advantaged and the socially marginalized, and by those whose areas of service are not always understood to be economic.

The DNA is composed of practitioners and trainers. We heartily commend this group of academics who, like us, want to equip today’s church leaders in the essential arenas of work, stewardship, caring for the poor, and economics. We consider it simple faithfulness to the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate.

Here’s how the Oikonomia Network describes the approach to notion of stewardship.

We were given stewardship over the world so our work would make it flourish for God’s glory.

1.  We have a stewardship responsibility to flourish in our own lives, to help our neighbors flourish as fellow stewards, and to pass on a flourishing economy to future generations.
2.  Economies flourish when people have integrity and trust each other.
3.  In general, people flourish when they take responsibility for their own economic success by doing work that serves others and makes the world better.

The church, and the world, needs this kind of initiative. Kudos to the people of  Oikonomia Network.

- Gary Brumbelow

Oikonomia Network partner schools:

  1. Asbury Theological Seminary
  2. Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
  3. Azusa-Pacific Seminary
  4. Beeson Divinity School
  5. Bethel Seminary
  6. Biola University, Talbot School of Theology
  7. Dallas Theological Seminary
  8. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
  9. Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
  10. Wesley Seminary
  11. Moody Bible Institute
  12. Seattle Pacific Seminary
  13. Sioux Falls Seminary
  14. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
  15. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
  16. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  17. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  18. Western Seminary


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Christians in Iraq Are in Desperate Need

Iraq flagTroubling news from Iraq continues apace. That’s not new, but the level of escalation, and the description of events on the ground, both indicate a mushrooming humanitarian crisis, an extreme situation which warrants the attention, prayers, and gifts of Christians around the world.

Some of the most trusted sources we know are using striking language to describe the state of affairs:

• “Probably there is not one Christian now left in Mosul.” Archbishop Amel Nona
• “Things are so bad now in Iraq, the worst they have ever been.” Canon Andrew White, the “vicar of Baghdad”
• “Iraq is on the verge of disintegration.” Eric Metaxas

No doubt many of our readers are following Iraq news. As has been widely reported, Mosul fell to Militants on Tuesday. Large swaths of Iraqi military are said to be abandoning their posts.

The government of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell overnight to the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, also called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Mosul’s panic-stricken Christians, along with many others, are now fleeing en masse to the rural Nineveh Plain, according to the Vatican publication Fides. The border crossings into Kurdistan, too, are jammed with the cars of the estimated 150,000 desperate escapees.

The Christians in ancient Antioch, Syria, “determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea” (Acts 11:29 ESV). So we today have an opportunity to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Iraq. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 ESV).

Please join us in praying for these who are dear to Christ.

Please join us in giving as well. Canon White (see Eric Metaxas’ riveting interview with him here) is asking, “Please, please help us in this crisis.

Luke wrote of our predecessors that  “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32 NIV). Surely this is a moment to imitate them.

Here’s one simple avenue for your gift.

- Gary Brumbelow


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Transformation: From the Inside Out

Transformation is God’s ultimate aim in creation.

Yes, that includes people from every nation coming to a saving faith in Christ. It requires new churches being planted. Hungry people fed. These are all important, but they are not God’s ultimate aim. They should be viewed as essential “parts,” not ends.

God’s ultimate aim is that the knowledge of His glory would fill the earth as the waters cover the seas (Hab. 2:14). To be sure, this ultimate purpose won’t be fully realized until Christ returns. But until then, on the basis of His finished work on the cross, Jesus calls us to pray and to work, in His strength, to advance His Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Not only does God have a comprehensive plan for creation, He has a strategy to advance it. It is an inside-out process of transformation with five specific, sequential steps.

 inside out transformation graphic


The essential starting point in all lasting social transformation begins with spiritual regeneration at the level of human hearts and minds. Through the transforming power of the gospel, individuals are “born again” as “new creations” (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17) filled with the Holy Spirit, enabled to do God’s will (Jer. 31:33, 34).

As people are born again, the transformational process continues through intentional training in Christ-likeness. Central to this training is discipleship at the level of worldview. New believers must be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:2). This transformation occurs as believers “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

Renewed hearts and minds lead naturally to changes in lifestyle and behavior. Character is renewed, biblical virtues take on bodily form, and the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23) increasingly become a natural way of life.

From here, transformation begins to ripple outward into the social sphere. The first, most basic and most important social sphere is the family. As husband and wife pursue God’s way in marriage, they and their children are blessed. Such parents disciple their children to be the self-governing “godly offspring” that our Lord desires (Mal. 2:15). They carefully prepare them to exercise godly dominion in every part of the larger community.

In due time, as successive generations assume positions of influence in the various spheres of society, these areas are reformed and increasingly reflect God’s knowledge and righteousness. As this happens, the nation is blessed—the nation is discipled.

The local church and its leaders play an essential role in this process. They not only proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ, but they serve as “equipping centers” (Eph. 4:2). They equip singles for marriage, parents to be the primary disciplers of their children, and members of the body to advance God’s Kingdom in every area of society. The church also serves a prophetic role as the conscience of the nation.

A few important points need to be made about this inside-out process of social transformation. First, it doesn’t happen overnight! You may see little progress in your lifetime. Things may get worse before they get better, for we face stiff opposition. Our enemy, Satan, is busily advancing his counterfeit kingdom. He is planting his weeds in the midst of the wheat of God’s Kingdom, and the two grow side-by-side (Mat. 13:36-43). We can expect him to do everything in his power to oppose us yet, by the blood of Christ, we can resist him as we put on the full armor of God described in Eph. 6:10-18.

Second, the process begins by the supernatural work of God in regenerating human hearts and minds, and it advances by God’s grace and the work of His Spirit. He is the author of transformation, and while He uses individuals, families and churches, all of the credit, honor and glory for any positive change belong to Him alone.

Third, transformation is the work of God through generations, and this is why the family is so central to God’s plan, for it is a uniquely multi-generational institution. With the heart of the children won to their father and their father’s God, the cause of Christ in the world can go forward though the generations. Lastly, transformation at every level (individual, family and nation) is contingent upon transformation in the preceding level.

Puritan pastor Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) captured this insight when he said, “He who knows not how to rule a kingdom, that cannot manage a Province; nor can he wield a Province, that cannot order a City; nor he order a city, that knows not how to regulate a Village; nor he a Village, that cannot guide his family; not can that man Govern well a family that knows not how to govern himself.”

The Disciple Nations Alliance endorses this inside-out process of cultural transformation: the framework for all the teaching, training and equipping we provide to local churches around the world.

-          Scott Allen


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William Wilberforce: A Model for Today

WHM146809Some 180 years after his death, William Wilberforce has something to teach us. That’s partly because his world and our world have a lot in common.

In most of the ways that matter to Christians, many societies are sliding backwards. Sometimes we wonder why this is. What went wrong? What we should we be doing differently?

For some people the answer is simple: we are seeing the end times, what Paul wrote to Timothy … “in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1).

Maybe so. But except for the sanction of same-sex “marriage” the behaviors we are witnessing are not unique to this moment in history.  For example, our friend Christian Overman recently pointed out some facts about Great Britain in the day of Wilberforce:

  • Twenty-five percent of the single women in London were prostitutes.
  • Liquor flowed so plentifully that the day became known as the “Gin Age.”
  • Gambling was a national obsession and ruined thousands.
  • Daylight fornication [was practiced] on the village green.
  • Executions, known as Hanging Shows, attracted huge crowds.

Maybe some Christians were saying at that time, These are the end times! But obviously they weren’t. Instead, God sent (the Wesleyan) revival. The fruit of that included William Wilberforce (and other British leaders) who “saw Christianity as something more than a private, personal religion. They saw ‘real Christianity’ having enormous implications for the whole of society.” 

That’s a picture of what Disciple Nations Alliance is all about, seeking to bring the power of the gospel message to bear on the culture around us. This is included in the Great Commission, which Jesus himself characterized as “making disciples of all nations” and “teaching them to obey all I have commanded.”

This is not meant to trivialize the serious erosion of moral behavior around us. As we have written in this space before, “The problems we face in the West … are moral and spiritual problems at their core. A nation that puts money over family, convenience over the life of a baby, feelings over covenantal commitment, or consumption over thrift, reveals its moral bankruptcy and is destined to a slow death.”

Accordingly, Jesus’ commands are comprehensive. They impinge on the whole of every individual. He calls every believer to follow Him, in whatever capacity He directs.

After Wilberforce came to faith in Christ, he felt he should leave politics and go “into the ministry.” But John Newton (author of “Amazing Grace”) counseled him to serve the Great Commission using his political skills in the British government. Wilberforce agreed, and became the driving force behind the abolition of the British slave trade. He also worked to reform British culture in general. God used him, and others like him, to bring change to that society. Look at the bullet list above. God used the efforts of Wilberforce et. al. to reduce the scourge of prostitution, the effects of drunkenness, the menace of gambling. Public executions were eventually outlawed. These achievements were done in the name of Christ for the glory of God.

I’m glad Wilberforce listened to Newton.

We can’t all be William Wilberforce. But we can recognize that God uses Christians, working in their spheres of influence, to shape the culture. God calls every Christian to do that.

Communicating that truth, and equipping churches to practice it, is the burden of the Disciple Nations Alliance.

-          Gary Brumbelow

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Body, Mind, Spirit: Which Matters?

body builderThe Bible has a lot to say about the human body. The body matters to Christ. Christianity is a religion of the body, as well as the mind and the spirit; all three are the creation of God.

So, for example, the apostle Paul appealed to the Christians in Rome, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1 ESV).

Your body as a sacrifice. Something given up to God. There’s a thought for 21st century citizens. The purpose of your body is not to be a specimen of beauty or strength. Not an object of admiration. Your body is to be a sacrifice offered to God.

The very next verse exhorts the Christian’s mental development, transformation in fact. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV).

The purpose of your body is not to be a specimen of beauty

We need a biblical balance of mind, body, and spirit. Lydia Sigourney recognized that already 175 years ago when she wrote Letters to Young Ladies.

Is it fair … that what relates to the body, and the organs of the body, I mean those accomplishments which address themselves to the eye and to the ear, should occupy almost the whole thoughts; while the intellectual part is robbed of its due proportion, and the spiritual part has almost no proportion at all? Is not this preparing the young for an awful disappointment, in the tremendous day, when they must be stripped of that body, of those senses and organs which have been made almost the sole objects of their attention, and shall feel themselves in possession of nothing but that spiritual part, which in education was scarcely taken into the account of their existence? 110

What would she think if she saw the West today? Surely she would be dismayed over our obsession with physical beauty, our erosion of intellectual development, and our growing spiritual vacancy?

Our friend, Nicole Curiel, reflects on a wonderful legacy with reference to this very point.

I was homeschooled throughout my entire life. I can say that my homeschooling experience was very complete. I had all the necessary intellectual aspects covered in my schooling. As a result, I am now studying to be a teacher, speak, read and write two languages perfectly and know a third (but not as well).  I will always remember this though: when I was young we had mornings where we would do no school at all. Instead my mom would tell us that we needed to have a time with the Lord. Sometimes this would take up the whole morning. But seeking the Lord and His presence was always a priority for both my mom and dad.

It’s funny to think back now. I remember having problems with learning the b and the d. That morning was a frustrating morning. Finally, my mom got up and told me, “Ask the Lord to reveal to you which one is the b and which one is the d.” She prayed for me and left the room. I remember sitting there waiting for the Lord to reveal the difference of these letters. He did! He showed me a pick screen where one letter would appear and then the next. From that day on I have never had a problem with either letter.

I share this experience because I understand now that if I am ever in need of anything I can go to Him. He is the priority in my life even above my studies. I learned that since I was very young.

As clearly indicated by the title of her book, Lydia Sigourney wrote to young women. We have been posting about her with a view to exposing her powerful writing to today’s generation. Most of those posts, and most of her writing, is particularly appropriate to young women. This one applies equally to us all.

-          Gary Brumbelow

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Poverty: The Fruit of Neglected Wisdom

In the beginning there was no poverty.

In the creation account, God told the man and the woman, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food,” (Genesis 1:29). Later, after the flood, he repeated the same statement to Noah and his family. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything,” (Genesis 9:3). God created humans who needed food to live, and he provided food for these needy humans.

We typically think of dirt and seeds as so simple and ordinary as to be of interest only to farmers and gardeners. We rarely consider the power of the soil, or the potential of a seed. When a seed is put into the ground, it begins a multiplying process which is almost inconceivable. One seed produces an entire plant with many seeds, sometimes hundreds or thousands. Every seed has the power to repeat the cycle. God is the One that gives the growth to the plant. He assigns humans dominion over this process for our nourishment and sustaining. Human dominion helps the creation to flourish. The God who created a flourishing universe made humans his agents in that flourishing process. If you are flourishing, you are bringing blessing to others because you are being what God intends you to be.

What responsibility do humans have for poverty?

Earlier we pointed out that to flourish means to thrive, to expand, to prosper. The word comes from a Hebrew parah, a verb variously translated as sprout, blossom, flourish, thrive.

In God’s original design, flourishing was the normal way of things. After the fall, brokenness and withering–within human beings, their institutions, and in creation–became the “new normal.” Or to put it a little differently, the abnormal became the normal. Yet God has been working ever since to reset the creation. He is moving the creation from wasting away to flourishing. From poverty to prosperity. From disorder to order. From injustice to justice. From ignorance to knowledge. From sickness to health. From deformation to reformation.

poverty not part of God's original intentionSo what does all this say about human responsibility for poverty and underdevelopment? How do we solve these problems? As a matter of fact, God has already equipped people to do that. He has provided the primary resource humans need for these solutions. What is that resource? Wisdom! Wisdom moves people from brokenness to wholeness, from poverty to flourishing, from under-development to development. Wisdom is about life and governing in the time between paradise lost and paradise restored. Wisdom and human development, or human flourishing, are organically related. The second depends on the first. But not everyone understands that.

Many people working in government programs, and relief and development organizations, look largely to money and technology to solve poverty. Both money and technology can be part of the solution. But the solution to poverty lies much deeper. Relief and development workers need to see the connection between wisdom and human development.

- From a forthcoming book by Darrow Miller and Gary Brumbelow.

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Truth, Rhetoric, and Freedom: Words Matter

Truth matters in the real world. When John identifies Jesus Christ as the Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us,” he says, in the same breath, “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). The taking-on-flesh God was, himself, truth. By the same token, the apostle Paul warned about those who had “exchanged the truth of God for a lie,” (Rom. 1:25).

truth vs falsehoodThe Bible acknowledges nothing of a moral equivalence with reference to speaking the truth versus lying. And for the most part, Western societies get that. That is not to say that cultures founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic are marked by universal truth telling. But such cultures at least understand the difference between truth and lies. Generally, citizens of such nations affirm truth as a standard. Their very judicial, governmental, and commercial structures rely on it (a sobering reflection in 2014 … more on that below).

But this is not the case in all cultures. Susan Michael is International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) US Director. Her article, “Learning to Decipher the Rhetoric” compellingly demonstrates the confusion fomented by the refusal to acknowledge the objective value of truth.

Ms. Michael writes about a recent incident in which an Arab member of the Israeli parliament shouted at Prime Minister Netanyahu.

When MK Tibi shouted at Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu he exclaimed that his fellow Arab MK, Taleb Abu Arar, did not have water or electricity in his home because of Israeli discrimination. “There’s no water or electricity in his village,” Tibi shouted at Netanyahu. “No water, no electricity. Give him water and electricity and he’ll stop shouting.”

Ms. Michael went on to document that the claim was utterly without basis in fact. Not a shred of truth there. It was a case of using words for effect, in a framework in which truth was considered irrelevant.

MK Tibi learned from his former boss, Yasser Arafat, who shocked President Clinton during the Camp David Peace Talks when he denied that the Jewish Temple was ever in Jerusalem. Current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not any better. He not only denies the Holocaust happened, but stood in front of the United Nations last year and denied the historical and biblical ties of the Jewish people to the land of Israel.

It’s hard to read stories like this and not contemplate the erosion of truth in Western cultures. We’ve written about such concerns before.

-          Erosion of TRUTH: Could America Become a Source of Terror?

-          RELIGIOUS FREEDOM in America: Will it Survive?

-          Why God’s Laws Are the Only Protection from Tyranny

There’s an obvious link between truth and freedom. Surely what Jesus said—“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”—applies to freedom at every level.

-          Gary Brumbelow

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The Virtuous Use of Feminine Power

women have power over menWhence the power of a young woman over a young man? For the answer we must turn to Genesis.

This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man (Genesis 2:23 ESV).

This is the first recorded human utterance. Typical of biblical narrative, the words are more profound than they appear. Adam has studied and named perhaps thousands of creatures. But none is a suitable helper. None is like him. He is truly alone. Then God brings Eve to him and Adam finds his voice. The words “at last” are emphasized in the original. The sense is, “YES! This is right! Finally!

Adam was charmed, and charmed males follow in his train. The natural effect is a powerful influence by the woman over the man. Thus it has been from the very beginning. In itself there is no offense there. In fact, there’s lots of potential for good. The offense comes when this female power is misused.

Do I really want to use that power to make him see me as an object?

For just one example, how many decisions at the mirror have been driven by this reality? A young woman can exert power over males by her manner of dress. Because of our fallen nature, power feels good (You will want to control your husband, Genesis 3:16 NET). But she would do well to ask herself, Do I really want to use that power to make him see me as an object?

Anyone looking for healthy alternatives would do well to read author Lydia Sigourney. Some 175 years ago she eloquently wrote about the virtuous use of a young woman’s influence over a young man.

I would not seek to disguise the degree of influence, which in the radiant morning of your days, you possess over young men. It is exceedingly great. I beg you to consider it in its full import, in all its bearings, and to “use it like an angel.”

You have it in your power to give vigor to their pursuit of respectability, to fix their attention on useful knowledge, to fortify their wavering opinions, and to quicken or retard their progress in the path of benevolence and piety. You have it also in your power to interrupt their habits of industry and application, to encourage formishness in dress, to inspire contempt of a just economy and plain exterior, and to lead them to cultivate levity of deportment, or to seek for variety of amusements, at the expense of money, which perhaps they can ill afford to spend, and of time, which it is madness to waste. How important, my dear young friends, that the influence thus entrusted to you, be rationally, and kindly, and religiously used. 185

Illustrating this point, our friend Nicole Curiel from Guadalajara, Mexico, writes:

One of my friends recently got into a relationship with a young man. They are very happy and are a cute couple. A recent exchange between them struck me as funny, yet it exemplifies very well this truth from Lydia Sigourney.

She told him that his hair might look better if he combed it to the side instead of straight up as he had always done. He didn’t say a word about it, but the next day he arrived with his hair combed to the side simply to make her happy. It really was funny, but it shows how great an influence we women have over men. How many times have we seen men showing off and trying to please a woman in any way possible?

It makes me stop and think “How will my influence be? Will I make a man strive for better or will my influence make him complacent?” I think it truly is something to ponder.

-          Gary Brumbelow

This post is twelfth in a series on maternal feminism.

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A Tribute to Francis Schaeffer on the 30th Anniversary of His Death

A friend of mine recently reminded me that Francis Schaeffer died 30 years ago this month. As one of many people who were powerfully influenced by this remarkable man, I want to give a brief tribute to Dr. Schaeffer.

Schaeffer retreat in L'abri, Switzerland,In the late 60’s and early 70’s Marilyn and I had the privilege of studying and working at the Schaeffer’s retreat in Switzerland, L’Abri Fellowship.  Like so many of our generation, it was a life-changing experience.

Years later I heard Dr. Schaeffer speak at Biola University a few weeks before he died. His body was losing its battle with cancer.  He was frail, but his spirit remained strong. He challenged the Biola faculty and students to live a life before the Lord that would shape history.

Schaeffer posed a question at that event that still echoes in my mind.

“People ask ‘What are you doing here?’ They tell me I should be home in bed. But, our lives count for something in this broken world. As long as I have breath in my body, I want to represent Christ.”

I will never forget that moment or those words. His voice was physically weak, but it issued a clarion call to all who would hear.

Thank you, Francis Schaeffer,  for your life. Thank you for teaching me to live by the way you died.

My friend also linked this tribute from Ray Ortlund at the Gospel Coalition which I commend for your reading.

-          Darrow Miller


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Jesus the Benefactor

We don’t usually think of Jesus as a benefactor. Maybe we’ve missed something.

The word “benefactor” evokes the picture of a wealthy person who is generous with his money. A benefactor freely shares with others from his own abundant means. Think Bill and Melinda Gates.

Jesus as benefactorAlthough the word “benefactor” doesn’t appear in the Bible, some benefactors do. In Luke 7, Jewish elders in Capernaum ask Jesus to heal the servant of a centurion. “He is worthy to have you do this for him,” they claim, “for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”

Another military benefactor—a second centurion, in fact—figures in Acts 10. “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God” Acts 10:1-2.

Here’s a third example. Luke speaks of “some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,  and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for [Jesus and his disciples] out of their means” Luke 8:2-3.

In that reference, Jesus is the receiver, not the giver, of financial support. After all, he had no place to lay his head. He sent Peter fishing to come up with his tax payment. We don’t generally think of Jesus as a benefactor in his incarnation. Jesus wasn’t a big player in the economy of ancient Palestine. (Mind you, let’s don’t forget Who is the ultimate, cosmic benefactor, the One whose generosity transcends and supplies that of all others, the One who “was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich,” 2 Corinthians 8:9. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “He is a sun ever-shining; He is a manna always falling round the camp … the river of His bounty is ever flowing, and the well-spring of his love is constantly overflowing.” Morning and Evening, 274)

And yet at least one text uses benefactor language to describe Jesus of Nazareth. Standing in the home of (the above-named) Cornelius, Peter is preaching and says this: “Jesus … went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him”  Acts 10:37-38.

Jesus “went about doing good.” The Greek term, euergeton, means to do good, to bestow benefits. The term is used of a benefactor, often used as a title of honor for outstanding public leaders. The Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines it as “to do that which is good and beneficial to someone.”[1]

Commenting on Acts 10:38, New Testament scholar and professor Darrell Bock says “The idea of doing good … is a powerful one in a Greek context, pointing to a benefactor, someone who does good for society. The term was applied to gods, heroes, kings, statesmen, philosophers (e.g. Socrates), inventors, and physicians. … Jesus’ good work of healing and ministry was that of one who served and benefited humanity.” (Acts, 39-398)

Often, we regard the work of a benefactor as secondary to preaching. We do this because we have bought into what DNA president Scott Allen called the sacred-secular divide. We tend to divide our world into two compartments. On the one hand are the “sacred” matters including attending church and reading the Bible. Everything outside the sacred activities of life is secular. We deem these of little import from the standpoint of eternity.

In the same way, we regard some vocations as sacred—pastoral and missionary work, especially. The rest are secular.

Including benefactor. We might think, “Of course there’s nothing wrong with being a benefactor as long as we don’t confuse it with what’s really important.” It would not be at all unusual to hear a remark like that in many evangelical circles. Put in the context of Acts 10:38 it sounds a little different, “Of course there’s nothing wrong with Jesus being a benefactor as long as he didn’t confuse it with what’s really important.”

-          Gary Brumbelow

[1] Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd Edition, Edited by J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida.  Copyright © 1988 by the United Bible Societies, New York, NY 10023. Used by permission.

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