I’m grateful to Michael Kelley for pointing out a lively discussion that happened last week in The Elephant Room. The ER was a live simulcast discussion between seven influential pastors about current issues affecting the church and included Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Steven Furtick, David Platt, Matt Chandler, Greg Laurie, and Perry Noble.

The particular discussion that intrigues me is the issue that Platt and MacDonald went toe-to-toe over. Simply put, how should Christians who live in a land of abundance respond to world need? The underlying focal points revolve around what Platt describes as “radical generosity” and what MacDonald says is the need to avoid equating poverty with spirituality.

I reviewed Platt’s best-selling book Radical soon after it came out, and I noted in that review:

While I was challenged by the book, I think that it also needs the balanced corrective of God’s deep and majestic love for His people. Platt comes across many times as simply… angry. The book seems to need a great dose of the joy and love of God.

MacDonald counters Platt’s urgency of radical sacrifice with the need to enjoy God’s good gifts to us. There’s a very real sense that in disdaining wealth and urging sacrifice that we forget that gifts are given to be enjoyed, according to MacDonald.

Trevin Wax identifies the three major points on which Platt and MacDonald are in agreement and has an excellent entry on the ER discussion between the two.

  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.

I am a great respecter of David Platt and his deeply biblical teaching ministry. I’ve had the joy and privilege of having a personal conversation with him a few years ago after he spoke at a collegiate conference and was refreshed by his focus and intensity to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.

While I don’t know James MacDonald very well, his position on this issue may be closer to my own. However, in reality, there may not need to be disagreement on either side if those who follow Christ can prioritize obedience to the gospel while at the same time demonstrating humility, thanksgiving and generosity in the midst of blessing.

I’m definitely interested in getting the source materials from this discussion as I believe it will lead to a deeper and more joyful practice of how Christians should handle, give and live with their money. I’m hopeful that the attention this discussion provides will help more Christians move away from rigorous financial management principles and move toward joyful whole-life stewardship.

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