Sharing Possessions: What Faith Demands 2nd Ed.
Luke Timothy Johnson
The use of possessions and wealth is a tricky issue for Mennonites. Historically, we’ve held simplicity as a core value of what it means to be Anabaptist. However, in my experience, we would be hard pressed to find much difference between MBs and anyone else in our attitudes toward our possessions.
This is where Sharing Possessions by former Benedictine monk and respected New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson becomes a powerful reminder of the importance of our possessions and what we do with them.
Johnson starts by deconstructing the idea that there is a biblically normative way in which we are supposed to use our possessions. Those looking for a simple three-step program for how God wants us to use our money will not find anything so easy here. This is because the world, possessions, and faith are all far more complicated and demanding than simply following a few rules.
Rather than offering a formula, Johnson shows how our possessions are theologically significant because they symbolize our relationship to God.
“The mandate of faith in God is clear: we must, in some fashion, share that which has been given to us by God as a gift,” Johnson writes. “To refuse to share what we have is to act idolatrously.” Johnson argues there is simply no way we can hoard our possessions (no matter how large or small) and still be available to God and the world.
What does this “availability to God” that look like? In the epilogue of the second edition, Johnson offers a few ways in which communities of Christians may live out this demand of faith. However, “the task of theology is to understand and articulate how and why the disposition of possessions is a mandate and symbol of faith. But it is the task of faith’s discernment to determine in specific circumstances how possessions are to be shared.”
Sharing Possessions: What Faith Demands is a challenging yet accessible read that will stretch many of us. It asks us to look within ourselves and question what the relationship with our possessions symbolizes. Is my hand open toward both my things and God? Or am I holding so tightly to my possessions that they now possess me and have turned into my idol?