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Stewarding Mortality

Stewarding Mortality


David A. Sims, JD PhD


God is sovereign, but we are stewards. Stewardship doesn’t mean controlling everything; it means acting ethically, responsibly, and with a reverence for all life —including our own.[1]

I pulled this quote from Dr. Hugo Schwyzer’s blog entry reflecting on the recent passing of his father-in-law at age 63. When I read it I had a visceral connection with him and his story.

You see, my father-in-law died prematurely around the same age (62).His name was Nils Schweizer, and he was a dearly loved, great man.

A full-blooded Swiss-American, he fought in World War II where he survived a belly-button bayonet wound in France from a bushwhacking back-jumping German he handily killed, was a berserker raging sergeant warrior in the Battle of the Bulge and marched his men into a Nazi death camp to liberate the bodies and souls of those held in the grip of the Third Reich’s heinously evil bondage.

After the war, he decided to pursue architecture and was invited by Frank Lloyd Wright himself to be his student at Taliesen West outside Scottsdale, Arizona, after WWII.He apprenticed for Mr. Wright and supervised for a time what has become the largest collection of Wright architecture in the world at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida (where he met and married my wonderful mother-in-law).

Thereafter he became the dean of architecture in Central Florida, fathered five children with perhaps the most loving mother-in-law on the planet, designed over 200 great churches, and numerous homes and buildings around the United States, started Kairos Prison Ministries in Florida with the man who became my stepfather-in-law years after Nils’ untimely passing, and did many other great things.[2]And he was the dad of a wonderful woman, his fourth child, Tamara.Thankfully, I had the privilege of asking Nils for Tamara’s hand in marriage, and we had the privilege of him giving her in marriage to me on 18 October 1986, just sixteen months before he passed away.

He was deeply loved and respected by many. And we miss him. We weren’t ready for him to go. It was much too early. Like Dr. Schwyzer, my youngest sibling-in-law “wasn’t ready” either. None of us were. Death, especially premature death, really is not the way it’s supposed to be. As with M. Night Shyamalan’s other-terrestrial beings in Signs, we can never quite get accustomed to or comfortable with this alien we call “death”.

And also like Dr. Schwyzer, my father-in-law’s “own poor choices surely hastened his death.” Nils unequivocally agreed with this, and he exhorted all of us, just as Dr. Schwyzer does in his blog, to make better health and lifestyle choices than he did. Nils would no doubt agree with his distant cousin’s dictum, “I am steward of my flesh.”

Nils may even further agree with Dr. Schwyzer that, “Though to die young is, of course, not a sin in itself, to continue to make decisions that are widely regarded as life-shortening perhaps is.” Nils was a deep thinker. Those of us who knew him would say that he was a genius. He read Kierkegaard, the Bible and much else deeply, and when he read and thought and felt he did it with passion. He saw things we couldn’t see and helped us see them with wonder.

Nils certainly would have created and accomplished and related to all of us much more….perhaps….Premature death always seems to bring about a series of perhaps, what ifs, if onlys, I wasn’t readys, etc. Perhaps Nils would agree, perhaps….

Dr. Schwyzer’s reflections upon his father-in-law’s passing are provocative, richly textured with relational sensitivity and helpful. His eulogy is laced with sound advice too. Eat better, drink better, choose better. “The choices I make have an impact on others. Whether I buckle my seatbelt matters. How I eat and drink matters. How I take care of my body matters.”

Right on. I couldn’t agree more. God tells those who love and follow Jesus Christ to treat their bodies right, to glorify God in them (1 Cor 6:20), to steward their flesh, as Dr. Schwyzer puts it. What we do with and in and around our bodies really does matter to God. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ makes this overwhelmingly clear, and it gives us a certain, unwavering hope that our bodies will be raised to new life as well. With the help of New Testament and Christian Origins scholar N. T. Wright, Christians are more convinced than ever of a “transphysical” bodily life after life after bodily death.[3]

But in the end we all die. It is a hard, brute fact of life for us humans. In fact, it is a fact of life for all life on our planet. Death happens. Even the plants the vegetarian Dr. Schwyer eats must die to give him bodily life that eventually will end in bodily death.

Yes, we do have obligations to steward our bodies and lives. And yes, the choices we make regarding the things we do with, by and through our bodies are made in relational matrices carrying profound impacts upon those to whom we are connected. I agree with Dr. Schwyzer that I have an obligation “to be the best steward of my body that I possibly can.”

Ethically bound to “maximize” longevity?

But I’m not sure about the other bodily obligation Dr. Schwyzer argues is his ethical duty. He says, with emphasis, “it is also my moral obligation to do everything I can to make decisions that will maximize my longevity.” Does he imply that this is also my moral obligation as well? He doesn’t say so explicitly in the blog, but I wonder whether the emphasis is intended to make me feel that I should embrace this belief as my moral conviction.

As a UCLA degreed doctor in philosophy, Dr. Schwyzer knows that this moral obligation cannot be universal. That’s probably why he asserted it in the first person singular and would most likely admit it is properly viewed as a personal statement of faith of what he believes is his moral obligation, one which is consonant with his ethical positions of “veganism” and anti animal cruelty that can only be asserted as personal beliefs in the “rightness” of the positions.

As Christians, we know there may be good reasons to shorten one’s life voluntarily. Jesus did. And so did many of his followers given the choices they had. We may contest motives for martyrdom or voluntary euthanasia (e.g., jihadist and suicidal motives are highly contested these days, and rightly so), but if there is one example of virtuous human decision-making to shorten life expectancy then it cannot be said that doing “everything I can to make decisions that will maximize my longevity” is a “moral obligation” in the proper sense or, at least, in the universal sense. I might believe it is a moral obligation for me, but I cannot necessarily say in every case that it is a moral obligation for every human at each point in time.

But that is not really what I’m after here.

I want to talk about stewarding my mortality and yours, and I intend to take the position that it is a moral obligation to steward one’s mortality as a universal moral principle.

Now that’s a tall order, I know, and this can only be a preliminary assertion and defense of the thesis. It will require a book to defend it completely, which I hope to do sooner than later.

A thesis on stewarding mortality

Here’s my thesis: Christian humans are obligated to steward their mortality by grace through faith in the creator God who gives them life and ordains their death.

Caveat lector. Before I proceed, however, two caveats for the reader to note:

First, I am writing to those Christians who believe and trust in the good news (i.e., gospel) of the bodily death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What I am about to argue only makes sense in light of this epochal and epoch-making reality. And it requires God’s gift of gracious faith in this good news expressing itself in love for God and neighbor (Eph 2:8-10, Gal 2:20 and 5:6). All others who read must necessarily wrestle with the issue of belief in this claimed historical reality of Christians, a reality that so binds Christian consciences, hearts, minds and bodies that they joyfully make choices that shorten their longevity at the hands of those who have killed them over the past twenty centuries and will continue to do so in the twenty-first.[4]

Second, I am writing to Christians who happen to find themselves situated among the top billion of affluent humans on the planet.[5] What follows simply makes no sense to the billions of poor men, women and children living on the underside of humanity’s global and local conditions of relative and absolute poverty. For them, the idea of stewarding mortality must be approached from an entirely different vantage point, one that necessarily implicates those of us enjoying the benefits of late modern affluence generated by technological consumer capitalism since World War II.[6]

So, for my purposes here, these words of St. Paul constitute the essential point of departure from my thesis to my argument:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….(1 Corinthians 15:1-4).[7]

A few exegetical notes are in order before proceeding.

First, note that according to Paul the gospel is a past, present and future reality about bodily life: Paul “preached” and they “received” (past), the receivers “stand” in the gospel (present), and they “are saved” if they “hold [it] fast” (present and future). This is made explicit throughout the rest of chapter 15 of this first letter to the Christians in first century Corinth, which will be shown in due course below. The gospel is the central historical event of the Christian faith with profound, far-reaching implications for every human, beginning with Jesus Christ of Nazareth in Galilee of first century Palestine.

Second, note that this good news is essential, i.e., “of first importance” and that Paul is bound by the same three-dimensional reality of the gospel’s past, present and future universal and cosmological grip because he “also received” it from God.

Third, note the three essential, “first importance” components of gospel faith/trust in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:

(1) past, present and future faith/trust in the vicarious, substitutionary death of Jesus for “our sins” (i.e., those who believe/trust in that death) “according to the Scriptures” (i.e., according to all that was written in the Law, Prophets and Psalms about Jesus Christ, cf. Luke 24);

(2) past, present and future faith/trust in the bodily death of Jesus;

(3) past, present and future faith/trust in the fact that Jesus was raised bodily from the dead on the third day after his death “according to the Scriptures” (i.e., according to all that was written in the Law, Prophets and Psalms about Jesus Christ, cf. Luke 24).

Paul tells us elsewhere that this death-burial-resurrection is God’s good news (Rom 1:1) promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son…who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 1:1-4) and therefore is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” in this God and His Son (Rom 1:16).Paul further tells us that if we confess that Jesus is our Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him bodily from the dead we will be saved (Rom 10:9).

This gospel may be foolishness to non-Christians.And it may be a scandal to Jews and Muslims alike.That anyone in their right mind would have the temerity to claim that twenty centuries ago the God of creation somehow took on a male gendered human body that became a living body-soul in a lowly carpenter from the backwoods of Nazareth in Galilee of the Gentiles who turned out to be Israel’s final prophet, priest and king adopted son is simply to ask too much.

Nevertheless, this “word of the cross”, this word of the crucified God-man, is “the power of God” to those of “us who are being saved” (1 Cor 1:18). We are those who are called by God to trust in “Christ the power and wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24) and thus by God’s doing find ourselves “in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30), believing and standing and persevering in this “first importance” kind of faith expressing itself in the inseparable love of God and neighbor.

Good news, the human body and stewarding mortality

But how does all this tie into stewarding mortality?The first thing to note is that the human body is really important to God.What is done in and with the body and what happens to the body really, really matters to God.

Because God raised Jesus bodily from the dead, the Bible tells us, he will bodily raise all who are Christ’s when he returns (1 Cor 15:23). And when that happens death will be done in, finally defeated, “swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54). Until then we must believe that this particular resurrected future is ours because it is in God’s hands, and therefore we must live according to that belief, free from the fear and power and sting of death (1 Cor 15:55-56; Heb 2:14-15), as if resurrection really matters.

So death is nothing to be feared. And therefore it is not necessary to do everything I can to make decisions that will maximize my longevity.” Now let me be clear. I agree with Dr. Schwyzer that we should not make bad lifestyle choices such as smoking, gluttony, drunkenness, drug abuse, sexual transmission of disease, etc., that shorten our longevity.

At the same time, I wish to contest the notion that I should seek to extend my life span through every available technology and means possible to me.

What the Bible tells us about post-primeval longevity seems to be playing out pretty consistently these days: “the days of our life…contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty…” (Ps 90:10).[8]

While it is certainly possible that a 60-year old alive today will top Methusaleh’s record of 969 and reach 1,000 years, as Cambridge biomedical gerontologist Dr. Aubrey de Grey believes,[9] until we see the evidence it seems wiser to steward our mortalities responsibly with a realistic view of the 70 – 80 year range and with a delightful hope that we’ve got a better body deal on the other side.

Paul tells us, and even gave his body for this belief (Christian tradition tells us Paul was beheaded by the Roman Empire), that our new bodies will be “imperishable” and “raised in glory” and “in power” and “spiritual” (1 Cor 15:42-44), for just as our bodies now have the stamp of the earthly our next ones will have the stamp of the heavenly (1 Cor 15:45-49).

So therefore we don’t need to worry about pushing this body beyond its ordained limits. We’re going to die. So steward this body well. Sure, some may make it to their 90s and 100s. They simply have more time to steward their mortality in view of their future bodily immortality that begins with resurrection.

This seems to be a much better and realistic course to take. Instead of seeking to “maximize my longevity” I should plan and manage my mortality well. Mortality management happens all around us every day. Food producers of all kinds manage the mortality of the plants and animals that give us life. It’s the way life works. It’s what God has ordained. Everything dies, everything resurrects according to God’s ordained mortality management. This seems to be a logical corollary to Paul’s point in 1 Cor 15:36-41, and I plan on asking him if I was right when I see him.

Stewarding mortality in light of resurrection…

So back to my thesis: Christian humans are obligated to steward their mortality by grace through faith in the creator God who gives them life and ordains their death. God ordains our bodily lives, deaths and resurrections. God creates and donates life and death for stewardship purposes. Those who want to follow Jesus and lost their lives for him and the gospel must steward their lives and mortalities well.

Just as we should steward our lives in these bodies through wise lifestyle choices that nurture our bodies in good health and consequent relational wholeness, so we should steward our bodies wisely in planning our deaths with a view to our relational commitments to those we leave behind.

In other words, we should manage our respective mortalities well. Paul says these bodies won’t come to life unless they die (1 Cor 15:36-37). Drawing on agricultural and other first century life metaphors, Paul describes our bodies as “perishable”, “sown in dishonor” and “weakness”, “sown a natural body” (1 Cor 15:42-44).

Dr. Schwyzer is correct to argue that we should not hasten premature death through pour life-style choices.Our choices have profound repercussions on those around us.

At the same time, whether we are making poor, average or exemplary life-style choices we must keep in mind the hope and promise of a future bodily resurrection that will be entirely untainted by poor choices. Sin and death and tears and suffering and evil and all the stuff that shocks on the nightly news, we are told, will be eradicated in that future. It follows logically that poor life-style choices will be as well. The future Dr. Schwyzer hopes for in maximizing his longevity is next, not now. Right principle. Wrong place, space and time for application. Next life, not this one.

Some practical reflections and suggestions

So, how does all this play out in real life, real space-time in these perishing bodies we now possess (or at times we feel as if they possess us)?

A steward is responsible for managing another’s property or affairs in accordance with the best interests, directives and desires of that person. Just as God created a body for Jesus to steward in a particular yet common, life-giving, world-changing, metaphysics-altering way, so God gives us bodies for common and particular stewardship as well.

Let’s reason together form the letter to the Hebrews, beginning with the bodily self-consciousness of Jesus and ending with some practical twenty-first century suggestions of how we can steward our bodies and mortalities in common and with faithful particularity to our respective situations in life.

Hebrews was probably written some time before a.d. 70 to address the difficult circumstances of persecution confronting Jewish Christians who were contemplating the option of walking away from faith in Jesus and returning to their faith in Moses (Heb 10:26-39).In chapter 10 of the letter, the author discloses to us the body-consciousness that Jesus had.To show us this, the author reasoned from Psalm 40:6-7 of the Greek version of the Hebrew holy writings, or what we Christians commonly refer to as the Old Testament and is described by biblical scholars as “the Septuagint” or “LXX”.

God prepared a body for Jesus. Jesus stewarded his bodily life and mortality according to God’s ordained end: vicarious and substitutive sacrifice for the sins, transgressions, iniquities and rebellion of the entire world of humanity past, present and future, and, hence, for the consequent sentence of death resting upon that world and us. Jesus managed his mortality to God’s ordained end.

Jesus believed that God prepared his body for a specific reason. His entry into human space and time with a body, from womb to tomb, was for the purpose of sacrifice, a sacrifice in place of all Jewish animal deaths for all time (Heb 10:1-10). And not only this. His bodily death not only rendered unnecessary those animal sacrifices but in fact was intended by God to displace the necessity of eternal human death such that bodily life after life after bodily death could be made available to everyone who believes.

In other words, the author of Hebrews argues that the sacrificial system of Israel which had been in place for centuries and stood as buffer between God and Israel and the rest of non-Jewish humanity has now been replaced by the bodily sacrifice of Jesus which stands “once for all” between God, the new Israel in Jesus and the rest of non-Christian humanity (Heb 10:10). Death is swallowed up in victory. No more sacrifice needed. No more death and sin and mess. Just believe.

So, we see that Jesus was a good steward of the life God gave him and the death God ordained for him.

Likewise, if we want to follow Jesus, we must steward the lives and deaths God gives us so that we may find ourselves in the bodily life after life after bodily death promised to us by God in the gospel. This good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is what makes it certain.

We no longer need to fear death.It’s been defeated.We no longer need to worry about maximizing our longevity as Drs. Schwyzer and de Grey do.Such are the empty, hopeless expressions of unbelieving hearts that have fallen away from the God who creates and donates bodily life now, ordains bodily death, and promises bodily life after life after bodily death.It is the kind of unbelief against which the writer to the Hebrews warns in sobering terms: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Heb 3:12).

This kind of unbelief evidences, in the end, a refusal to believe in what Jesus promises and put within the grasp of faith: eternal, transphysical bodily life after life after bodily death on earth as it is in heaven.

With our faith in the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ resting on this firm foundation, we can then proceed with joy and hope to manage our lives and deaths to God’s ordained ends for us. We share commonalities in such stewardship, and at the same time we each have stewardship particularities as unique as our own fingerprints that call us to plan how God wants us to steward our respective mortalities.

Common mortality stewardship issues

We share human life and death. We all live. We all die. It is common to us all. We are called to lose our lives for Jesus and the gospel (Mk 8:35, 10:29), denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Jesus in our bodies in the way Jesus lived in his body. If that ends up in martyrdom, so be it. The worst we can do is live again bodily in a life that Jesus tells us is beyond our wildest dreams, the kind of “paradise” we can only imagine.

Not a bad deal. An unequivocal win-win. Jesus says he is “the resurrection and the life” and that if we believe in him we will live even if we die and that those of us who are alive and believe in him “will never die” (Jn 11:25-26). Then he asks us, “Do you believe this?”

That is the litmus test question of Christian faith. Do you believe he is the resurrection and the life? Do we? If so, then we will steward our bodies in life and death with the same disposition and ultimate commitments that Jesus had. If not, then we’ll end up looking endlessly for ways to maximize our longevity and live to 1,000 years and might miss out on what God has for us in this bodily life and in the one to come.

What matters now is faith expressing itself in love for God and neighbor by making life in the body now as good as it possibly can be for as many as we possibly can. But I can’t do that if I spend all my excess time, wealth and capacity pursuing an indivudalized maximum millennial life-span. There’s too much good to be done. There are too many opportunities to participate in the effort to eliminate absolute poverty in our lifetime.[10] God says that there should be no poor among us.[11] We affluent Christians should take this seriously and get about the task of reaching critical stewardship mass so that we can have the legitimate needs of our families met and then can begin to plow all excess resources of time, earnings, savings and wealth into sharing the gospel by meeting the needs of the lost, lonely, poor, hopeless, lame, blind, deaf, dead, crippled and leprous humans in our global-local midst (Mt 11:5).[12] If time, earnings, savings and equity are wisely managed, affluent Christians can reach critical stewardship mass (CSM) in as short as ten years. Once that is accomplished, affluent Christians can pro-vision, or endow, what really matters to them and thus play a part in making bodily life in this world at least a little bit better than when they found it and left it.

We are all called to glorify God in our bodies, both living and dying. God creates and donates, we steward. Bodies included. We will give an account of our management one day (Mt 25:14-30). Some will be commended, some will be condemned. We have a choice.

We can choose to manage our time, earnings, spending, savings, assets, debts, equities, lives and deaths to productive, kingdom expanding, God-and-other ends. We can choose goals of “critical stewardship mass” that adequately provides for our families through creative management tools and then frees us to show people what God is really like by donating the rest to a host of charitable causes focused on making bodily life better for the poor living in the bottom billion of humanity’s gross underside.

How does this work? How do we engage in such stewardship?

We are responsible to steward our mortalities toward God’s ends. We are to manage our affairs, assets, time, resources, lives, deaths in such a way that our management promotes and furthers God’s interests, which in the end is making his name great through the gospel (Mk 8:33).

Each of us has this mortality factor in common: we’re all going to die a God-ordained death; hence, we all have a common responsibility to manage our deaths well. Yes, that includes what Dr. Schwyzer commends. It includes making wise choices now so that we don’t die prematurely and waste the life God gives us and become a burden through poor planning to those we are responsible for caring.

But it is much more.When my father-in-law died, he had not planned well to care for my mother-in-law.He didn’t expect to die so early.But when he was diagnosed with cancer three years before he died, it was too late to plan.He had suffered a set back in the recession of the 1970s when the building industry busted, and as an architect whose livelihood depended on building he was playing catch up well into the 1980s.He was doing well but not well enough.Plus, he didn’t manage the earnings, savings and equity in his possession during that time as well as he could.(Most of us can related all too well to this, can’t we?)

Before the cancer, Nils had a host of earning, savings and equity management options available to him.The strongest levers for future temporal stewardship available to him before his death available were insurance tools.He could have had much more insurance in place to cover his premature death, and by doing so he could have made up for a host of stewardship errors and oversights.

His premature death was one of the factors leading me to realize that I should probably be “insurance poor” in order to protect my young wife and children in the event of my premature death, whether from bad life-style choices or accidental death. To be insurance poor is to have a larger portion of your income going to insurance than you would otherwise like. But it is a responsible, wise life-style choice during the phase of building businesses and raising families. Premature death happens, and a wise steward will plan accordingly with the tools available. We have many of those tools available to us in our late modern context of advanced technological and financial consumer capitalism, so we really are without excuse if we die without providing for our spouses and children.

The goal of planning for premature death should be to provide through death benefits of life insurance sufficient resources to cover what your earnings would have been during the period of your premature death to anticipated retirement around 65 or 70.So what I did was purchase a fixed, level monthly premium life insurance policy at $100 per month ($1,200 per year) through age 65 which provides for a $1M death benefit.My wife and kids will be much better off financially if I die before then, at least in light of my financial performance thus far at age 47.My wife always says that the $1M would not make up for the relational loss in the lives of our eight kids, but at least I know that if God ordains a premature death for me I’ve done what I could to provide a financial future for them much better than the one I’ve accomplished thus far.It’s a wise use of money too.If I die at age 60, I will have paid in about $48,000 in premiums and my wife and kids will get $1M.Not a bad investment, in my view.

The point is that we all have the same opportunities to steward our mortalities well. We have that in common.

But what if I make it to 65, which I plan on doing?What will happen if I die at 66?What do I have in place then?

The answer is, “Not much.” So I need to get going now. I need to begin thinking through how I can use all the financial planning tools available to me, from life and long term care and disability insurance to securities investments in bonds and stocks and savings and so forth. And I need help. I have neither the time nor expertise to put all this together and make the right plan. Thankfully there are a host of Christian financial planners out there who can help us navigate through the often-times complex and stultifying choices that need to be made.

Some of us have a lot, some of us have a little.For some of us, all we can do is make the best effort to do what we can to provide and care for our spouses and children upon death.Others may be able to do that and much more, endowing the future by creatively managing their excess earnings, savings and equity to the end of spreading the gospel and, consequently, advancing God’s reign (i.e., kingdom) of love and grace and mercy on earth as it is in heaven.

Regardless, we each have a body and a life to steward in our 70 – 80, or perhaps 90+ years.And there are an abundant number of tools and experts available to help develop our particular bodily stewardship plan. If we sincerely believe we’re coming back in new, “transphysical” bodies (to borrow once again from N. T. Wright), then we might even be motivated to pro-vision or endow that future.

If I’m right, the resurrection is much more about a future embodied life in a new, completely renovated creation and much less about a maximized bodily longevity or extended 1,000 year embodied existence in this fallen world. Methusaleh is still waiting the bodily future realized by Jesus, as are we. Perhaps, if we’re faithful now with our own mortality, we may find ourselves stewarding assets and resources in that future transphysical reality, a future we saw forward enough into such that we were able to participate in endowing it both for those we left behind and one day we’ll rejoin.


Seeing our embodied future from an endowed, stewarded, pro-visioned future requires reorienting our perspectives on life and death now.

I’ve become convinced that we have to consciously steward mortality to the God’s interests of establishing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven through the proclamation of the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Practically, I plan on getting to CSM as soon as possible so I can responsibly provide for my family and leverage all excess time, earnings, savings and equity to God’s ends.Maybe I’ll be able to leave the world a little better than I found it.

Perhaps my wife and I will be able to help endow a future that really matters to us, one where 26,000+ children live instead of die every day and where there is clean water, sufficient food, basic healthcare, education and freedom for them as well.

Maybe this is one way to answer the rich young man’s question to Jesus, “…what am I still lacking?” (Mt 19:20).Get to CSM and then give the rest away.

I don’t know, it might even be a way we affluent Christians can live and die in a manner consistent with the answer Jesus gave the young man who was apparently possessed by his possessions (Mt 19:22): “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt 19:21).For him, this was the way Jesus called him to lose his life for the gospel.Jesus felt a love for the rich man as he was looking at him (Mk 10:21).I believe he is calling each and every affluent Christian to go and do likewise, looking at them in love for God and the suffering billions on humanity’s underside.

Do you believe this, wealthy Christian?Do you believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life?

Steward your mortality.It’s all coming back in the end.And who knows, what you endow might be here when you return…

[2] See the Nils M. Schweizer Fellows Foundation for more information about this great man

[3] See his magisterial work, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2003),31, 83-84, 476-79.

[4] For heart-rending stories of Christian martyrs in our day, visit Voice of the Martyrs at Christian martyrs, in my view, are wonderful examples of Christian humans who steward their mortality well.

[5] Of the six billion or so humans inhabiting our planet, about one billion live on top in relative affluence and about another one billion live on the underside of humanity in absolute poverty. Another two or so billion live in relative poverties of tenuous economic and social relations, with the other two or so billion straddling somewhere between relative poverty and relative affluence. See Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Jeffrey D. Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (New York: Penguin, 2005).

[6] To be more precise, roughly 2.8 billion people, almost half the world’s population, currently live on less than $2 a day. Of these poor, approximately 1.3 billion live on the margins of life with less than $1 a day. Most of these poor are in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. One dramatic contrast is readily seen in children in how affluence and non-affluence plays out in the lives and mortality of children around the world. In affluent countries, less than one child in 100 dies before reaching age five, while in the poorest countries the number is five times higher. Fewer than five percent of children under the age of five are malnourished in affluent nations, whereas in poorer countries as many as 50 percent of the children suffer from malnutrition. UNICEF, “The State of the World’s Children 2005: ‘Childhood Under Threat’”,; cf. Sachs, End of Poverty, 1-25, 51. Things have improved somewhat since 2005, but even as of 2008 we are still confronted with the fact that “26,500 children die every day. That is equivalent to 1 child dying every 3 seconds, 18 children dying every minute, a 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring every week, an Iraq-scale death toll every 15–36 days, almost 10 million children dying every year, some 60 million children dying between 2000 and 2006. The silent killers are poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. In spite of the scale of this daily/ongoing catastrophe, it rarely manages to achieve, much less sustain, prime-time, headline coverage.” Anup Shah, “Causes of Poverty”, 31 January 2008,

[7] All Scripture referenced are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

[8] “Life Expectancy in USA Increases to 77.6 Years…”, Medical News Today, 3 March 2005,

[9] Dr. Aubrey de Grey, “We will be able to live to 1,000”, BBC News International version, 2 December 2004,

[10] Sachs, End of Poverty.

[11] I’m convinced that this strikes at the heart of a deep theological truth attested in Scripture and reflecting God’s heart for his creation and creatures alike: “there shall be no poor among you” (Dt 15:4). See Leslie J. Hoppe, There Shall Be No Poor Among You: Poverty in the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004).

[12] See, e.g., Criag L. Blomberg, Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999); Ronald J. Sider, Good News and Good Works: A Theology for the Whole Gospel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993); –, Just Generosity = Sider, R. J., Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999); –, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity, 20th anniv. ed. (Dallas: Word Publishers, 1997); –, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005).


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