Out now: Junkyard Wisdom by Roy Goble

Roy Goble is someone I’ve known for ten years, since his daughter Rachel and I met in grad school and became friends. (She leads a tremendous organization called The Sold Project, which fights child exploitation in Thailand by providing education to kids.)

Anyway, Roy has a new book out called Junkyard Wisdom: Resisting the Whisper of Wealth in a World of Broken Parts. This is from the backcover:

Most of us live a life of unprecedented abundance. No matter what our income level, walls of security and distraction inevitably insulate us from the poor or anyone else who might threaten our comfortable life. Yet despite our trappings of wealth—or perhaps because of them—we continue to experience a spiritual hunger for something deeper and more meaningful.

In a surprising solution to that hunger, Jesus invites us to utilize our wealth and our talents to create Kingdom relationships, beginning right in our own communities. To tear down the walls, both literal and cultural, separating God’s children in our neighborhoods and across the globe. To experience a life of joy and fulfillment. In Junkyard Wisdom, Roy Goble shares what’s waiting for us on the other side of complacency: an abundant future we can only reach together.

I was privileged to get a preview of it beforehand and here’s my endorsement:

What does it mean to love God and to love my neighbor in the twenty-first century? Junkyard Wisdom steers clear of easy answers and empty platitudes, inviting us instead into a fuller, truer Jesus-following life by wrestling with the very real challenges of our world and our lives—and the tremendous opportunities for hope-filled, life-changing relationships that are right in front of us. I’m so grateful to Roy Goble for this much needed reminder.

There were a good few moments as I was reading the book when I felt like I’d been punched in the gut—in a good way. Sometimes we need those burrs to stir us from our complacency and comfort. If you have ever wondered how to navigated the tension of wealth and poverty, and what it looks like to steward resources well, this book is for you.

I also got to interview him (electronically!). Here are some of the questions and answers:

Q. What would you say to someone who said, “Wealth is God’s blessing in your life, and you should enjoy it?”

A. I’d say they got it half right. Anything God gives us as a blessing is to be used for God’s glory. Doesn’t matter if it is a great singing voice, the ability to throw a football, or a knack with computer code. So yes, at times, wealth can be enjoyed, just as any gift from God is enjoyed. But to think of it as something that is merely our own is to turn it into something ugly and selfcentered. We have to see the wealth as God’s, not ours, so we can utilize it in a way that honors God.

Q. What would you say to someone who said, “Wealth gets in the way of following Jesus?”

A. Again, they are half right. Wealth most certainly can get in the way of following Jesus if we misuse it, misunderstand its importance, or begin to think it is ours. But wealth can also draw us closer to God is we utilize it in accordance with His will, and if we understand it is God’s wealth, not our own.

Q. How did your upbringing shape how you understand wealth and following Jesus?

A. For the first 12-years of my life I lived in a classic American middle-class suburb. Rode my bike to school, played with the neighborhood kids, and had the whole “Leave it to Beaver” simplicity going on. On Saturdays and most summers, however, my Dad took me to the junkyard to work. It was greasy, dirty, and filled with a motley group of characters. And on Sundays we went to a dynamic church, all dressed in our finest. It was, to say the least, a broad range of experiences for a kid. Then when I was 12 we bought a cattle ranch and I moved there, which was quite different from the suburban home.

All of this brought me in contact with a wide range of people, from different backgrounds, different faith traditions, different languages and different values. It broke down those walls we talked about earlier and gave me a unique ability to feel comfortable in a wide range of places. I’ve often said that I want to feel equally comfortable at a black tie event as I do sleeping on the floor in a village hut. Truth is, I feel equally uncomfortable in those places!

Q. Why is the book called “Junkyard Wisdom”?

Because with all due respect to Robert Fulgham, all I ever really needed to know I learned in a junkyard! No, that’s not really true of course, but I learned so much working in the junkyard it seemed a good title for the book. The junkyard introduced me to what we might call the seedier side of society as it also propelled me into wealth and experiences I could’ve never imagined! So the book, in many ways, reflects the shaping of my understanding of the world, wealth, and faith, as it all stemmed from the junkyard. The wisdom part? Well, hopefully there is some of that in the book, but I’ll let the reader decide.

Thanks to Roy for the interview and the book. Junkyard Wisdom is out this week; go check it out.

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”

To mark Earth Day, head on over to God’s Politics and check out the post I wrote. Here’s a teaser:

Today is Earth Day, an occasion for marking our responsibility to care for our world and the environment. It seems trite to have just one day to remind ourselves of the importance of this — though the same could be (and often is) said about Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc. We should always be aware of how we ought to be good stewards of the world and the resources God has entrusted to us; not just one day a year.

UPDATE (04/23): The link is down. Sojo’s working on it!

UPDATE 2 (04/23): Back up!

Forming a Theology of Ecology

DSC05230

Today is Blog Action Day 2009, an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. The aim of the organizers, including Change.org, is to raise awareness of said issue, and in so doing, to trigger a global discussion. This year’s issue: Climate Change.

So here’s my take on the story of environmental stewardship, according to the Bible:

God created the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

God created human beings. (Genesis 1:26)

God told human beings to look after the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

Human beings screwed up. (A large portion of the rest of the Bible.)

And that’s that.

Or at least, that’s the (over-)simplified précis.

A theology of ecology, a theology of creation care, is part of—and is consistent with—a grander biblical theology, woven through with themes that can be found throughout Scripture:

It’s about stewardship, about being respectful and responsible with the resources and the gifts that God has given us in his creation. It’s about sharing in God’s appreciation for the world which he called “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and recognizing, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).

It’s about the poor, those who have not are often the hardest hit by the excesses of those who have. The writer of Proverbs said, “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker” (14:31), and even if we’re not directly treating them badly, such an injunction should at least make us think twice about how we live.

It’s about relationship and community, about a harmonious and healthy interaction not only with the people around us but with the world around us, realizing that what we do with the latter will always impact the former at some level. Jesus said that loving one’s neighbor was akin to loving God (Matthew 22:36-40), so if we love God as we claim to, we will love those with whom we share in the gift of God’s creation.

It’s about children, those to whom Jesus said the kingdom of God belonged (Mark 10:14). I have two nieces and three nephews, aged between 18 months and 13 years, and the world they will inherit depends on what we do with it. To quote a Native American proverb (yes, I know it’s not in the Bible!), “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Put more bluntly, those that follow us have to deal with our mess. Jesus values children; if I love Jesus, I will also value children, and I will care about what I leave to them.

It’s about justice, about recognizing that when a small proportion of the earth’s population exhaust its resources and the rest have to face the brunt of the consequences, that isn’t right. And when the God you worship, serve and follow, is described as a God of justice,* and when you’re encouraged to “do justice” (Micah 6:8) … well, it should probably make a difference on how we live, shouldn’t it?

Because, on the most encompassing level of all, it’s about God: the one who made the earth and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). Wendell Berry wrote, “our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy” (Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, 98). Whatever we do with what God has made or given—human or otherwise—is a reflection on what we think of God, the Maker and Giver.

I think the world might look very different if we lived like we knew that.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.

(Genesis 1:1, 31)

* I’m not going to post all the references to God’s justice, because that would take up too much space (which says something in itself), but here are a few: Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Leviticus 25; Psalm 37:28, 103:6; Amos 5:23-24; Jeremiah 22:16; Isaiah 58:6-10. You can read more on God as a God of justice here.