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Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving

If you love digging into serious theology, this book is for you! It is Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, by Miroslav Volf (2005: Zondervan). Miroslav Volf is not lightweight: Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. At the same time, he is a humble, personable presenter who offers his thinking in an accessible way.

What makes this book intriguing is how the multiple levels of Volf’s stewardship theology fit together as a whole. He links God’s giving and forgiving with how we can give and forgive, and with what makes it possible for us to even begin such a radically transformative process.

I am still savoring Free of Charge a few paragraphs at a time, but here’s one link between generosity and community: “The best gift we can give each other may be neither a thing (like a diamond ring) nor an act (like an embrace), but our own generosity. With that ‘indescribable gift’ called Christ, God gave us a generous self and a community founded on generosity. Such a self bestows gifts freely. It gives because it delights in the beloved and can’t endure the need of the needy. In giving, it subverts hierarchies and transforms rivalries into mutual exaltations. And in all of this, it forges lasting bonds of reciprocal love. At the most basic level, generosity itself is exchanged in all our gift exchanges: My generosity is reciprocated by your generosity, and the circle of mutual love keeps turning.” (p. 87)

Here’s another nugget: Volf says that God’s gifts to us oblige us to do four things:

1. Be receptive, realizing we are receivers who live on God’s given breath.

2. Be grateful for the wonder of being here “as fruits of God’s creativity and objects of God’s blessing” (p. 47)

3. Be available to participate in God’s work benefitting the creation.

4. Participate in God’s gift-giving to others, which in turn transforms us.

Happy reading! Or re-reading; it’s worth it.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub