According to China Daily, one out of every thousand people in China is a multimillionaire.
Yet China’s newfound wealth does not yet appear to be translating into greater generosity. In a worldwide survey, the London-based Charities Aid Foundation ranked China last among 140 countries. China’s neighbor to the south, Myanmar, came out number one in the survey, which took into account giving, volunteering, and helping strangers in need.
Recently I talked with Dr. Scott Rodin, former ChinaSource board chair and founder of The Steward’s Journey, about the role of the church in China’s journey toward becoming a more generous nation. For the last two years Scott has played a leading role in the Faith and Generosity in China Initiative, a collaborative effort of ChinaSource and several other organizations aimed at encouraging biblical stewardship within the church in China.
In our conversation, which you can listen to at ChinaSource Conversations, Scott remarked on China’s uniqueness as a nation that has seen remarkable growth both economically and in its Christian population. Many new believers are asking, “How does my faith impact every area of my life?” The message of being a faithful steward is critical to the discipleship of this generation of Christians, who may have unprecedented access to financial resources but who lack role models.
Being a steward goes beyond just the area of finances. Scott sees marriage and family as priority areas where Christians need to be challenged to “stop playing the owner” and instead ask God what he desires in their relationships with their spouses and children.
Another priority is in the area of reputation and image. Given the importance of “face” in Chinese culture, wealth and influence can easily be used to enhance one’s social standing. The desire to control one’s image takes away the freedom that comes from using wealth and influence in the way God intended.
Ultimately generosity springs from the understanding that God is our provider; everything we have is from him. With this realization comes the freedom to be generous and to care for those around us, for it all comes from him and belongs to him. Rather than using what God has provided as a means of enhancing personal power, his blessings become instead the means by which we express his love by blessing others.
In the hearts and hands of Chinese believers, this powerful truth has the potential to redefine the meaning of wealth, bringing profound freedom to a society that is struggling to find a greater purpose amidst newfound material success.
Image credit: Shanghai by Remko Tanis via Flickr.
Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of... View Full Bio