I had the joy recently to read a new book by Bryan Elliff entitled Surplus: Fearless Generosity in 2 Corinthians 8-9. This is Book 1 in a new series of books called the Bristol Series coming out from Christian Communicators Worldwide (CCW).
I know Bryan Elliff personally. I don’t know him as well as I would like, but I’ve been around him enough times to see his faith in action, his love for Scripture, and his heart for the gospel. He was recently a part of a team of men who came to Arkansas once a year to hold a Bible Intensive Retreat. Now he is a PhD student at UCLA. I received this book for free from my friend Steve Burchett of CCW. I wasn’t asked to give a “favorable” review, but I knew before I got the book that I would enjoy it. And I was right!
Mr. Elliff takes his readers on a journey through 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 seeking to show them the historical context of the offering Paul was seeking from the Corinthians for the church in Jerusalem. In so doing he shows us the counter-cultural principles we see in Scripture about our possessions and the freedom that comes in living generously.
Now, perhaps you think this is another book that is going to make you feel guilty about taking a family vacation or something. This is not Elliff’s design at all. In fact, there are times where he could have said more, but refrains and leaves it to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
Giving is a fruit of God’s grace in the believer’s life. “Our generosity is not only motivated by God’s grace toward us; it is itself a product of God’s grace working in us” (p. 24). This isn’t a “give more to be holier” book. Rather, the gospel is shown to be the ground and motivation for our giving. “When we understand that we are caught up in the cycle of God’s own liberality, we are freed to undertake acts of radical and strategic generosity ourselves” (p. 87).
First, it’s quite obvious as you read this work that Bryan Elliff loves the Bible. In fact, the entire chapters of 2 Corinthians 8-9 are printed in the back for easy reference. Also, each chapter focuses on a specific passage as the historical context is explained and then application to 21st century believers is made. Bryan seeks to have the text of Scripture speak for itself, for that’s where the power to change is really found.
Secondly, this book obliterates any thoughts of the prosperity gospel. In fact, he rightly shows that when we give generously, God multiplies our seed is for sowing – “This is not surplus to use on ourselves” (p. 70). Giving generously isn’t about our kingdom, but Christ’s. And giving generously can bring joy, unity, increase our faith, show our love, etc.
Thirdly, you will find Bryan’s tone wise and pastoral as he truly desires people to submit to the Bible’s teaching. He writes: “This book is written to encourage you to be generous” (p. 47). And that’s just what he does! He does not demand that you conform to a certain way of living. He also doesn’t give you all the answers but invites you to seek the Scripture’s teaching and to make the proper application as you desire to live obediently.
Finally, this book is intended to be read in groups. Questions at the end of each chapter as well as thoughtful writing within each chapter will lead to fruitful discussion over the Bible. As a pastor, this gets me excited! To think of a book that people discuss where they will actually be discussing the text of Scripture instead of just an author’s ideas. I think this will be a great asset to churches, married couples, small groups, families, etc for many years to come. (There are even big picture ideas that churches should wrestle with as they consider their own way of handling money).
So, I highly recommend you go grab a copy or 5 of Surplus and see what the Lord might not do in your life as you think through these principles.
The rumor I hear is that Steve Burchett is writing the next book in The Bristol Series. I can’t wait to get my hands on that one too!