In Star Trek: The Next Generation viewers are introduced to a new species: the Ferengi. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the third incarnation of Star Trek, the Ferengi play a more prominent role with one of the primary characters and several recurring characters being Ferengi. Now, to understand the Ferengi, you have to realize that they are the galaxy’s premier merchants and traders, entrepreneurs and cutthroat businessmen. (And I do mean businessmen as their women are not allowed to participate in that side of society, much less wear clothing…but we won’t go there.) Their whole society revolves around money, finances, and economics. Even their religion, such as it is, is based on wealth. They pray to the “Blessed Exchequer” and, upon death, they will either go to the “Divine Treasury” or the “Vault of Eternal Destitution”. 1 No doubt, if they really existed, their religion would more than rival America’s modern prosperity gospel. (So move over Joel Osteen! The Ferengi are coming!)
In addition to all of the above, they have their own “bible”, if you will, that governs how to do business and to make a profit. They call it the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition and throughout Deep Space Nine you will hear them quote a rule or two from time to time. Rule of Acquisition Number One states, “Once you have their money…you never give it back.” 2 Other Rules of Acquisition are: “Never allow family to stand in the way of opportunity” (#6), and my personal favorite, “Don’t trust a man wearing a better suite than your own” (#47). 3
In the same enterprising spirit as the Ferengi, I’ve wondered what it would be like if Christians were to create a comparative “Rules of Generosity”. After all, we already have a canon of Scripture and creeds from church councils. Perhaps we should write down a definitive book on generosity and giving. It could be based on Scripture and well-known saints throughout the history of the church. 4 To give you an idea of what I have in mind, here are 10 “rules” to begin with:
1. Gain all you can, save all you can so that you can give all you can. ~ John Wesley
2. From a generous heart, give to others. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:7
3. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. ~ Amy Carmichael
4. Man should not consider his material possession his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need. ~ Thomas Aquinas
5. Bestow upon others without expecting anything in return. ~ Luke 6:35
6. Teach us to give and not to count the cost. ~ Ignatius of Antioch
7. The heart of the giver makes the gift dear and precious. ~ Martin Luther
8. You and I must be perfectly willing to part with anything at any moment. It matters not whether I leave two thousand dollars or merely two. What matters is whether I can leave what ever I have without a twinge of regret. ~Watchman Nee
9. Provide to others as you are able. ~ 2 Corinthians 8:11b
10. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. ~ Jim Elliot 5
So what do you think? Should there be a Christian Rules of Generosity? What quotes or biblical principles might you add to the list?
1 “Ferengi,” Wikipedia.org, last modified June 21 2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferengi.
2 Ira Steven Behr, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition (New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1995), ePUB ebook, 11.
3 Ibid., pp. 13 and 32.
4 While I use the term “saints” I do not principally have in mind those canonized by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. I am using the term generically to refer to the priesthood of all believers.
5 I am indebted to the insights of Ben Witherington III in his book Jesus and Money and the Christian Quotes website for inspiration in developing this list. The Scripture verses I used for the list, I researched from Witherington’s chapter on Giving. The quotes from other Christians came from the website. See “Towards a New Testament Theology of Money, Stewardship, and Giving” in Ben Witherington III, Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2010), chapter 9 and “Giving Quotes,” oChristian.com, last updated 2012, http://christian-quotes.ochristian.com/Giving-Quotes/.