reviewed by Rick Pidcock
As you may remember from an earlier article, our church has just begun a new small group study based on Randy Alcorn’s book Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Over the next year, I will be posting a summary article of each chapter that we go over in our study.
The title of the first chapter is, “Money: Why Is It So Important To God?” Randy indroduces the chapter with a stunning reality. He says, “If the Bible were written today and judged by what it says about money and possessions, it would never be published.” In our limited view of the gospel, we tend to view the Bible as a source of comfort, but not as a source of financial wisdom.
MONEY AND SALVATION
Randy begins his explanation of why money is so important to God by discussing the issue of how the way we spend our money is the fruit of the gospel’s work in our hearts.
This truth is illustrated in the life of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. You might remember that Zacchaeus told Jesus that he would give half of his money to the poor, as well as pay back everyone that he cheated four times the amount that he cheated them. Jesus response was, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Sacrificial giving did not save Zacchaeus. But the way he handled his money was a fruit of the salvation that he had just experienced.
A second truth concerning money and salvation is that we can allow money to become a stumbling block to the gospel’s work in our lives. This truth is illustrated in the life of the rich young ruler. When asked to turn from hoping in his riches in order to follow Christ, the rich man would not do it.
A POOR WOMAN AND A RICH MAN
This section is one of the more interesting illustrations of a gospel-centered use of our money. Randy shares two stories.
The first story is of a poor woman who has virtually no money. She comes to church and asks you whether or not she should give away what little she has. And of course, our natural response is that she would be foolish to do so. My personal response in the discussion was, “Well, if she only has two bucks anyway, then she’s already financially screwed. So why not give the money away?”
On the other hand, the second story is of a rich man who asks you if he should invest and save his money so that he can have even more money in the future. And again, we naturally respond by saying that he is being smart with his money.
However, Randy then reminds us that these two stories are actually found in Scripture for us to see God’s view of the two people. The story of the poor widow can be found in Mark 12. Jesus responded to her gift by saying, “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all that she had to live on.”
The response of Christ to the rich man can be found in Luke 12. To him, Christ said, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
In our discussion, we kind of struggled with these two stories. We could not argue with the stark reality of Christ’s response. But we wondered, is it really wise to refuse to pay your mortgage so you can give a bigger check to the church? Is it really selfish to save up in times of harvest for the future days of famine?
The answer, we concluded, is in Jesus’ continued response to the rich man. He said, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” This verse shows us that it is ultimately a matter of worship. The woman worshiped God by being rich toward Him. On the other hand, the rich man worshiped himself by only being financially concerned about himself. It is necessary to provide for our families and for our futures. But if we do so primarily for ourselves, rather than out of the motivation of being rich toward God, then we are worshiping ourselves.
THE STORY MONEY TELLS
The next short section of the chapter deals more in depth about how the way we handle our finances reveals our true character. Randy says, “Our stewardship of our money and possessions becomes the story of our lives.”
HITTING CLOSE TO HOME
The first sentence in this section is one that will really rattle your financial mindset. Randy poses the question, “Can we put Christ before all, deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him, with no apparent effect on what we do with our money and possessions?”
He goes on to say, “You may be thinking, ‘I’d rather not deal with these issues; I’m content with what I’m doing.’ But are you really content?”
MY BACKGROUND AND PERSPECTIVE
Randy does not claim to know all of the ins and outs of handling money. He is a pastor of fourteen years, a ministry director of thirteen years, and a theologian. He is very up front and honest about his lack of financial credentials. But his goal in this book about finances is not merely a financial goal.
He says, “This book won’t tell you how to achieve your financial goals. But it will provide the light in which your financial goals should be set. It will lay the foundation on which they should be built. And it will set forth the principles that should govern your attempts to achieve your goals.”
STARTING AT GROUND LEVEL
Randy concludes chapter one by saying that Money, Posessions, and Eternity is about four issues: what money is, whose is it, how God views it, and its potential use for two different kingdoms.
He finishes by calling us all to “commit ourselves to developing the heart of the poor widow, learning to boldly put all our resources at God’s disposal as he has put all his resources to at ours.”
I’m looking forward to learning much over the next year. And I pray that everyone who reads these chapter summaries will too. Please feel free to pose any questions or thoughts as we delve into an issue that is often very hard to understand, and even more difficult to accept.