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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Book Review: "Faith and Finance"

Focus Press has put out a lot of good material in her magazine, THINK, dealing with how we should look at money from the Biblical point of view. Jim Palmer writes a monthly article in that magazine under the heading "Faith and Finance."

Now some of those thoughts have found their way into book form, with the volume having the same title. Subtitled Understanding the Inseparable Link, Palmer's book is one that everyone should read. If you even remotely believe in God, this book will remind you of His perspective of money, and help you make sure your view is the same as His.

In this review, I want to give a brief overview of each section of the book.

Preface

In this brief section, Palmer has the reader imagine that he, the reader, owned a business that was having some problems. What would you do? Would you continue to do the same things, or would you seek to solve the problem?

Sadly, for many, when it comes to money, we do the same things and expect different results. With that mindset in place, Palmer moves to chapter one.

Chapter One: Is Money Your Servant or Your Master?

This chapter really forms the basis for the rest of the book, and the title question is the overarching theme of the entire volume. Money is neither good nor bad, but it is necessary and important. How we view money is not just important, it is eternally important! Jesus taught that "no one can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24), and the rest of that passage shows that the main thing Jesus had in mind was money (or possessions).

Palmer points out that we can be a servant to money if we are rich or if we are poor. Both of these lifestyles can lead us to covet more and more, so we must keep our minds properly focused.

In this chapter, Palmer also briefly mentions the problem of using debt to gain the lifestyle we want. This is a way of making money (or the possessions money can gain us) our master.

Chapter Two: Prosperity Theory

This chapter deals with the "health and wealth" gospel that is so often seen on television. This is the belief that God wants me to have whatever I want and, in fact, He wants me to be rich.

While there might be some truth to the fact that God wants us to prosper, He is not going to "zap" a huge amount of money into our bank accounts, and He certainly does not want us to get rich by unscrupulous means.

Palmer writes


The problems with the Prosperity gospel are many. The danger in adopting this "other gospel" (Galatians 1:8) is that we no longer focus on eternal blessings and instead favor blessings which will not last. (page 23)

The rest of the chapter deals with the mindset that this view gives: that God is nothing but a cosmic ATM! We begin to get whatever we want and the ultimate "god" then becomes money, or ourselves. This obviously is not the Biblical view of wealth and money.

Chapter Three: Poverty Theology

This teaching is the exact opposite of the Prosperity gospel outlined in chapter two. We won't spend much time here, because the "opposites" are obvious.

Those who subscribe to this teaching say that we should not have anything. We should give everything away and basically be a hermit. "God will provide" is their motto.

The basis for this teaching is a misinterpretation of Scripture. God will provide, but sometimes He provides money and things! Also, the Bible does not teach that money is evil; rather, it teaches that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (First Timothy 6:9-10). It's not the money, it's the love of it.

In closing the chapter, Palmer writes,


In order for us to walk in all the ways the Lord God has commanded we must train our hearts and minds with thorough application of all of God's Word. We must prepare our hearts to willingly accept God's provision and use it to His glory. That way we will not be enamored with and deluded by extremes that would endanger our souls and the souls of others. (page 44)

Chapter Four: Stewardship Theology

In this chapter, Palmer gets to the Biblical view of money and possessions. As we attempt to point out on this blog quite often, we are just stewards (caretakers) of the blessings--money and possessions included--that God has given us.

That implies, according to Palmer, that God wants my best effort in giving, in care taking and in all other areas related to money. On pages 56-58, Palmer writes a section entitled "Find--and Keep--Your Balance." This section is worthy of your reading, as it really (in my estimation) gives a great summation of the Bible's teaching on money. (In fact, I am using this material in a sermon on Sunday night!...thanks, Jim!!!). Included is a list of passages and points on page 58 that is worth preaching or teaching; especially to young people.

Chapter Five: You Can't Take it With You

This very brief final chapter is one of those "put it all in perspective" chapters. Why do we spend and horde and spend and horde? We all understand that when we die, or the Lord returns, we won't have any of our "stuff" anyway?

We should enjoy the things we have, but we should not be a miser. We need to plan for our children's future. We need to give more liberally to the church and other important works. In short, we need to have the Bible's view of money.

Recommendation

While this book is not long, it is filled with information that will help you. Each chapter has questions for thought and discussion (and a little soul searching). There are a total of 21 quotes (called "links") interspersed throughout the chapters that keep the reader's mind going in the right direction.

I recommend this little book for individuals, and I think it would also be a fun book for a group to read and study together (a small group or Bible class for 1-2 months).

To order Faith and Finance from the Focus Press website, click here and scroll down a bit.

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