Money is a funny thing. In our Western culture, particularly in the United States, it is a highly sensitive and private topic. Ask someone their salary and you may be met with stiffened posture and standoffish answer. We all know those who seem to throw their money around too loosely, buying a new television, financing a new car—all within their credit reach, but totally outside of their means. To complicate money further, without financial blessings flowing into the church, their capacity to bless others is limited. Friction is immediately felt when a pastor preaches from the pulpit on giving. Congregants shifting in their seats, guilt slowly building, some hearts growing cold.
Money—its use, misuse, abuse, scarcity and abundance—can be a multi-headed monster, too often unaddressed by thoughtful Christian writing. That’s why I find Paul Tripps,’ Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts, a refreshing, biblical, and gospel-centered book on money not only noble, but thoroughly brave.
If I may venture down a brief bunny trail, this is not the kind of book I would have read a year ago. My own journey to form a theology and worldview which upholds my view of money has been slowly aided by the prompts and insights of others. I’m not speaking of a battle vs. budgeting and debt, like you would expect to find in a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course, but my own hatred and resentment of money.
Although my family would never admit it publicly, we grew up in poverty. There were many times we relied on the church for basic necessities. We repeatedly raided the only food bank in town. We often entreated extensions on our long-overpaid rent. Our poverty was never the result of a lack of determination, or an absence of work or good ol’ American “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” At the ripe age of 74, my father is still working a blue-collared job. Growing up poor, accumulating $0 in my college fund, and working like a dog bred an attitude of self-entitlement. I firmly believed I could never struggle with greed. Tim Keller decimated my over-inflated view of myself with his sermon on greed when he proclaimed that many who lack money are the ones most plagued by greed. That person was me!
I unwittingly saw money as an idol which could save me. By God’s grace, I’ve been learning to repent of this subversive, subliminal belief. Enter Paul Tripp’s book. Money is not our God, but we often treat it as though it were. Anything we direct our affections toward long enough can become our idol. And what do idols do? They require our sacrifice. The “Money-god” gives a false hope of a materialistic solidarity and salvation which can only be given by Christ.
Tripp’s book is the first I’ve ever read which treated money not first as an issue of finance, economics, or business, but as one of the heart.
The real pointedness and plainness struck me in Tripp’s seventh chapter, aptly entitled, “Money Is Not the Problem – Love is.” In fact, the focused theme of this chapter is the really the theme of the entire book. He writes:
"Because I am in the center of my world, and because that means that God isn’t, money can’t possibly be in its proper place. You see, if God is in the center of my world and I acknowledge that I was created to live for him, then I look to him to provide in his grace what I need, to be what I’m supposed to be, and to do what I was designed to do. But if I am at the center, if it really is all about me, then money can become my surrogate, my replacement savior."
Tripp is right on the money – no pun intended. The underlying problem is that we hope for money to give us what only God can. Tripp reveals this theme by drawing you in with real stories of real struggles with real people. Tripp gets to the heart of the issue again and again. Whether “keeping up with the Jones’s,” pride which refuses to ask for help, or simply the all-encompassing desire to no longer be poor. In short, our money problems are never really about money, they are simply the symptoms of misguided worship.
With that, I not only recommend Paul Tripp’s book, I am actively recommending it. This book is the much-needed primer to move our culture toward redeeming our relationship with money. We can only do this by viewing money in light of Christ’s redemption. It is a refreshing treatment which will stand as an on-ramp toward the church reclaiming the conversation about money. Redeeming Money will serve as a key segue from discussion to discipleship in the lives of those who read and interact with its content, ideas, and message.
I agreed to review this book in exchange for a free copy from Crossway.