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Do you struggle with money problems? Who doesn’t? What if I told you there was a quick-fix to all your money problems? Would you be interested? Well, you shouldn’t. Money problems have deep underlying causes and looking for quick-fix makes it worse. Today’s book offers you not a quick fix, not a long-lasting fix, but an eternal fix.
Hi, my name is Terence and I’m your host for Reading and Readers, a podcast where I review Christian books for you. Every month I review Faithlife’s Free Book of the Month and for the month of July, the free book is Redeeming Money: How God Reveal and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp. Let me give you a quick financial tip, if you have money problems, you might want to get this free book, which is worth $15, but is free from Faithlife for July.
Budgets Can’t Rescue You From You
The author Paul David Tripp is a pastor and has written many books on suffering, parenting, marriage, sex, leadership and best-selling devotionals. On his website, his biography says:
Throughout his life, Paul has planted a church, founded a Christian school, wrote worship songs and toured with a Christian band. He was a faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) for many years, a lecturer in Biblical Counseling at Westminster Theological Seminary, a Visiting Professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a pastor at Tenth Presbyterian Church.
In this book Tripp is a pastor and counsellor, not a professor or scholar. He knows the struggles of wanting and not having, of searching many tools but ending up fools, of failing and failing when they really should be winning. Tripp sees your need and it’s not a better budget.
I believe that a good budget can be a powerful restorative tool, but your budget does not have the power to rescue you from you, because your budget has no power to control your willingness to follow it.
Your’s is an internal problem, not an external one. A matter of the heart, not the mind.
Redeeming Money is not a long book. It has ten chapters spread across 176 pages. Let me breakdown the book from the two ends and work towards the middle. There are ten chapters. Chapter one raises awareness on the way you look at the world. Chapter ten raises your resolve to change your world. Chapters 2 and 3 looks at the Christian beginning: Man and the Fall. Chapters 8 and 9 looks at the Christian end: Heaven and God’s Agenda. The remaining middle chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 are on the Lord’s Prayer, Money, Treasure and Love.
Seeing With Gospel Glasses
In the first chapter, Tripp explains:
My goal in this book is to root everything I write about money in a distinctly biblical worldview. Even more specifically, I want to help you look at money and money problems through the lens of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am deeply persuaded that we will never make proper sense of the world of money, which influences us, perhaps more deeply than we realize, unless we first put on our gospel glasses.
He then explains the four foundations of a Gospel Worldview namely:
- At the center of the universe is a God of incalculable glory
- We live in a world terribly broken by sin
- God offers us his heart and life-transforming grace
- We were created to live for something bigger than ourselves
Having explained these four foundations, Tripp applies the above message of grace in every chapter. So he never allows you to wallow in self-pity or props up your self-esteem for the next fight against debt.
He applies the Bible to your money problems but he doesn’t begin with what the Bible says about money. He doesn’t rush to 1 Timothy 6:10, “The love of money is the root of all evil”. He will but not at first.
As you heard, he begins with seeing how you see. This is your worldview which he asserts needs to be a Gospel Worldview. Then having put on gospel lenses, he puts his hands on the sides of your head and turns it to see, not the money mess you made, but the mirror.
Questioning The Self
You can’t understand money if you don’t understand who you are, and money is one of the principal ways you demonstrate who you think you are. There is no better indicator of the identity you have assigned to yourself than the way you use money. Why does one person proudly throw money around? Why does another person use her money to buy all the cultural markers of success? Why is that neighbor of yours so proudly vocal about his charity? Why has yet another person never been able to stay out of debt? Why does that couple quietly give away such a big portion of their income? Why is your friend so gripped with money fears? Why does she struggle with envy and embarrassment whenever she is around her wealthy friends? Why does he try to hide the fact that he grew up in poverty? Why did Jesus talk about this topic more than any other? Why is money such a big deal? Why are some of us never satisfied, even though we have so much money, and why are some of us content with so little? The answer to all these questions is identity.
I picked this text for two purposes. This text is how Tripp leads you to the subject of chapter two, our identity. This text is also an example of his writing style.
In every chapter, Tripp throws you question after question. He makes you revisit your thoughts on money and the thoughts underlying those thoughts. And if that wasn’t enough, at the end of every chapter, he lists some questions, helpful for small group studies.
Maybe it’s his counselling background. Counsellors love to ask questions. Counsellors don’t tell you what to do or think or feel, they ask. The reason, so I’ve been told, is when you answer a question, you own your answer. If I told you the answer, even if I said the exact same thing you said, my answer would not be effective as yours. When you answer, the light bulb comes on.
But I object. What if I see the problem and the solution but you can’t see them? I say this because some people think the answer is in you, the answer is always in you. The trick is digging it out. What if the answer is outside of you? What if the answer is not a revelation from you but a revelation from God?
This is the conflict of worldviews. And notice I used questions to get you there. That’s how Tripp does it in the book.
His questions are aimed at finding what you believe and to compare your reality against the biblical reality. Your worldview against the gospel worldview. In the Bible, the self is not the answer to our problems. Tripp describes four identities: Creature, Sinner, Sufferer and Saint. You would never come up with all four on your own.
Grace, Sweet Grace
As an experienced counsellor, Tripp is keenly aware and sensitive on Christians beating themselves up on their failures. Throughout the book, even as he reveals the problems in your heart, he doesn’t want problems to be the last word. He is so quick, so very quick, to bring in grace.
After describing the dumb things saints do, saints still pile up debt and get into money mess, Tripp writes:
So saints commit themselves to using their money according to God’s purpose and for his glory, but when they don’t, they do not give way to humiliation, desperation, and personal recrimination. Instead, with hope and courage, they get up, dust themselves off, seek God’s forgiveness, rescue, and empowerment, and determine to grow in their commitment to live with their money God’s way. Has your money life been shaped by the blessing of knowing you’re one of God’s saints?
If you struggle with money-problems and have tried and failed to get out of it, his often repeated message of grace is what you need to hear. Tripp here offers a message of grace that is greater than your failures. This is not a book that says, “You can do it if only you put your mind to it. If only you have more discipline. If only you had made better choices, married better or stayed single, or got that job or not, then all your problems would be solved.”
No, what you need is the grace of God first and above all else.
Tripp doesn’t just say it, he shows you from the ultimate source of all reality, the Bible.
You and Your Money in Eden
In chapter three titled, “Warning and Hope”, Tripp unpacks an eight-point exposition of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve eating the Forbidden Fruit. It’s such a familiar story that I’m sure you can tell it right now to me. But can you see yourself in that story? Can you see the source of your money woes in that story?
As I read to you the eight points, I want you to reflect on your own life and your money problems. According to Tripp, this is the cause of Adam and Eve’s fall and it’s possibly yours as well:
- They listened to an alternative voice.
- They wanted what was prohibited.
- They thought they knew better.
- They minimized God’s present provision.
- They allowed themselves to doubt God.
- They decided to step over God’s boundaries.
- They denied clear potential consequences.
- They shifted the blame to someone else.
As he explains what those points mean, the question is posed, “Do you minimize God’s present provision?”, “Do you doubt God?”, “Do you shift blame?”
And before you think the book is just a bunch of questions, Tripp explains. I give you an example from point number six:
In the countless little moments of every day, we make inescapable moral decisions. No matter the subject, the decision is always about the same thing: will I choose to stay inside God’s boundaries and do what he says is right, or will I step over God’s boundaries and do what will get me what I want? If a Christian husband is yelling at his wife, saying things to her he should not say, he’s not yelling because he is ignorant of the fact that it’s wrong. He’s doing it because, at that point, he doesn’t care what God says is wrong. There is something he wants, and he will do whatever it takes to get it. In the same way, Adam and Eve didn’t eat the forbidden fruit because they were ignorant of the fact that it was forbidden. They knew where God had placed his boundaries, and they willingly stepped over them to get what they wanted.
Tripp wrote, “There is something you want and you will do whatever it takes to get it.” Does that sentence expose you? Cause that’s what Tripp is doing here. He is exposing your innermost desires. The subtitle of this book, Redeeming Money is: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts. God reveals our hearts.
God Reveals the Heart
This is not a man psychoanalysing you from afar using the knowledge and experience of Man. Tripp puts all of us, including himself, under the scrutiny of God’s revelation.
I like to be in control. I like to have my own way. I like my plans to happen without interruption. I like people to agree with me. I like my days to be predictable and easy. And because I like these things, I am tempted to use my money to get them. Money can give you control. Money can purchase an easier life. Money can even make people like you more. Money can buy temporary pleasure, comfort, and ease.
He ends his confession by reorienting our attention away from us to God. He says:
Making ourselves the most important thing is natural, but it is not the way God designed us to live, so it is not the pathway to the wholeness of life that we all want.
Do you see what is happening here? The subtitle of the book is How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts. It is not enough for God to reveal who we are and what is in our hearts. God reorients our heart.
God Reorients the Heart
I’ll give you one example from the book and that is through prayer.
Chapter four is built on the Lord’s Prayer. Recall the Lord’s Prayer. Which verse in the Lord’s Prayer is relevant to money? Which verse do the hungry and the bankrupt run to?
Give us this day our daily bread.
But Tripp says hold on!
The Lord’s Prayer is not born first from need. Much of our prayer arises from need and involves a long list of things that we hope God will deliver. The words of this prayer arise from a posture of surrender, which is precisely why it is so helpful when it comes to how we view and use the money that has been entrusted into our care.
Tripp walks us through. When we pray “Our Father in Heaven” we identify first as children of God and recognise the provisions and potentials that come with that identity.
When we pray “Hallowed be your name” we commit to a grander purpose, which is to glorify God’s name and not ours.
When we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” we do not pray “my kingdom come, my will be done”.
There are many books written on the Lord’s Prayer. The simple truth is praying the first half prepares us to pray the second half. Through the Lord’s Prayer, God reorients the heart, we say not my will but yours be done. Tripp says:
It’s only after surrendering your heart to the first part of the Lord’s Prayer that you can honestly pray these words. Embedded in this prayer is a request for a contented heart. Embedded in this prayer is a request for the ability to trust in the Father’s promise to provide. Embedded in this prayer is a desire for a heart filled with praise and not complaint. Embedded in this prayer is a cry for freedom from a heart ruled by an endless quest for more. Embedded in this prayer is a cry for rescuing and empowering grace.
Play It On Repeat
And what I just read leads me to my next point: the repetitions in this book.
The spoken word is distinct from the written word. So when a preacher preaches “Embedded in this prayer is a request for…” over and over again, he can build towards a climax. And the crowd responds, “Preach it brother, preach it.”
But when the repetition is written, and read in silence, the writing is boring. In this book, it doesn’t happen all the time but enough to be noticed.
And it’s not just phrases in sequence, it’s also ideas over chapters. Have you sat under a preacher whom you wished ended his sermon 10 minutes earlier but instead recaps his points? I am that preacher. And I can tell you why. In my mind, what I’m saying is important but I don’t know whether you got it so I’m going to say it again just to make sure you got it.
Earlier I commended Tripp because he ends every message on the message of grace. That message of grace can sound like an over played song. I see the problem is some paragraphs is so general, that it could be placed anywhere in the book. For example, one of last paragraphs in chapter 5 goes like this:
When I misuse money, I don’t misuse it because I am ignorant or without a budget. No, I misuse it because at that point I don’t care what God or anyone else says. I want what I want, and if I can use my resources to get it, I am going to get it.
Have you heard that before? You heard it in chapter 2. I just read chapter 5. The same idea gets repeated in different forms.
At this point, long-time listeners might jump at me and say, “Terence, when you reviewed John Piper’s 700 page Providence you said his repeating was like a grandfather leading a child to cross the road. But here for Paul Tripp’s 170 page book you are more critical. Please explain.”
Piper’s written word is meant to be read more than preached or spoken. His ideas and the way he structures them, that long string of pearls, needs more hand-holding. Also Piper wrote the book so that you can read from the middle, which is only possible because he recaps.
Now for Tripp, his written word is the spoken word written down. It’s conversational: I’m talking to you over the table and not talking down at you from the podium. It’s less authoritative in tone and more approachable which is a selling point. Although Tripp doesn’t advocate it, you could read from the middle of the book. But his is a smaller book. And in contrast to Piper’s Providence, the subject matter is simpler and coupled with simpler writing style, the repetition is more pronounced.
One of my goals for this podcast is to help you enjoy the books I review. And there is an easy way to fix this repetition. Just space out your reading. Read one chapter a day. Don’t read two chapters or more. If you take it at the right dosage and give the chapter time to digest, it will go down better. I took the whole bottle, swallowed it in one gulp and got an upset stomach. So don’t finish the book in one seating.
Practical Me-istic Present-ism
Who is this book for? In this book, Tripp addresses practical me-istic present-ism. I wish he coined a phrase that rolls easier off the tongue. Me-istic, as opposed to theistic, means a religion not of God but of the self. Present-ism as opposed to eternity, is the idea there is only life now, no after-life. Christians will protest and say, “But we don’t believe that. We worship God and believe in the after-life!” Which is when the third word comes in. Practical. Tripp contends that Christians don’t deny orthodox beliefs but they live contrary to their beliefs. The way they spend their money shows a worship of the self without eternity in view.
So the book addresses practical me-istic present-ism and the many who live it. But what if you are a family struggling with mounting medical bills? So you are not worshipping the self or living the fast life. You are praying “Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done.” You are praying for medical funds not new iPhones.
Does this book help? It can. But you have to read it right.
The truths are universal. Who we are. Genesis 3. Lord’s Prayer. What we treasure and love. You can take all these truths and apply them in your own poverty-stricken, God-honouring life. But be aware that when Tripp applies these truths, he is not looking at you. His eyes are on the majority culture, those who need to hear, “You cannot serve both God and money”.
On the other extreme, there is little here to persuade a man like Warren Buffett, a wealthy man who lives a good moral life. He gives generously. But that’s what we thought of Bill Gates too. What I’m saying here is it’s obvious that this book helps the financial or moral bankrupt but it’s not so obvious how this book helps the self-made man, who sees no need for God in his life.
After all my criticisms of his book, the repetition and the narrow audience, is it a bad book? No. It could do with some improvements but many, countless millions, would live a better life, if they just understood and applied just one chapter of this book. That’s how good the book is, just one chapter, well-read and well-applied, would lead a fallen bankrupt to God’s own riches.
After all, how can it be a bad book if Tripp gives a correct diagnosis and correct treatment for many people’s money problems. And here is the kicker. Tripp is not out to solve money problems.
The subtitle of the book is How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts. What’s the title of the book? It’s not Solving Money, as if money is a problem to be solved. The title is Redeeming Money. How does the book begin? We must first learn to see; to see ourselves the way God sees us; that is redeeming man, who are created in the image of God. Once we achieve that, we can eventually see money the way God sees money, not as evil but as a way to express God’s generosity. That is redeeming money.
Let me read Tripp’s summary paragraph in the chapter titled The Generosity Agenda.
We need a brand-new way of thinking about money, a way that is rooted in the gospel story and its narrative of the lavish grace of God, most powerfully pictured in the amazing gift of the Lord Jesus. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God frees us from our bondage to ourselves (in terms of money, that means always starting with our interests and concerns) and he frees us to find our identity, meaning, and purpose in him. He calls us to embed our personal money stories in the larger generosity story of Scripture. This means resting in the fact that he has committed to provide everything we need (not want) and accepting that he calls us to be part of his mission of grace. So we view our money not primarily through the lens of personal provision, but through the lens of God’s generosity mission on earth.
The Best Book on Finance Bar None
Let’s look at some other books on money. Have you heard of Randy Alcorn? Alcorn has written two books on Money, one titled “Managing God’s Money”, the other is “Money, Possessions and Eternity”. I haven’t read them but whenever the subject of money comes up, Alcorn’s books gets mentioned.
But there is a better book. One so good that both Paul Tripp and Randy Alcorn will tell you to put down their books. Don’t read theirs, read this one. It’s the original money management book cited by every Christian author. It’s the one that says: “You cannot serve both God and money”.
It’s the Bible, of course! Extra points if you can name which Gospel that came from: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John?
Bible Quiz time. Which Gospel is this from: “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”?
Which Gospel has Zacchaeus giving away half his riches to the poor?
Which Gospel has the Rich Man in Hades pleading with Abraham and Lazarus?
Which Gospel has the Widow and her two copper coins?
All of them, everything I just asked, comes from the Gospel according to Luke.
Luke’s Gospel is short. It has two thousand years of five-star reviews and while many critics trash it, they don’t matter. It’s written, I mean inspired, by the Holy Spirit and endorsed by God the Father and Jesus Christ. And all Christians are promoters.
Since all Christian books are validated against the Bible, if you have not done so, you should read it and study it. You have not reached the stage where you can say you have read enough of the Bible.
Just this week, I thought of this riddle. In Luke 18, Jesus instructed the rich young ruler to sell and give everything he had to the poor. But in Luke 19, Jesus praises Zacchaeus when he only gave half to the poor. The more you read, the more questions come up. And as you ponder, God reveals and reorients. And you do what Paul Tripp did, you write a book.
In conclusion, Paul Tripp’s book can be the answered prayer for many stuck in money problems. Tripp does not give the reader financial tips nor does his questions lead to a journey of inner self-discovery. Instead he gives a diagnosis and prescription of the soul in need of God. His questions lead to God’s Revelation and Reorientation of the heart. The repetitive writing style is fixed by just spacing out the reading. And while the material could have been expanded to reach an even wider audience, he conveys universal truth and applies them to the majority. There is a chapter on a life of generous giving under God’s magnificent grace, which you got to read it to enjoy it.
This is a Reading and Reader’s review of Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp.
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