Randy Alcorn exists to challenge the American dream’s existence in the Body of Christ. And this book is just one example. Every ounce of materialism, greed, selfishness, and unrestrained luxuriousness that exists within you will squirm as your turn the pages of Managing God’s Money. I love Alcorn’s willingness to say hard, unpopular things, as well as his ability to bridge the gap between doctrine and its practical outworkings in our lives.
One of the concepts that he hammers home the most is the importance of generosity. Honestly, in a way, this entire book is about generosity - making the clear case for its importance, inspiring readers with its desirability, and exposing empty arguments that attempt to downplay it. In his closing remarks, Alcorn summarizes, “While stewardship involves much more than giving, it never involves less than giving. I’ve been warned not to emphasize giving. I’m told it might lead to extremes, and people might start neglecting the material needs of their families. When I look at my life and others’, however, I see little danger of that!” (p. 247).
With giving as the focus, Randy doesn’t add much perspective on how to serve God with the money that we keep. He doesn’t provide us with much of a filter on how to choose God-pleasing purchases, investments, business endeavors, or lifestyles, and as a result, this book under-delivers on its claim to be a biblical guide on all things stewardship. What Managing God's Money does do, and quite effectively, is redirect our attention to the first and most foundational element to Kingdom finance - generosity. Giving money away is not a box we check off and then graduate from, it is the central driver and purpose to our financial lives. Losing sight of it will derail our entire pursuit of godly stewardship. It’s more important and more consequential than almost anyone in the western Church recognizes. Giving is the primary way that we store up treasures in heaven, and in a culture that idolizes money, one of the most impactful and noticeable ways that we can represent Jesus.
That said, while the points Alcorn makes thoroughly are compelling and helpful, it’s the conclusions he more vaguely alludes to that get a little iffy. He occasionally presents false dichotomies, or contrasts things that I don’t find mutually exclusive at all. His high value and vision for generosity seems to come at the expense of other Kingdom values and their implications on our money management. I have little doubt that Randy is doing a superb job obeying God’s will for his financial stewardship, but he runs the risk of implying or assuming that everyone should be going about things in the exact same way. Big picture, this isn’t necessarily indicative of something negative about Alcorn, but more so is simply the downside of offering real life applications to the ideas he shares - no two lives are the same and no one recommendation is a one-size-fits-all solution.
Certainly worth the read, here are some of the best quotes from Managing God’s Money:
On Having An Eternal Perspective
“One day, money will be useless. While it’s still useful, God’s money managers with foresight will use it for eternal good” (p. 24).
“‘Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls’ (Romans 14:4,12). When we stand before our Master and Maker, it will not matter how many people on Earth knew our names, how many called us great, or how many considered us fools. It will not matter whether schools and hospitals were named after us, whether our estates were large or small, whether our funerals drew ten thousand or no one. What will matter is one thing and one thing only - what our Master thinks of us” (p. 29).
On Frivolous Spending
“There’s a great irony in a popular ‘health and wealth’ saying: ‘Live like a King’s kid.’ Well, the foremost ‘King’s kid’ was Jesus, who lived a life exactly opposite of what is meant by the phrase today” (p. 68).
“When God provides excess income, we often suppose, ‘This is a blessing.’ Yes, but it would be just as biblical to think, ‘This is a test.’ Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s his provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with his money not to build my kingdom on Earth but to build his Kingdom in Heaven” (p. 132).
“How much money and how many possessions can we safely keep? … Not so much that we become proud and independent of the Lord. Not so much that it distracts us from our purpose or leaves us with the illusion that we are owners rather than managers of what God owns” (p. 161).
On Gaining Eternal Rewards
“Notice that Jesus wants us to store up our treasures. He’s just telling us to stop storing them in the wrong place - on Earth where they won’t last - and start storing them in the right place - in Heaven, where they’ll last forever! And isn’t it remarkable that Jesus said, ‘Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven?’ Does it seem strange that Jesus commands us to do what’s in our own best interest?” (p. 82).
“Some say Christ should be our only treasure. The Bible says Christ should be our primary treasure. When God commands us to store up treasures for ourselves, that doesn’t mean we are to store up christs for ourselves (which it would have to mean if he were our only treasure). Christ is not our only treasure, but the Treasure above and behind all treasures. Note that Jesus does not say, ‘Store up for God treasures in heaven;’ he said, ‘Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven’ (Matthew 6:20). This may sound selfish, but it is Christ’s command to us, so we should eagerly obey it” (p. 89).
“‘But God doesn’t owe us anything,’ people argue. ‘He has the right to expect us to work for him with no thought of reward.’ True, we should be willing and happy to serve him even without compensation … But what turns this debate on its head is one simple fact - it wasn’t our idea that God reward us. It was his idea! … We flatter ourselves - and insult God - when we say, ‘I don’t care about reward.’ The point is that God cares, and therefore so should we. God will reward … Jesus clearly teaches that he rewards our good works (Luke 6:35; 14:13-14). God’s money managers should desire his approval and look forward to his reward for their faithful service. Yet I have found for the last twenty-five years that there is a profound resistance to this doctrine among many Christians. They consider it ‘unspiritual’ regardless of the fact that it is emphatically biblical! So let me repeat myself: God doesn’t have to reward anyone for anything. He does it because he wants to. And make no mistake: that’s exactly what he’s going to do” (pp. 106-107).
On Giving Generously
“If we ever feel inclined to talk a young believer, including our own child, out of giving, we should restrain ourselves. Let’s not quench God’s Spirit and rob loved ones of the present joy and future rewards of giving… We take away the high stakes,, and we also lose the high returns. We miss the adventure of seeing God provide when we’ve really stretched ourselves. God’s money manager doesn’t ask, ‘How much more can I keep?’ but ‘How much more can I give?’ Whenever we start to get comfortable with our level of giving, it’s time to ask God if he wants us to raise it again” (p. 139).
“Neither God’s Word nor an accurate understanding of economics supports the notion that the prosperous are automatically responsible for making others poor. What Scripture does say is that even when we’re not at fault, we are responsible to help the poor. ‘If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord - and he will repay you!’ (Proverbs 19:17). Ignoring the poor is not an option for the godly. In the account of the final judgment, the sin held against the ‘goats’ is not that they did something wrong to those in need but that they failed to do anything right for them. Theirs is a sin of omission with grave eternal consequences. This means we cannot wash our hands of responsibility to the poor by saying ‘I’m not doing anything to hurt them.’ We must actively be doing something to help them” (p. 143).
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