Jun 23, 2010

Review of The Gospel-Filled Wallet

The Gospel-Filled Wallet by Jeff Weddle is a short, but thought-provoking, examination of materialism in general and money in particular. The strengths of the book include its readability (Jeff knows how to turn a phrase) and its unflinching commitment to having a biblical perspective on the topic at hand. I also appreciated the refreshing perspective provided by The Gospel-Filled Wallet. As Weddle notes, much of what is published at the popular-level concerning Christians and money tends to relate to how you can biblically make money and how to keep more of what you make. Instead, Weddle seeks to point out the inherent dangers of materialism and therefore how to keep less for ourselves and spend/give away more. His section on how to spend money biblically (pp. 56–63) is particularly helpful in this regard.

I think it is also worth pointing out what this book is not. The Gospel-Filled Wallet is not really a developed biblical theology of materialism, finances, or money. Although the book is filled with scriptural references (by the way, a Scripture index would be nice) the exposition of individual passages is relatively brief. This may be due to the nature of the study and to space limitations, or both. There is also some lack of synthesis of the material found in the individual passages. For example, one wonders about the larger debate in Christendom about the issue of tithing or not. I would have also appreciated seeing how the author relates passages in the Proverbs that seem to deal with material wealth and as good and desirable to his thesis. Indeed, there is precious little examination of passages in the Old Testament. This is problematic for at least three reasons. First, the Old Testament is about two thirds of our Bible and contains much in regards to materialism and money. Second, the authors and characters in the New Testament, including Jesus, did not approach materialism or money tabula rasa, but one presumes that their views would have been developed from their Bible, the Old Testament. So to understand more fully their perspective, you would need to understand the Old Testament perspective(s). Third, the lack of Old Testament material undermines the sub-title of the book, that this book is an examination of what the Bible really says about money. You cannot really claim to talk about what the Bible says if you ignore a good portion of what the Bible actually says. In sum, I would have appreciated a bit more of a nuanced discussion of the biblical material and more recognition of the genuine tension of what the Scriptures teach about materialism and money.

But criticisms aside, Weddle is to be commended for taking on a challenging and controversial topic head-on with an approach that many would consider counter-intuitive or dead wrong. The Gospel-Filled Wallet is Weddle’s biblical version of an “inconvenient truth.” If a book worthy of being read is one in which both your head and heart have been challenged, then The Gospel-Filled Wallet is worthy of our prayerful consideration.

Much thanks to Milton Stanley at Transforming Publishing for the review copy.

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