Money Matters: Faith, Life, and Wealth

Paul Stevens and Clive Lim
William B. Eerdmans, 199 pages

Is money a weapon? A tool? Or an instrument?

Clement of Alexandria suggests that money is an instrument to be used by those who know how to play it well.

Money signifies. It reflects our values and our hearts.

Sometimes our financial decisions can speak from our deep fears and anxieties, particularly in this season of COVID. If we are not careful, we risk a thinning, a hollowing out, an existence filled with unexamined angst and worry. We risk the temptation of acedia — and also layers of cocooning that reveal not only social isolation but also self-interest.

Sometimes it is easy to miss the joy of generosity; easy to overlook the chance to sing God’s song, easy to lose ourselves.

But as we trust and give thanks, our hearts open — and our generosity and stewardship resound to the glory of God. Our gifts proclaim our trust in providence and our yearning to be transformed in the image of Jesus Christ.

In Money Matters, Paul Stevens and Clive Lim tackle the topic of stewardship and shake it like a dog with a bone. “Money grabs the heart,” they remind us. “It can be a radioactive issue.” They wrestle through the Scripture’s witness that money is blessing, sacrament, and problem. They are also unafraid to share the depth of their own life experiences of poverty and wealth.

Stevens and Lim consider the history of money, both within and beyond the biblical story. They examine the teachings of Jesus. They place capitalism under a magnifying glass. Through it all, they focus on effective ways that our money, as a matter of the heart, can be used as a force for love and justice. John Calvin calls us to be the church and “to cultivate good faith and equity with neighbors, to defend all good causes, to protect the innocent when we see them injured and oppressed.” Our financial gifts, rooted in gratitude, work toward these ends.

If you are an elder, pastor, or other church leader searching for a “how to” text for annual gifts or planned gifts, keep looking. But if you wish to be introduced to well-grounded reflection and recent scholarship on the meaning of money in our daily lives, you have come to the right place. I am particularly thankful for the introduction to an author new to me, Viviana Zelizer, who wrote The Social Meaning of Money: Pin Money, Paychecks, Poor Relief, and Other Currencies. I added it to my reading list this season.

At times, the material in this text is sharp and incisive. Stevens and Lim challenge and bring us up short, as in my own giving to non-profits, when they write, “Donation spirituality is self-affirming and calculated for effect; stewardship spirituality is other-directed and wholehearted.” I also wonder, however, if many of their readers will fully appreciate the inclusion of a chapter on the prosperity gospel.

Hold on to your checkbook, savings accounts and investments as you read this helpful book. You may be moved by a divine invitation to recognize generosity as a gift of God for us, not something the Lord wants from us.

Presbyterian Outlook supports local bookstores. Join us! Click on the link below to purchase Money Matters: Faith, Life, and Wealth from BookShop, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. As an affiliate, Outlook will also earn a commission from your purchase.