The Treasure Principle

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I have heard of Randy Alcorn’s book The Treasure Principle for years. I have meant to read it and, sadly, never actually picked it up. Over the Christmas break I have been studying stewardship and so I picked it up. I wish I had earlier! I very much enjoyed the book. This will be no surprise to the many who have read it. If you have not, let me try to frame it up for you.

As thunder follows lightning, joyful giving follows grace.

Alcorn correctly connects the stewardship of our money to the tending of our hearts. “Our approach to money and possessions is central to our spiritual lives.” This is why Jesus talked so much about money. It’s important. But for the same reason, it’s often a bit uncomfortable. This is where I liken Randy Alcorn as equal parts prophet and pastor. To tackle the idol of our finances, for many in the West, is painful to hear. The author’s persistence in firing the biblical texts with the comprehensive God-ward focus is a key prophetic word. At the same time, he is pastoral. He is putting his arm around the reader and saying, There is so much more. Don’t you see? He says, 

“Christ Himself is our ultimate treasure. All else pales in comparison to Him (Philippians 3:7–11). A person, Jesus, is our first treasure. A place, Heaven, is our second treasure. Possessions, eternal rewards, are our third treasure.”

The book is hung on six hooks, they are his six treasure principles. 

#1 God owns everything; I’m His money manager. We are the managers of the assets God has entrusted–not given–to us.

#2 My heart always goes where I put God’s money. Watch what happens when you reallocate your money from temporal things to eternal things.

#3 Heaven—the New Earth, not the present one—is my home. We are citizens of “a better country–a heavenly one”. (Heb. 11:16)

#4 I should live today not for the dot, but for the line. (From the dot–our present life on earth–extends a line that goes on forever, which is eternity in Heaven.).

#5 Giving is the only antidote to materialism. Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. It dethrones me and exalts Him.

#6 God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving. God gives us more money than we need so we can give—generously.

As you can see by the list above, Alcorn nicely packages his sentences with clear, compelling, and helpful principles. But there are a couple of other areas I’d like to highlight that I found helpful.

First, the author has lived this. As many know, he and his family took a principled stand after a lawsuit involving his protest against abortion. It cost them substantially. But, rather than compromising, they chose to live on less and yet still faithfully and generously give. God has blessed his ministry exponentially and provided a story to be told alongside it. Awesome.

God doesn’t look just at what we give. He also looks at what we keep.

Second, the principles are anchored in the glory of God and the truth of the gospel. It’s not a guilt book but a grace book. It showcases the richness of God’s giving of Christ. And the surpassing value of living for this glorious King and kingdom. He writes:

“Christ’s grace defines, motivates, and puts in perspective our giving.”

“Anything we try to hang on to here will be lost. But anything we put into God’s hands will be ours for eternity.”

This puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

“Jesus says: ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.’ Why? Because earthly treasures are bad? No. Because they won’t last.”

And further, 

“Store up for yourselves.” Doesn’t it seem strange that Jesus commands us to do what’s in our own best interests? Wouldn’t that be selfish? No. God expects and commands us to act out of enlightened self-interest. He wants us to live to His glory, but what is to His glory is always to our good. As John Piper put it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

The only critique I give with this book is the number of personal examples. I know, I just mentioned this as a strength. It is. But with so many examples and with such specificity it could result in binding the consciences of those who read it. Doing this could bind people to something beyond what the Scripture clearly lays out or even have the opposite effect of tethering them to something below what the Holy Spirit might be calling them to. We love to find the benchmark and do what others do. To be clear, I don’t believe the author was attempting to do this, but it can be an unintended implication. I simply would want to encourage readers to learn from Alcorn’s teaching and example but not to confine what God might be calling you to. He may be calling you to more, and he may be calling you to less. But the principles? From my reading, they are tight, biblical, and helpful for all of us.

It’s a quick read (160 pages). It is also easy to read (Alcorn is a gifted writer) while at the same time it’s hard to read (the book kicks over some idols). 

Pick it up, share with others, and be blessed by The Treasure Principle.

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