The topic of money and biblical stewardship levels the playing field for all types of Christians. God’s mandate for how to work and handle our money is humbling but liberating. In a world where the gap between the haves and have-nots appears to be widening, Christians are forced to wrestle with the question of how to steward our resources in the direction of economic justice. How can we be generous, wise, and God-honoring?
In Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give, Michael Rhodes (director of community development and an instructor at the Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies), Robby Holt (senior pastor of North Shore Fellowship in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and teacher and theological dean for the Chattanooga Institute for Faith and Work), and Brian Fikkert (founder and president of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College, where he also serves as a professor of economics and community development, and co-author of When Helping Hurts) make the case that economic justice isn’t a conservative or liberal issue, but an imperative in the kingdom of God.
Rhodes writes, “Economics is the study of humanity’s consumption, production, and exchange of goods and services in order to steward King Jesus’s creation” (41). Practicing the King’s Economy exposes the moral and theological tensions between the world’s economy and the King’s economy in a way that’s both theologically rich and also practical.
Kingdom within a Kingdom
The King’s economy exists within the world’s economic system. This book does a good job of pointing out that many well-intentioned Christians have opted into the world’s system by default. Rhodes describes the world’s system: “In the West, our prevailing worldview sees people as self-interested individuals with limitless desires in a limited world, who seek to increase consumption and leisure by earning as much money as possible” (40).
But there are sobering consequences to living according to the defaults of Western consumption, production, and exchange. As Western wealth has increased, anxiety, addiction, and dissatisfaction with life have increased at a parallel rate. Consider the following statistic: “Between 1950 and 1999, a period of serious economic growth in America, suicides among people under the age of 24 increased by 137 percent.” (41)
As the idols of this world continue to disappoint, how are God’s people to live counter to the spirit of the age and to promote human flourishing?
Worship and Money
Practicing the King’s Economy makes the case that economics and worship are intrinsically tied together. We by nature give our resources to the things, people, and gods that have our hearts. We hope that after we sacrifice to the idols they will then give us protection, purpose, and provision. God’s people have historically struggled with bowing down to idols in order to receive economic provision. Rhodes writes, “When we read about the Israelites worshiping the god Baal in 1 Kings 18, we tend to think of them developing a preference for wooden idol images. But the primary attraction to Baal wasn’t a pretty statue; it was economic promise” (55).
More and more, churches and individual Christians are looking for ways to practice economic discipleship, but it’s hard to make progress when we are blind to our own entanglement in our culture’s idolatrous economic beliefs and practices.
Practicing the King’s Economy cuts through much confusion and invites Christians to take their place within the biblical story of the “King Jesus Economy.” The authors offer practical ways for God’s people to earn, invest, spend, compensate, save, share, and give in ways that embody God’s love and provision for the world.
Though the issue of spending and consumption is highly practical, this book engages it from a theological perspective that is both gospel-centered and also grace-oriented. I’m impressed that the authors avoid the trap of legalism and oversimplified solutions for such a complicated problem.
Everyone Is Invited
Rhodes, Holt, and Fikkert challenge traditional modes of serving the poor and marginalized in our community. In chapter 2, the metaphor of a soup kitchen is juxtaposed against the idea of a potluck. The soup kitchen approach is defined as any one-sided ministry in which the poor are served but not allowed to contribute in a dignifying way. At a potluck, however, not only do all parties contribute, but also true fellowship is enjoyed.
Practicing the King’s Economy challenges us to not merely feed our neighbors, but to also sit at the table with them. There have been many books written about how we should serve poor, but this one challenges the church to go a step further in its relationship to the disadvantaged.
Justice in the King’s Economy
The authors also work through America’s race narrative and how it has influenced our present economy. For example, they point out that “the Pew Research Center reports that as of 2013, the median net worth of white households was $141,900, while the median net worth for black households was a mere $11,000” (180). I’m convinced that the issue of economic injustice can’t be engaged with integrity by the church without taking an honest look backward and a hopeful look forward. This book manages to accomplish both.
A rapidly evolving world requires fresh solutions that are both innovative and rooted in God’s Word. This book does just that. Practicing the King’s Economy challenges readers to look at conventional ways of economizing through a Jesus lens. It will make readers uncomfortable in a good way as it challenges the status quo. Practicing the King’s Economy is a great read for anyone looking to grow in their understanding of biblical stewardship and economic justice.
- God’s Kingdom Has a Startling Economic System (Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt)