|A Review of
By Francis Chan
Reviewed by Chris Smith.
Raising kids that are not defined by the consumerism of the broader culture is a huge challenge in the Western world today. Certainly as adults we can see that part of the good news of following Jesus is that we have been set free from the consumerist patterns of the world in which we live. Our kids will eventually see our non-conformity (or our struggles to follow Jesus in this way) and will undoubtedly have questions. How do we explain the good news of following Jesus to our young children and how this good news guides us into a life where the resources we have are not for our own satisfaction but for that of the Kingdom?
Noted Christian writer Francis Chan has given us, in his third children’s book Ronnie Wilson’s Gift, a sort of fable that illustrates Jesus’s teaching that “whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.” Chan does good and careful work in not caricaturing “the least of these,” nor toning down the radicalness of Jesus’s call. The book’s main character, Ronnie, in sharing his resources, gives away not unwanted things (the teddy bear that “was old and falling apart”), but all of his money and his baseball glove, which is one of his prized possessions. The assumption here is, of course, not unlike that of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s recent book God’s Economy: Ronnie is able to give sacrificially because he is part of a loving family/community that cares for him as he is caring for others. Chan intentionally points to the “least of these” passage in Matthew 25, but just as easily could have pointed, as Wilson-Hartgrove does, to Luke 16:9 (“use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves”) or a host of Jesus’s other teachings about money and resources.
Chan has offered us a good and challenging story here, and one we should be quick to share with our children – in our homes and in our churches. As a footnote to this review, I cannot help but mention that I personally was not a big fan of the illustrations, which seemed to be covered over with the haze of sentimentality that is all too common in children’s books of the Christian market. I would have much preferred the simple and boldly colored sort of illustrations that we find in Chan’s first two children’s books.