Featured Reviews, VOLUME 2

Featured: God’s Economy by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove [Vol. 2, #40]

“The Abundant Goodness
of God’s Provision”

A Review of
God’s Economy:
Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel

by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

God’s Economy:
Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel

by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
Paperback: Zondervan, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove / Gods Economy

The biblical writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: “Of the making of books there is no end,” and if that is true, it is even truer that there is no end of the making of many books about money: books on how to get it, books on how to keep once you’ve got it, etc.  But, in all my years of reading, selling and reviewing books, I’ve never encountered a book about money that is anything like Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s new book God’s Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel. Ultimately, God’s Economy is about the good news of the kingdom of God; indeed that is the “health and wealth gospel” of the book’s sub-title.  But before your mind turns from the words “health and wealth” to images of the myriad of televangelists who have made plush lives for themselves – e.g. Benny Hinn or Creflo Dollar – by preaching such a gospel to the masses, allow me to reassure that Jonathan’s message bears little in common with these slick television preachers. God’s Economy is about “abundant life” – which although Jonathan doesn’t specifically mention it – is perhaps a better translation of the familiar New Testament Greek phrase that is usually rendered “eternal life.”  He describes this abundant life:  “It’s a celebration of God’s economy, where the poor find bread and the rich find healing because we rediscover one another as friends … and we are not alone anymore.”  As he demonstrated in his previous books (including two superb ones that were reviewed in the ERB last year:  New Monasticism and Free to Be Bound), Jonathan is a masterful storyteller weaving together stories from Scripture, from church history and from his own experience. God’s Economy is a delight to read, humorous at times, but ultimately these stories – like those Jesus told – are disarming, shining the light into those dark places of our souls in which lie our assumptions about how the world works and our deeply rooted plans for preserving ourselves (and those closest to us) in a hostile world.

Jonathan begins the book by calling us to submit our hopes and dreams to Gods’ transformative “revolution of imagination.”  God calls us to a life of abundance, Jonathan observes, but we come to know this not in amassing possessions or wealth in our bank accounts or 401K’s, but rather in the wealth of loving friendships we have in the family of God.  Part of this transformation of our imaginations to which we are called is understanding the story that drives our lives no longer as a story about “me” as an isolated individual, but about “us” as a community of god’s people.  Readers who miss this point, might be prone to misunderstand statements that Jonathan makes like: “Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes are right about one thing: our God of abundance does want to give you your best life now.  It’s just that God’s abundance is more radical that many of us have dared to dream.”  As the book goes on, it becomes clear that the abundant life that God offers is not for me, as an isolated individual, but for us a community of God’s people that share life together.

After calling us to submit our hearts and minds to the abundant and transformative reign of God, Jonathan reminds us that money is a power.  Here he observes that as a power, money “manipulate[s] and possess[es] people by creating believable illusions.”  Reminding us of numerous stories of Jesus from the Gospels, Jonathan notes that in God’s economy, the power of money is unmasked and this new kingdom thus interrupts every economic system because “it refuses the law of scarcity and insists that the impossible can happen.”  Under the “believable illusions” that money creates as a power lies the reality that we are loved unconditionally by God and that we long to love and be loved by those that God has placed around us.

Over the remainder of the book, Jonathan surveys five economic tactics to which we are called as followers of Jesus.  He contrasts tactics which are inserted into the cracks of empire, with the strategic planning of the world that seeks to systematize and control.

The five tactics that Jonathan explores here are:

1) Subversive Service (based on Mark 9:35)

2) Eternal Investments (based on Matthew 6:20)

3) Economic Friendships (based on Luke 16:9)

4) Relational Generosity (based on Matthew 5:42)

5) Gracious Politics (based on Mark 12:17)

Perhaps the most striking of these tactics is that of economic friendship, which emphasizes the reality that “God’s economy comes to us as a community of friendship.  Though Jesus made it clear that miracles happen, it’s not God’s standard operating procedure to rain bread form heaven or provide money from a fish’s mouth.  Instead, God invites us into the abundance of eternal life through economic relationships with other people.”  Jonathan goes on to imagine that our sharing with one another could go beyond the routine meeting of one another’s needs to even the idea of us lending money to one another, avoiding the ridiculously high fees and interest rates of most banks and building up friendships by working together in this way.

It is refreshing to find a book, such as God’s Economy, that talks about money without bending toward either rewards that are merely eternal, abusive get-rich-quick schemes or self-preserving fear-mongering.  Its message, although challenging to us who have lived for so long under the tyranny of money, is good news – full of hope and the abundant goodness of God’s provision.  God’s Economy is a very readable book that calls us into the depths of divine love for which we were created, a love that functions best when shared with those around us.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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Reading for the Common Good
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