Money Matters – R. Paul Stevens & Clive Lim

Money Matters Stevens Lim
Money Matters: Faith, Life, and Wealth by R. Paul Stevens, Clive Lim
Published by Eerdmans on January 26, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Financial
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A guide to investing in heaven and being “rich toward God” 
Christians often hesitate to talk about money in spiritual contexts, but in the gospels Jesus talks more about money than about “religious” topics like prayer and heaven. Money Matters advocates following Jesus’s lead in engaging with matters of economy and finance in a faith-driven way, in both our individual and our corporate lives. The authors draw on their contrasting life experiences to offer a well-rounded look at money in the twenty-first century. Paul Stevens, who grew up well-off in Canada and worked as a carpenter, a banker, and later a pastor and professor of theology, finds a complementary voice in Clive Lim, who grew up without money in Singapore, and now works there as an entrepreneur and head of a family investment firm. With frequent scriptural references, Stevens and Lim offer insight into navigating the economic systems of today, aiming to help individuals, churches, and societies become faithful stewards who store up “treasures in heaven” by investing in the kingdom of God. 
Money Matters is a comprehensive yet accessible guide to integrating one’s faith with one’s approach to money. Just as the Bible variously treats money as a blessing, a sacrament, and a problem, so do Stevens and Lim approach this matter judiciously—avoiding the prosperity gospel on one side and the demonization of material wealth on the other. Capitalism is treated as what it is: a system that has created widespread opportunity and relieved poverty for millions while also exacerbating the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The authors’ wisdom is at turns theological, historical, and practical—and always focused on what it means to live with faithful integrity in our contemporary global economy.

Probably the longest and most humbling journey in my Christian faith has been a constant development on how I use my money. I’ve been in the camp of Dave Ramsey “everybody can be a millionaire” and I’ve been in the camp of Francis Chan that we should give away everything. And I find myself at war, at times. How much money do we need? How much can we give? One day I can agree to give away a significant sum. The next, I’m worried about our “long-term financial plan.” This is a hard thing for me. Like Jesus said, you can’t serve both God and money.

In Money Matters, R. Paul Stevens and Clive Lim give readers one unified perspective coming from distinctly unique journeys. Clive grew up without money. Steven grew up with money. The opening chapters of the book develop this personal perspective, making the book a memoir of sorts as you move through the book and see how each author came to their current position and how their background played a role in that.

Stevens and Lim approach the topic rather academically. This isn’t a book on budgeting or a book with great anecdotes about how a family didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from, but they tithed anyway and God blessed them. There’s space for that type of book, but Money Matters goes a lot deeper. The two write about a history of money and how this system of exchange developed. They talk about the social value of money and what good it can do. They take on the Prosperity Gospel and its claims of health and wealth. They even give a robust critique of capitalism and describe how capitalism and Christianity became inexorably intertwining in the west.

That chapter alone is worth the cost of Money Matters. Stevens and Lim walk through how Protestant nations, who moved toward believing that all members of the faith community could function as priests (a good thing!) felt the need for a new marker to delineate the “super-faithful” from the regulars. Hard work became that filler, with financial success being the reward. Capitalism, eventually, becomes almost a religion unto itself.

By the end of the book, Stevens and Lim reach four conclusions:

  1. We invest in the kingdom of God through the relational use of our money. Use our money in ways that enhance our friendships and our community.
  2. We invest in the kingdom of God through giving money to the poor. This can be done through direct relief, microloans, support local businesses, and more.
  3. We invest in the kingdom of God through our work done in and for the Lord. We should use our money in ventures that care for God’s creation and his people.
  4. Our ultimate treasure in this life is Christ. Money is just congealed life. What we do with our money is representative of how we’ve spent ourselves.

Money Matters is a thoughtful, provoking work. Stevens and Lim offer an engaging, nuanced discussion of wealth and its use. My only critique is that I wanted more. So many chapters felt like they were only introductions or beginnings. Each chapter was worthy of its own book. Money Matters is a book to read slowly and repeatedly, allowing it to soak in.