Rainer, Art. The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money, Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2017. 148 pp.
I enjoy numbers, math, and finances. Math is the language that attempts to numerically quantify the realities of the LORD’s created order. Through math, I better understand some of the glorious complexities of creation, and a better understanding of the world increases my awe of God who designed it all. Strangely enough, math is a means to magnifying God. Finance, then, is applied math; it’s the mathematically-dependent management of God-given monetary resources, for good or for ill. Through finance, bank account numbers reveal objects of worship. The numbers demonstrate whether or not money is god or whether or not the LORD is god.
As Christians, we are called to use all of these things—numbers, math, and finances—for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Yet for many people, the reality is that math and numbers don’t come easy. Handling finances can feel so overwhelmingly burdensome that Christian stewardship is viewed more as a drudgery than a delight, so much so that even the thought of money management causes some to shudder. Enter Art Rainer’s new book called The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money.
The Money Challenge is a short, extremely practical, winsomely-written, easily-readable book aimed to “help you experience the adventure-filled, others-focused, generous life that God designed you to live” (17). “God designed us to be generous. And He designed us to be generous in ways that expand His Kingdom. God designed us not to be hoarders but to be conduits through which His generosity flows” (16). Therefore, Christians need to manage money well so that “we can live with hands wide open, ready to be generous when God calls us to do so” because “[w]hen we operate as God designed, by giving to advance His Kingdom, we will find greater purpose and happiness in our money” (16).
According to Rainer, there is a simple three-step formula derived from the Bible that Christians should employ to be gospel stewards: give generously, save wisely, live appropriately. The book unfolds these three steps over seven chapters with each chapter concluding in practical challenges to be tackled over thirty days that intend to create a culture of gospel generosity in the reader. The final section of the book attacks four key generosity killers before concluding in chapter fourteen with one final challenge.
Rainer’s approach to gospel stewardship is helpful. For many people, we live beyond our means, save when we can, and give if anything is left. Yet, that’s backward, biblically speaking. In chapter two, Rainer demonstrates how proportional, sacrificial, cheerful giving by faith to the LORD through the church is to be of first importance. Old Testament Israelites were called to give ten percent of their resources to the LORD and to give of the firstfruits of their harvest (Num. 18:20-24; Deut. 12:17-19, 14:28-29; Prov. 3:9-10; Mal. 3:10). While the New Testament does not specify tithing, Christians possess the fullness of saving grace in Jesus Christ, which Old Testament Israelites did not have; therefore, the supreme generosity we’ve been given in Christ should transform us to freely prioritize generous giving (2 Cor. 8:1-15, 9:7). Rather than give from leftovers remaining after serving self, giving ought to be the first priority for Christians as we trust the LORD to meet our daily needs (Luke 21:1-4). “We give because He gave so generously to us” (30). We must first give generously as we then save wisely while we live appropriately.
Rainer’s practical steps toward gospel generosity are wise and attainable. Rainer suggests the following path to generosity: start giving to the local church (1% of gross income to 10% within a year); save $1,500 for a minor emergency; max out employer retirement match (if applicable), pay off all debt except mortgage (smallest debt first), save 3-6 months of living expenses for a job-loss emergency, put 15% of gross income to retirement, save for college or pay off your mortgage, live generously (140-142). All of these milestones are to be partnered with the financial challenges that cultivate gospel generosity so that once one’s financial situation is healthy (i.e. not driven by debt and/or costly interest payments) one can profane money in greater degrees by being free to give it away even more lavishly for the sake of the gospel. I commend the wisdom of Rainer’s path to generosity though I personally would not place saving for children’s college in the process as I view college as optional for successful Christian living and as an expense primarily falling into the student’s responsibility.
Because The Money Challenge is a short, practical, easy, biblical read about Christian discipleship in the form of financial stewardship, I commend the book. All adult readers should be able to comprehend what Rainer has to say, not merely to become financially well off but in order to become better stewards of God’s resources. The way we use money reflects the desires of the heart. May this book help Christians love Jesus more as we labor to use money well.