Saturday, October 1, 2016

Thrifty Thinking: Work and Wealth in Scripture

The Bible has a lot to say about money. Larry Clayton wrote a book I got to review, Work and Wealth in Scripture: How to Grow, Prosper, and Work as a Christian, where he explores just what it has to say about this important topic. The book is very well-researched and comprehensive, covering the span of what can be found in God's word. I had a chance to interview Larry to learn more.

What was the inspiration behind writing this book? 
Initially I thought about it in 2007 or 2008 during that presidential election year. I wanted to examine what Scripture had to say about work and wealth, two subjects, sometimes described or disguised in other language, that seemed to be dominating the conversation, especially as we went into a major recession and everyone was accusing everyone else of being the cause. I thought, we’re still a Christian people, what does Scripture/the Bible say about these two issues?
The problem was that I had no idea how deep and wide the literature—both Christian and secular and mixtures of both—was on these subjects. I thought I would just extract the significant passages from Scripture in my daily reading of/listening to (Daily Audio Bible in Spanish, my other “mother” tongue; long story for another time) and string them together into a nice little book.
Being an historian, however, I became absorbed in what other—better and deeper thinkers, theologians, political philosophers, economists, etc.—had to say over the centuries. I finally finished the book in time for the 2016 election! Only eight years after the target date!
How does it vary from other wealth-inspired books? 
Well, it’s not a “how to” book for sure. How to Get Wealthy, How to Get Rich, How to Work the System, etc. There are dozens, probably scores, and even hundreds of those. I’m interested, as have some of the great writers, historians, theologians, political philosophers, even novelists of the past, in how we thought of “work” in our Christian literature, returning all the way back to the Hebrews and the Old Testament, and then when we acquired wealth—broadly conceived as the wherewithal to live, and, if in abundance, what to do with the surfeit or excess in keeping with the teachings and doctrines of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Jesus addressed wealth in one form or another as much if not more than any other subject in his ministry. His admonition to the rich young ruler is famous. Give it all away and follow me. Tough formula. What does it mean in the context of Scripture?
What is your goal for the reader to take away from reading this book? 
Hmmmmm, I would like to think of it as a double-edged experience. One, look at the whole subject and get an idea of how we have dealt with the subjects over time, especially through the double prism of history and Scripture. And, two, at the end of each chapter I have embedded questions and queries for those who want to use the book to explore in more depth the meaning of those chapters, one devoted, for example to the name it and claim it school of thinking, another to how we reconcile working and prospering in this world with how the Lord expects us to live in the spiritual world so well described by Jesus and Paul (this one of the great Puritan dilemmas—how to live a Godly live in a fallen world), and you can look at the chapter titles for how I broke it up.
I would want the reader to see how people dealt with wealth and work over the centuries, from the monkish tradition of renouncing all worldly goods as distracting from your walk with God, to the excuses of the privileged (the Lords and Ladies of the land, the monarchs, emperors, etc.) for almost literally “lording” it over the rest of us as fulfilling some of God’s commandments. 

I always say, half in jest, I can tell you precisely where you are in life (culturally, economically, Biblically, etc.) by having access to two streams information: how do you spend your money?; and how do you spend your time?, especially in front of a television or computer. 

And, finally, I wanted folks who read this book to come away with some solid principles and good habits to get their work and their wealth in line with God’s will. I know, bigggggg subject!

And, one last finally, I wanted to keep it short and accessible, without sacrificing detail and value.

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