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REVIEW: ‘Tis the season for giving and saving, say authors

There’s a reason the colors of the season are red and green: Red is the color you see when you realize how much green you’re spending.
Two new books encourage Christians to use their money wisely so they have plenty to give to others, not just in the month of December, but year-round.
Bestselling author Randy Alcorn has trimmed his classic financial guide “Money, Possessions, and Eternity,” some heavy reading at 520 pages, to the more budget- and pocket-friendly “Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide.”
This book is a challenging and beneficial read for anyone in the church who would like a Scripture-based, eternity-focused guide to personal finance.
For a more specific guide on getting out of debt or day-to-day money management, though, a Dave Ramsey or Larry Burkett book would be more helpful.
Alcorn’s book is written in his characteristically easy-to-follow preacher prose, with plenty of quotes from church leaders, illustrations and exclamations. He also references or quotes Scriptures in almost every paragraph.
However easy to read Alcorn’s book is, applying the concepts in it will prove to be a challenge for many. As he notes, the Bible’s money management principles are radically countercultural.
A powerful example of this is the parable of the rich fool, who Jesus condemns for building additional barns to house his hoarded wealth.
Today, Alcorn points out, this would be called wise financial planning.
The primary message of Alcorn’s book is that God does not own 10 percent of Christians’ money, or whatever they choose to give to his church on Sundays. He owns it all, and Christians are simply stewards.
Alcorn believes Christians’ management of God’s money is crucial to bearing fruit and, ultimately, securing salvation. To prove this, he applies two Scriptures in ways that many Christians might not have before.
He interprets Jesus’ instruction to store up treasure in heaven rather than on earth (Matthew 6:20) to mean that financial gifts on earth will become treasure in heaven.
As Alcorn puts it, “you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.”
Another teaching Alcorn has that will challenge many is that of tithing — some will say that it’s legalistic, but Alcorn says that despite this percentage not being mentioned in the New Covenant, he doesn’t believe God would expect any less of his children today than he did of the Israelites, especially when Western Christians today are among the wealthiest people in the world.
Alcorn also says that tithing is really only the first step of giving, calling it “the training wheels of giving,” and goes on to talk about what he calls freewill or grace giving.
Giving also is the end goal of popular blogger and speaker Kelly Hancock’s first book, “Saving Savvy: Smart and easy ways to cut your spending in half and raise your standard of living … and giving!”
But, as the title shows, the book’s main idea is practical tips on saving money, with giving being more of an afterthought.
The book begins with Hancock’s own story of how she cut her grocery and dining-out budget from $1,100 to $200 per month when she quit her job to be a stay-at-home mother.
Her writing style is breezy and conversational, reading much like her presentations probably sound. Her upbeat tone makes spending less seem simple, not nearly as time-consuming and tedious as the “extreme couponers” make it appear.
Particularly geared toward women, chapters are devoted to meal planning, freezer cooking, stocking up on groceries and toiletries when they’re on sale and doubling savings by using coupons in conjunction with store sales.
Although Hancock recommends using the good old Sunday paper and other paper inserts to find the best coupons, she also appeals to the tech-savvy reader with QR codes throughout the book that link to her resource-rich blog, as well as listing coupon websites and services wherever applicable.   
Each chapter concludes with two lists of steps to follow: one set if you have less time, and one set if you have more.
Spread throughout the book are quotes from women who have used Hancock’s blog or heard her presentation and have slashed their grocery and toiletry budgets by half or more.
She also sprinkles Scriptures throughout, but doesn’t examine them in the text or base her instructions on the Bible’s teachings on stewardship, discipline and patience.
The penultimate chapter is a mix of suggestions of things readers can do with the money they save from her saving strategies.
Hancock encourages readers to use their time, talents and money to give generously. For her, this means buying extras of items she for which has coupons and giving them to charity.
It also means having homemade meals and desserts in the freezer so she can give them to people at her church who are sick, grieving or adjusting to life with a new baby.
Giving from a cheerful heart is easy to do this time of year, when the recipient is a loved one. These writers both have valuable advice for how to view money as precious, both for providing for family and for giving to those in need.
KIMBERLY MAUCK is Reviews Editor for The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected].

  • Feedback
    Very good article… thanks for sharing.
    Larry Garrett
    Brentwood Baptist Church
    Brentwood, TN
    December, 8 2011

Filed under: Reviews

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