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“God and Money”: A Review of a Groundbreaking Book in Christian Stewardship

There have been countless books written about Christian stewardship of financial resources. Though most offer valuable insights, they often struggle at finding the right words to make lasting change in their readers’ financial lives.

Enter a new book, so transparent and direct that you’ll feel like you’re invading the authors’ privacy. In God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School, authors Gregory Baumer and John Cortines bring convicting truth and real-life examples as they teach the principles of financial stewardship and generosity that guide their families’ financial decisions.

Though this book serves as a guide to all, God and Money speaks particularly to people who, like the authors, expect to attain considerable wealth over their lifetime.  In this thoughtful reflection on their own journey, Baumer and Cortines, MBA graduates of Harvard Business School with promising careers ahead, don’t waste any time jumping into this often awkward topic with remarkable clarity, powerfully reminding readers that “to whom much has been given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). God and Money begins by examining the scriptural teachings on wealth and giving. In a whirlwind tour of the major references to money in the Bible, Baumer and Cortines set the foundation for what they call the “Seven Core Principles for Wealth and Giving.” These principles are simple, but convicting—always stressing that our wealth is not really ours, but that it belongs to God.

Chapters three and four look more deeply at the benefits of generosity, including positive health effects, and the trends of generosity over time. Included in this section is a number of graphs that dive into giving trends across a variety of metrics. Though initial statistics on generosity can be rather depressing, the authors do find some encouraging news: “As you zero-in and select for devotion and the presence of disposable income, the level of giving dramatically increases.”

And yet, we have a long way to go. Baumer and Cortines note that American Christians have an annual income of over $5 trillion. If we donated 0.2 percent of our income in one year, they argue, we could:

  • Sponsor 1 million indigenous full-time missionaries in poor nations around the world
  • Quadruple the global missions budget for reaching un-evangelized nations
  • Triple the global Bible translation budget
  • Fund 150,000 seminary scholarships for promising students in emerging economies
  • Establish 8 new Christian universities around the world
  • Hire 25,000 additional American missionaries to work on our college campuses

Wow. That’s why this conversation is important. In the second half of the book, God and Money focuses on a topic that other books about Christian stewardship mostly ignore—how to actually live out the Christian principles for wealth and giving. Real families and real dollar amounts make these stories much more compelling than hypothetical models or philosophical conjectures.

By looking at different families around the country as models and drawing on their own experiences, Baumer and Cortines put together actual dollar amounts that a family should target to achieve “the basics”—freedom from consumer debt, a stable emergency fund, home ownership, retirement savings, and college for children. Along the way, they advocate specific ways to be more generous, including personal examples of giving up a chance to buy an expensive car or setting a “lifestyle limit” on spending.

Baumer and Cortines give guidance on how to develop a “Personal Wealth Finish Line,” “Generosity Covenant,” and other frameworks to make sure that all of your spending (or saving) is truly serving God and furthering your ability to achieve “the basics” rather than the worldly goals of a lavish lifestyle or early financial independence. Many of the resources can be accessed on their website.

God and Money also profiles several people who are breaking down the walls of silence that normally exist between Christians when it comes to money. One family publishes an annual financial report so their friends can see where they are spending their money. Another meets with a community giving group of friends that hold each other accountable and increase each other’s’ giving impact.

In God and Money, Baumer and Cortines have succeeded in providing real-life guidance on a topic that is fundamentally important to every believer. “Our vision is that the radical levels of generosity exhibited by the individuals in this book become commonplace—that more and more Christians, regardless of income level, choose to live their lives with a mindset of joyful abundance, all the while offering gratitude to God for His provision and serving Him generously with their wealth,” they write.

If you’re interested in becoming a “servant” rather than a “spender” or a “saver,” reading this book is one of the best things you can do.