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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"How to Be Rich" (Andy Stanley)

TITLE: How to Be Rich: It's Not What You Have. It's What You Do With What You Have.
AUTHOR: Andy Stanley
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013, (160 pages).

We don't need more money or stuff. We need more heart! This is the essence of the book. It focuses on 1 Timothy 6:18 which says: "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." Paraphrasing this, Senior pastor of North Point Community Church and bestselling author Andy Stanley, says that being rich is not about what we own or possess, but what we do with what we have in our possession. Although the book is titled in an enticing manner, the content is basically one of giving, sharing, and caring for others, using whatever resources we have to bless another person. It is more about being rich rather than making more money. What Stanley aims to convince readers is that we are already rich beyond measure. For that matter, we cannot read this book on the basis of wanting to get more money or more stuff. We need to cultivate an attitude of noticing others who need more from us.

There were two reasons that got Stanley fired up to share this message. Firstly, the culture around constantly tries to tell people that they need to get more and more, when in fact, most of us are already rich beyond measure. Secondly, many Christians simply do not know how to behave as richly blessed people. He uses this message to challenge his own congregation at one time to give away $1.5 million dollars to a needy cause, with the entire amount dedicated to the cause. The congregations pooled together $5.2 million and gave every single cent away.

Beginning with a stunning story of how Sir William Gull correctly diagnosed Anorexia nervosa, the "most puzzling diseases of the 20th Century," Stanley makes the point that we already have what we need to do good in this world. All we need is to learn to observe the outside, and to be aware of the treasure we already have inside, and to apply them for the good of others. In doing so, we learn what being rich is all about. In contrast to the unsatisfying nature of getting more and more, yet feeling less and less contented, readers are urged to consider the counter mentality. For being rich is not about getting but about giving. This requires training and constant honing. Being rich is one thing. Practicing it is another. Stanley notes how the possession of wealth without learning how to make use of them is downright unhealthy. It causes us to long for more stuff. It makes us bloated. It gives us a false impression that life is basically designed around the collection of more money or more stuff. Moreover, it can give one a mistaken belief that once we get all the money we want, we have attained self-sufficiency and the holy grail of happiness. No way!

Being rich means learning NOT to trust in riches. It means learning to arrest the "endless desires" for stuff, that will subsequently bring about non-stop worries and fears. After all, the more we have, very often, the more we worry. At the same time, the more things we have, the more we lose sight of the purpose of having them. This is a gem indeed and reminds us in a crazy shopping frenzy to ask ourselves why we are buying what we are buying.  One way of dealing with our wealth is to find ways to "get rid of it" purposefully and with appropriate stewardship principles, lest it finds its way to our hearts. Stanley suggests three Ps for us to learn about planning.

  1. PRIORITY GIVING - where generous giving is to take priority over procrastination of any giving.
  2. PERCENTAGE GIVING - where we avoid giving out of our excesses but giving out of whatever we have.
  3. PROGRESSIVE GIVING - We learn to increase our giving progressively.
Not only will we learn to counter the negative effects of hoarding wealth, we develop the positive effects of using wealth for the good of people and for the glory of God. 

My Thoughts

This is a wonderful book that reminds us about the perils of wealth in keeping and holding. At the same time, it shows us the pearls of generous giving, and that in giving, not only can we bless more people, we also benefit by growing a big heart and glorifying our great God. This is certainly one of the best messages to come from the popular author Andy Stanley. Stanley is increasingly becoming one of my favourite authors, for his sheer way of understanding the modern culture around us, and the biblical way to counter the negative effects of the world. The topic of wealth and riches is given an extensive treatment within a relatively short book. Compared to a weightier volume that I reviewed recently, Stanley's book is targeted more at the layperson and the average Western Christian consumer at large.

Each year at Christmas, we all rush to buy gifts and many of us are influenced by the glitzy sales and offers around us. While it is good to make more money and to buy stuff, we need 1 Timothy 6:18 to be louder than any sales pitch, sharper than any sales cuts, and greater than any big offers. In learning to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the things we already have, we learn to focus more on what God wants and less on what man wants. Through our wealth and riches, or whatever we now have, invest and make good use of them. All of us have 1, 30, 500, or 1000 units of talents. Use them faithfully, and in God's perfect timing, He will multiply them, and to bless more people. Surely, in some special way, the blessings will come back to touch lives, including ours. Consider this book a great Christmas reminder that God so loved the world that He gave his only Son. That we all may live.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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