In an age where some pastors are buying personal jets, getting into debt, or stealing from their members, a book on Paul and Money is vital. Though there are books that deal with the subject of money in the Bible, one of the authors (Verbrugge) discovered that that were no “comprehensive book[s] on the issue of Paul and money – that is, how the apostle interacted with the Jewish and Greco-Roman world of finance” (19). Having both written books on 1 Corinthians, Verbrugge and Krell came together to fill the gap and write the “comprehensive book on… Paul and money” that the church has been lacking.
However this book is about more than how one should simply spend their money. It looks at Paul’s style of leadership over his churches.
- He doesn’t ask for money to support himself from the Corinthians, but he does ask for them to give money to the Collection that will be brought to the poor saints in Jerusalem. Yet while Paul is in Corinth (Acts 18.5) he receives money from the churches in Macedonia (2 Cor 11.8-9 and Phil 4.15) which relieves him from having to support himself from his job as a leatherworker. Why did he receive money from those churches but not from Corinth?
- In 1 Corinthians 16.1-2, Paul simply commands the Corinthians to give to the Collection and includes a few instructions on how they could give. Yet in 2 Corinthians 8-9 Paul spends 39 verses “giving all sorts of reasons why the Corinthians should donate, and he includes only one mild imperative” (278).
- Why did Paul and his coworkers stay with Lydia after her conversion? In the final chapter of Philippians, was he really thankful for their gift or was he simply embarrassed?
- How did Paul pay for both his travels and his letters?
- How should Christians handle situations with widows in the church?
- What does Paul say about debt and tithing?
Paul and Money is divided into 3 sections:
Part 1: Paul’s Work and his Financial Policies (chs 1-3)
If Paul’s background was a Pharisee, and Pharisees supported themselves, and Paul admits in 1 Corinthians 9 that those who preach the Gospel should receive some sort of payment back, why does Paul commit to supporting himself? This section answers a few of the questions asked above, but it also looks at the system of patronage in the ancient world and how Paul received money through it. This chapter is important as a knowledge of its themes runs through the following chapters as it helps explain Paul’s methods.
Part 2: Raising Money for the Mother Church in Jerusalem (ch 4-9)
As the title of the section suggests, Part 2 is focused on one of Paul’s major projects that runs through a number of his letters: the Collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The authors set out to answer why Paul set out to collect money for the poor Jerusalem saints along with just how “poor” these saints might have been (answer: very poor). They look at how Paul collected this money and how he motivated the believers in Corinth to give (especially as they seriously doubted his apostolic authority). Also, despite the importance of the collection and Paul’s hopes in bringing more unity to the Jewish and Gentile church, why does it seem like Luke practically ignores the Collection? Does he really ignore it?
Part 3: Other Issues Concerning Finances in Paul (chs 9-13)
Part 3 covers a list of remaining topics on money that appear in Paul’s letters. In chapter 9, the authors examine the group in Thessolonica who refused to work, but instead fed off of the resources of their church members. Chapter 10 looks at more money issues with the Corinthians and how the rich used the social order of the pagan world to abuse the Lord’s Supper. Chapter 11 explores the dangers involved for those who idolize money and the instructions on how the church should handle both younger and elderly widows. Chapter 12 covers taxes, debt, and the command (or lack thereof) on tithing. Finally, chapter 13 gives both theological and practical perspectives on how Christian today should think about and handle money.
The Chocolate Milk
For a book whose subtitle is “A Biblical and Theological Analysis of the Apostle’s Teachings and Practices,” I found this book surprisingly easy to read. Not only do the authors answer the questions listed above, but they give an absorbing sense of realism to Paul’s life. They don’t treat Paul as just a “biblical character,” but as a real person with real emotions and real thoughts who we can (and should) relate to. Paul isn’t a two-faced cheat, taking money from some but refusing it from others depending on how much money he needs at the moment. He considers the world and culture of the people he comes into contact with, people who think and lived differently than we do.
Once he realizes that the Corinthians have neglected his authority, instead of commanding them to give to the Collection (a command they had promised to follow), he gently pushes them into giving to the Collection (2 Cor 8-9). And he does this in a variety of social ways which the authors draw out in chapters 6 and 7. In an honor-shame culture, giving “high praise for the [poor] Macedonians [would]… result in a feeling of shame in the hearts of the [rich] Corinthians in light their self-expressed pride over their material and spiritual richness (cf. also 9:2-4)” (170).
Since the Corinthians had little trust for Paul, thinking he may try to line his pockets with their Collection money (despite his refusal to accept money from them for his own sake, 2 Cor 11.7-9), Paul spends 9 verses (2 Cor 8.16-24) explaining how Titus and two other worthy brothers will be handling the Collection. They will gather the money “for the glory of the Lord himself” (8.19), not for their own glory nor for Paul’s glory.
Verbrugge and Krell should be commended for their comprehensive work on Paul and his handling of money. Money is not to consume the minds of Christians, yet because we don’t live in a bartering society it must be used. It is near impossible to live without money, and it is impossible to live well without money. Yet with so many money-hungry televangelists and authors promising 100% answers to prayer if you buy their prayer cloths or their books, how then should we live? How can we glorify God before the world (and other Christians) with our spending (and non-spending) habits? Verbrugge and Krell give needed biblical advice backed up by needed biblical evidence to point Christians on how Paul viewed money and how we should follow his example. This would be good to read alongside Blomberg’s Christians in an Age of Wealth.
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Zondervan (June 23, 2015)
- Read: Exegetical, Theological, & Practical Insights on Paul and Money
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(Special thanks to Zondervan for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book).