I’ve read pieces from John Piper’s blog. I’ve read bits of opinion of him (both positive and negative). Yet, I’ve never actually taken the opportunity to read one of Piper’s books. So, I was pretty tickled to receive the opportunity to read and review Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power.
In this book, Piper explores three spheres that the world seems to worship. As Christians, sometimes we are suspicious of these things. Other times, we seem to celebrate our lack or self-control in not having money, power or sex. Of course, don’t forget that sometimes we look just like the world in our worship of these things. So, the premise of Piper’s book is the abuse of these spheres and our ability to use them in the way that God intended.
The book is small, at 150 pages, but it is dense in ideas and prose. Piper begins by setting out definitions for the topics he’s going to explore, and then he spends much of the rest of the beginning chapter of the book exploring an exegesis of the second half of Romans chapter 1. Along the way, he shares some profound thoughts about sin and idolatry. For example, I found especially convicting the statement on page 25, where Piper says, “We never merely leave God because we value him little; we always exchange God for what we value more.” I have been guilty so often of finding myself edging away from God, not because I’ve really meant to, but because I’ve found things to be more interesting or more valuable to me that him. That’s how the distance to great sin usually happens in my life.
After setting down these initial thoughts, Piper takes a chapter to examine each of the three spheres of influence mentioned in the title of the book. Of these spheres, the one that meant the most to me is money. I had always thought, until this year, when I studied Matthew in depth, that I was free from the temptation of money because we don’t have any wealth. Instead, through the Matthew study, I realized the truth of the George MacDonald quote Piper uses on page 62, “It is not the rich man only who is under the dominion of things; they are slaves too who, having no money, are unhappy for the lack of it.” Piper elaborates on this theme several times throughout the book, but I cannot count the number of times I’ve felt that my life would be happier if only I had a little more. God, help me for that sinful thought.
After the discussion of the spheres of influence, Piper turns his talk to Christ and the importance of the new birth in shaping our lives for God and centering our lives around him. In these pages, I found a few theological quibbles (all minor) because, after all, I am a dispensationalist, and he is not, but I was okay with that because I felt that didn’t detract at all from the overall message of the book.
After showing the importance of the new birth, Piper’s final chapter deals with some practical applications of what these three spheres look like in a Christian’s life. This was also a much appreciated section because we can’t avoid (nor are we called to avoid) any of these spheres in our lives, so we must work out what our healthy relationship is to sex, money and power.
Overall, I found this to be an excellent book and one that helped me as I worked out some of my issues with money as an idol in my life. It’s one that I would easily read again for a reminder to myself about the dangers of valuing things other than God and how that plays out practically.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.