Originally read and written in March 2011.
Summary of Desiring God by John Piper at Simply Convivial
- Part 1: Introduction & Chapters 1 & 2 – Happiness & Conversion
- Part 2: Chapter 3 – Worship
- Part 3: Chapters 4-6 – Love, Scripture, & Prayer
- Part 4: Chapters 7 & 8 – Money & Marriage
- Part 5: Chapters 9 & 10 – Missions & Suffering
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thesis: Generosity confirms that our hope is in God and not in ourselves or our money; contentment is true profit.
- Christians ought to be content with simple necessities of life for wartime (missions-focused) efficiency.
Piper rightly never put any specifics on what is or is not ok to buy or have, but the warp and woof of the chapter is that we should do with as little as possible so that we can funnel as much money as possible into foreign (especially unreached peoples) missions. The gist was that if you aren’t giving up all monetary pursuits to work in the missions field, then the whole point of your having a job is to earn money to give to those in the missions field. That missionaries might be supported was the only legitimate use of earnings besides providing for your own “basic needs” that this chapter condoned. I reread it to make sure that was so, and the only caveat I could find was the following:
We need not feel guilty for enjoying the things He gives us. They are given “for enjoyment.” Fasting, celibacy, and other forms of self-denial are right and good in the service of God, but they must not be elevated as the spiritual norm. The provision of nature are given for our good and, by our Godward joy, can become occasions of thanksgiving and worship.
Those two sentences, however, are all we get in 18 pages of admonitions not to accumulate money, not to purchase luxuries, not to spend money on our own comfort.
God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions. […] God prospers a business so that thousands of unreached peoples can be reached with the gospel.
Now, it is pretty clear here that Piper is aiming his guns at Christians who tithe not at all or who tithe the American “average” of 2%, but the only other option he provides is living as simply or efficiently as possible and giving all remaining to missions, and he focusses almost exclusively on “Frontier” missions. I just don’t see how those are the only two possible categories.
It was at this chapter that I wondered about and had to look up Piper’s eschatology. Sure enough, he’s premil. There is no room in this chapter for pursuing beauty or building culture, both of which require expenditure. Of course we are to give generously and cheerfully, but I don’t think that needs to be to the exclusion of living in the Promised Land — where milk and honey and oil and wine abound. Amil and postmil say Christ is reigning now, that this world is even now His kingdom, that the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ. So we, the Church, are the fulfillment of all Israel represented, and it will be culminated at the Second Coming. Premil says all this earth is going to burn, that souls are the only, only thing that will count at the Last Day. Postmil (as I am) holds that we are preparing this world for Christ’s return, making it ready as a bride to be presented to her husband. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, and Christ will be at God’s right hand until all enemies are put under His feet. The leaven will slowly work and leaven the whole lump. Your eschatology, what you think will happen to the world, will be evident in your budget. Yes, missions and generosity with the poor (very underrepresented in this chapter) will be a significant part, but so will enjoying the Lord with your increase and yield.
I think Piper had some important points to make in this chapter, especially considering the abominably low tithing average in the church overall, but I felt rather attacked by the chapter. I thought it was too extreme, and put too much pressure on those who do want to be generous and who are generous. Now generous isn’t good enough, it has to be not spending any more than necessary on yourself, and your generosity has to be focused not on the poor in your local area of influence, but the starving third world and the unreached. Helping the poor that you might actually have a relationship with is not even addressed at all.
Thesis: In seeking the happiness of the other, you find your own happiness, for the two are one flesh.
This was short and very, very basic complementarian explanation. Amen, and, I admit it, yawn.