Book Review: “The Treasure Principle” by Randy Alcorn

The Treasure Principle by Randy AlcornRandy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle does not look like a book I would typically read.  It’s a short, small format hardcover (a la The Prayer of Jabez) with a title that conjures prosperity gospel promises of blessings from God in this life. Precisely the sort of book I would usually avoid reading. But I’ve recently had several brushes with Alcorn’s material, appreciated much of what he had to say, and had intended to pick up one of his many books when I had the chance.  It just happened that the first Alcorn book I ran across was The Treasure Principle. And I’m very glad it was.

Despite what the title might lead you to assume, The Treasure Principle is not about gaining treasure in this world. Rather, the book is grounded in Jesus’ words from Matthew 6:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”–Matthew 6:19-21

Alcorn points out that one of our advantages as Christians is we know, one way or another, the end of this life is coming:

As a Christian, you have inside knowledge of an eventual worldwide upheaval caused by Christ’s return. This is the ultimate insider trading tip: Earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns – or when you die, whichever comes first. (And either event could happen at any time.)

Because we know this life will come to an end and everything we have will be left behind, Alcorn wisely encourages us to follow the Treasure Principle: “You can’t take it with you–but you can send it on ahead.”

If you feel uncomfortable with the idea that Christians ought to be motivated by Heavenly reward (and not just the love of God), Alcorn reminds the reader that it is Jesus Himself who told us to store up treasure in Heaven. “If it were wrong,” Alcorn writes, “Christ wouldn’t offer it to us as a motivation. Reward is His idea, not ours.”

Alcorn then expands the Treasure Principle into 6 “Treasure Principle Keys”:

1) God owns everything; I’m His money manager.

We are the managers of the assets God has entrusted–not given–to us.

2) My heart always goes where I put God’s money.

Watch what happens when you reallocate your money from temporal things to eternal things.

3) Heaven–the New Earth, not the present one–is my home.

We are citizens of “a better country–a heavenly one”. (Hebrews 11:16)

4) I should live today not for the dot, but for the line.

From the dot–our present life on earth–extends a line that goes on forever, which is eternity in Heaven.

5) Giving is the only antidote to Materialism.

Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. It dethrones me and exalts Him.

6) God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.

God gives us more money than we need so we can give–generously.

The Treasure Principle is overflowing with great illustrations and anecdotes supporting Alcorn’s keys. One of the most powerful anecdotes comes from Alcorn’s own life: he has been forced by a multi-million dollar court judgment to live on minimum wage since the early ’90s.  Yet Alcorn views this turn of events as “one of the best things that ever happened” because “God used it to help [him] understand what He means by ‘Everything under Heaven belongs to me’ (Job 41:11).”

The book concludes with “31 Radical, Liberating Questions to Ask God About Your Giving” which give a practical way to move forward with shifting your finances toward storing up treasure in the next life.

If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time I suspect none of the ideas Alcorn presents will be new or surprising to you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read this book.  If you’re like me you often go about your day storing up treasures in this world while paying lip service to the next life, and I found The Treasure Principle to be the “shot in the arm” I needed to push me to the next step of faith in giving.

In The Treasure Principle  Randy Alcorn excels at encouraging the reader to shift their focus off the treasure of this world and on to the next.  I agree with Alcorn when he says in the book:

The fact that you’re reading these words is likely part of God’s plan to change your life–and in turn to change history and eternity.

Never condemning but often convicting, The Treasure Principle is a book every Christian ought to read while conducting a self-evaluation of where their treasure is being stored up. If you take the teachings of this book seriously you won’t be able to walk away unchanged.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click here to view the book on Amazon.

Book Review: “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely ConvertThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert recounts the unlikely story of Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion to Christianity. In the late ’90s, Butterfield was living a contented life as a lesbian professor of English at Syracuse University specializing in “Queer Theory.” Butterfield describes herself at the time as not just a lesbian, but a lesbian activist, who viewed Christians as “bad thinkers” and “bad readers” who “bring the Bible into a conversation to stop the conversation, not deepen it.”

Despite being entrenched in a worldview and lifestyle almost as far as one could be on the opposite end of the spectrum from classical Christianity, Butterfield’s intention to write a a book about the rise of the religious right set her down a path which ultimately led to her conversion to Christianity.  Along with that conversion she ultimately abandoned her lesbianism, feminism, and even her job to become, in her words, just as much of an “out Christian” as she had previously been an “out lesbian.”

But The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert ends up being about much more than just Butterfield’s conversion. I estimate that close to 50% of the book is about her post-conversion life as a member of the Reformed Presbyterian church, her marriage to pastor Kent Butterfield, adoption and foster care, and homeschooling. Most of this is simply Butterfield sharing the facts and events of her life with a light explanation of the Biblical ideals which have driven her in these directions after her conversion.

While I doubt someone in a similar position to Butterfield prior to her conversion would find the book to be a convincing case for converting to Christianity, I would guess that was not Butterfield’s intention in writing it.  Viewed as simply a autobiographical account of how God can work transforming miracles in even the most hardened sinner, I feel The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is a success. While I disagree with some of her theological positions–the view that church gatherings should only sing Psalms, for example–there are no issues serious enough to deter me from recommending this book to Christians or non-Christians.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click here to view the book on Amazon.