Money, sex, and power are three things most people of the world desire abundantly and selfishly. But what about the Christian? How should they view them? Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power by John Piper reminds the Christian that these are good gifts from God. It is how we use and abuse them that turns them into idols used for our own gain instead of God’s glory. Piper writes:
“…money, sex, and power are, from the beginning, gifts of God-good gifts of God. And if they sink us, it isn’t because God gave us bad gifts; it’s because something happened inside us to turn gifts of grace into instruments of sin, into altars and incense in the temple of pride.”
With Romans 1 as a key passage, Piper shares some basic definitions in chapter 1. Based on this passage his definition of sin is “any feeling or thought or action that comes from a heart that does not treasure God over all things.” He continues this in chapter 2 by applying Romans 1 in relation to the pleasure-destroying dangers of sex. Romans 1:23 tells us that those who claimed to be wise, became fools, and exchanged the glory of God for images (idols).
“When you exchange something, you express your preference. You express your greater desire.”
I found the word “exchange” in that sense to take on a whole new meaning. We are not just exchanging to work late for more money instead of coming home to our family; we are preferring money over time with our family.
Piper continues with the dangers of money in chapter 3. He explains the meaning of the word covet found in the last of the ten commandments. It simply means “desire.” We are not to desire anything that would cause us to lessen our contentment in God. He uses well-known Bible passages to argue that God should be our refuge, comfort and peace not money. For instance, from Luke 14:16-24:
“Two out of the three excuses which these people give for not coming to the banquet of everlasting joy are money-related: I bought. I bought.”
The servants invited to the banquet preferred their purchases over the satisfying banquet of God.
Next Piper looks at the dangers of power. Our power can be used for good or bad and for selfish or God-glorifying means. He uses a few examples of the disciples and their own desire for power. The power they desired was self-focused.
“If we were stunned by and satisfied with Christ, our craving for self-exalting power would be broken. We would be set free from the universal human sickness of self-centeredness.”
Any power we may have is given to us by God and should be used to make Him known, not ourselves.
Now that Piper has shared on the evils of money, sex and power, he will tell us how we can be delivered from their hold over our lives. The beauty of this deliverance is the gospel. Our deliverance is found in our justification, new birth and sanctification.
“The ongoing miracle that God works by his Spirit is that we become increasingly like the one we admire and enjoy-him.”
The last chapter exhorts us on how to use these three things as one who lives in the light and wants to glorify Him. In Piper’s conclusion he writes:
“They are God’s gifts for our good and the good of the world. It is part of God’s grace that his gifts for our good are also for his glory. When we learn to enjoy him in and above them all, these gifts will find their fullest goodness, and shine for his greatest glory.”
Piper as always points us to Christ and reminds us to keep Him at the center and find our satisfaction in Him.
I highly recommend this short book of only six chapters. It would be a great book to recommend for someone who hasn’t read John Piper before. But really is there anyone out there who hasn’t read one of his books? Oh, I suppose there is…