Review of Chapter Six in the Book “Radical” by David PlattDecember 3, 2011
This chapter is better written than the rest and gives us a real sense that the author himself is still working through some of the issues he writes about. Recently, I read the life story of Jacey Duggard, the girl who was kidnapped from her home and held captive for over 10 years. A year after escaping, she wrote her autobiography. At the time, I thought the book was premature. It would be much more helpful if it had been written at least five years later. But I now believe she wrote it to help herself work through the pain of what she went through. I feel the same way about this book. It might have been a more helpful book had it been written ten years from now. But, I believe Platt wrote this because he is working through a lot of these issues himself. This chapter reveals that quite clearly.
Key Theme of the Chapter: This chapter focuses on how we use our money. Specifically, it focuses on the greater needs of poverty, sickness and disease around the world and how believers often have a blind spot when it comes to addressing those needs. Our wastefulness and decided neglect of the poor will come back to bite us some day.
Best Parts of this Chapter: I like how he brings out the decisions that John Wesley made about money. Wesley is often quoted as saying: “As followers of Christ, we must work hard to make money. We must live simply and give as much as we can away”. It is a simple formula, but profound. Platt’s best point revolves around that one. We can and should live more simply and deliberately than we do. We can and should consider our money and what can be done regularly to give away as much as possible to the needs of the poverty-stricken. He also shows the hardest part of this equation: We are often blind to our own selfishness and will not see what we are not seeing until it gets critical in our backyards.
Weaker Points of the Chapter: His use of two Scripture passages is less skilled than it should be. First, the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, as heard by his Jewish listeners, is not primarily about being judged for how we use our finances. The chapter has more to do with where we put our trust than on how we use our money. The rich man trusted in his riches and Lazarus trusted in the Lord. The Rich man was not in torment because he was rich and ignored the poor, but because he never gave God a second thought. This also ties into the second passage Platt does a poor job with. The story of the Rich Young Ruler is all about a man who could not see his overwhelming greed and love of possessions and money. When Jesus tells him that he should sell it all and give the money to the poor, the key to it all is the last part: “Then come follow me”. It is the relationship with Jesus that compels us to care for those in need, not the command to sell everything. He went away sad because he loved his wealth. Anyone who loves wealth more than God needs to give it away so he can start from scratch again. Platt hints at that, and this could have been a better chapter if he spoke about listening to the Holy Spirit when he leads us to care for another in need.
My Personal Takeaway: I realize as a leader in God’s church that we spend so much time, money and energy on feeding ourselves and making things better for ourselves than we do at taking care of what God wants. In reflection today, I am asking myself what God really wants me to do with my time and if I am really just giving the “scraps” to God or the “best offering”.