Appetizers for Your Soul Food Diet

At the beginning of the year, we often focus on resolutions: exercising more, eating better, spending more time with our loved ones. So perhaps this is a good time for us to consider our spiritual diet, in particular the books we read (I’m hoping that you are a book reader; if not, we need to talk). Francis Bacon wrote “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Here are some chewy books that I recommend for your spiritual diet this year.

First, a book on work values (wait, don’t stop reading; it’s actually better than you might think): Timothy Keller’s Every Good Endeavor. As always, Keller’s erudition and philosophical bent come through, but the language is approachable and practical. This book addresses three key questions: Why do we want to work? Why is it so hard to work? How can we overcome the difficulties and find satisfaction in our work through the gospel?

He demonstrates from various strands of Protestant thought that work itself is not a curse; that we have been created to work, as our Creator does. He next points out how and why work becomes fruitless, pointless, selfish, and revelatory of our idols. Finally, he shows how the gospel gives us a new story for work, a new conception, a new compass, and new power for work.

The book contains a number of real life examples to demonstrate Keller’s points. I would highly recommend this book to any Christian who is serious about working for the Lord in his or her vocation, or thinking of changing vocation, or is about to enter the working world.

Next, a book on money values: Joe R. Kesler’s Smart Money With Purpose. You might think, what could be less spiritual than money? Kesler addresses that early in the book, showing that our attitude toward money is a diagnostic indicator of our spiritual values. He reacts against both prosperity theology and poverty theology, promoting stewardship theology (i.e., we are stewards of what God owns) as what the Bible teaches. Kesler writes from the perspective of a career community banker, an elder in his church, and one who quotes both John Calvin and the Westminster Shorter Catechism approvingly (sound like anyone you know?).

Topics covered in the book include: the spiritual aspects of money, financial planning, your relationship to money, managing money successfully in marriage, debt management, investing, joyful generosity, and your inheritance. Also, he places our interaction with money in the context of the larger questions: who are you before God, and how are you being a good steward of everything that God has entrusted to you?

Kesler also includes helpful suggestions for reading and discussing the book as a small group. This is a practical, thoughtful, well worth while book.

Finally, a book on life values: Kevin DeYoung’s The Hole in our Holiness. This slim volume has the potential to make a big impact on your life. The book’s thesis is that, while we appropriately celebrate what Christ has saved us from, we spend far too little time and effort on what Christ has saved us to. How should we as redeemed sinners live?

DeYoung helps us to see the reason why God redeemed us (that we would be holy); what holiness is not, and what holiness should look like; impetuses toward pursuing holiness (he lists 40 examples from the Bible); the pleasure of God and the possibility of godliness; the power of the Holy Spirit; implications of our union with Christ; and suggestions for progress in holiness.

The book is clear, straightforward, and practical. Be warned: as you read it, you will be shown the holes in your holiness! But you will also be shown the God who has saved you to be holy, wants you to be holy, and enables you to be holy.

Trying to be considerate toward your reading diet, I gave you three relatively slim books. If you’re hungry for more, I’m happy to oblige (now, where did I put my copy of Calvin’s Institutes?).

Steve Hoogerhyde is a Ruling Elder at GRC.