Book Review: Living in the light – Money, Sex & Power

Book reviewed by Author & Blogger Tim Challies

Money, sex, and power: three great gifts of God that can be used to such noble ends or abused to such ignoble ends. They can be harnessed to the greatest of good purposes or exploited to the most terrible of harmful purposes. All three are considered ghastly to some while they are worshiped as gods by others. This holy/unholy trio is the subject of John Piper’s latest book Living in the Light. While the book began as a series of conference messages, this is no lazy port from one format to another, but a careful, skillful rewrite and expansion.

Living in the Light Money, Sex & PowerPiper opens the book exactly as we might expect him to:

God did not conceive and create money, sex, and power simply to be a temptation. He had good purposes in mind. Money, sex, and power exist for the great aims of God in human history. They are not detours on the path to God-exalting joy. Along with all the rest of God’s good world, they are the path. With them, we can show the supreme worth of God. To show how that happens is one of the aims of this book. Therefore, the approach I take is to pursue the potentials of money, sex, and power as well as the pitfalls.

As he does so he demonstrates that “Money, sex, and power exist ultimately to show that God is more to be desired than money, sex, and power. That is, paradoxically, how they become most satisfying in themselves.” It is only when God is our greatest treasure and our purest pleasure that these three can take their rightful place.

First, the matter of definitions, for we cannot assume that we mean the same things even by such common terms. Money is a form of currency, of course, and a means of assigning value to objects or services, but it goes far deeper than that. “Money is one cultural symbol that we use to show what we value. It is a means by which we show where our treasure is; who our treasure is. The use of money is an act of worship—either of Christ, or of something else.”

Likewise, sex is far more than erotic stimulation or the desire for erotic stimulation. It “may be a good use of God’s good gift, or a merely selfish exploitation. What makes sex virtuous or a vice is not the pleasure, or the pursuit (to give it or get it), but something deeper. There are foundational issues of submission to the word of God and the condition of the heart.”

Power is the capacity to get what you want and “can be used to do evil or to do good. How you use your power shows where your heart is, what you love, what you treasure most—what you worship.”

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