Review of Money Enough by Douglas Hicks
Coolwater Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Douglas Hicks, ordained Presbyterian minister and professor of leadership studies and religion at the University of Richmond, has written an insightful, eminently readable exploration of the intersection of faith, ethics, and economics.
As adept at quoting Isaiah as Adam Smith, Hicks gently, yet persistently invites the reader to consider the manifold ways Christian values may inform one’s participation in the global economy. Counseling neither a rejection of the marketplace nor an uncritical acceptance of it, Hicks proposes a theologically-grounded third way that seeks “not to renounce the market but to humanize it” (Preface, xi). It is Hicks’ ability to “humanize” his subject with lively illustrations and pertinent vignettes that turns what might have been a daunting (and dry) foray into economic theory into a profitable read.
In the best sense of the word, this book preaches— Hicks exegetes the theological roots of his global economics ‘text,’ introduces a chorus of authoritative voices from Scripture, academy, and marketplace to speak to his subject, and then challenges readers to return to their daily economic activities of working, earning, shopping, and sharing with a renewed intentionality to do so faithfully. This is not a book to take to the beach. Neither does it offer ‘ten easy steps’ by which Stewardship Committees can increase pledges and better manage the general operating budget. It is rather a pastoral and prophetic voice inviting discerning minds to “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).
In the course of his reasoning Hicks raises more questions than he answers, but one puts down the book with the conviction that he is asking the right questions, even the righteous ones: What “capabilities” (i.e., health, nourishment, shelter, meaningful labor, dignity, supportive relationships, a sense of agency– being able to contribute to society) allow people to live abundant lives in a global economy? How do our patterns of earning, spending, giving, and sharing economic resources contribute to or detract from these capabilities? How much is enough? Enough of what? Enough for whom? Enough until when? Enough for what? One hears beneath all these questions Jesus’ enduring meta-question: “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Mt 16:26, NRSV).
This book would most profitably be studied in a small group of persons desiring to examine their lifestyles in light of the gospel’s overarching call for justice. It would have provided much fodder for the Sunday evening “Shalom Group” my wife and I were part of years ago in which we shared a simple meal with a handful of others followed by in-depth conversation focused on how we might spend our lives in ways that would lead us into deeper experiences of community, generosity, and joy. Hicks is a fellow pilgrim in the quest for truly abundant life for all whose testimony invites dialogue, discernment, and discovery.
Founding Pastor, Coolwater Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)