Monday, June 24, 2013

"Sex and Money" by Paul David Tripp: A Review

Sex and money - you don't have to look very far to see that we're in big trouble in both areas. . . . It's hard to listen to any cultural discussion of either area that isn't infected with either self-deception or distortion of reality. Neither sex nor money can deliver the promises that we think they're making, and each area is more dangerous than we tend to think. Both function today in the surrounding culture like spiritual solvents eating away at the very fabric of the human community. Both have the perverse power to master your heart and in so doing determine the direction of your life. Both give you the buzz that you’re in control; while at the very same time becoming the master that progressively chains you to their control. Both offer you an inner sense of well-being, while having no capacity whatsoever to satisfy your heart. Both seduce you with the prospect of contentment-producing pleasure, but both leave you empty and craving for more. Both hold out the possibility of finally being satisfied, but instead cause you to envy whoever it is that has more and better than you do. Both sell you the lie that physical pleasure is the pathway to spiritual peace. Both are work of the Creator’s hands, but tend to promise you what only the Creator can deliver. Both are beautiful in themselves, but have become distorted and dangerous by means of the Fall. (16-17)

 The two most prevalent gods worshipped in modern culture are without a doubt sex and money. Of course this is nothing new as most ancient cultures had identifiable gods of wealth and reproduction. In his book Sex and Money: Pleasures That Leave You empty and Grace That Satisfies (Crossway, 2013), Paul David Tripp guides the reader on how to understand the subduction of sex and money and how to overcome it with the gospel. This a primarily a book about how the gospel of Jesus Christ through the story of redemption as revealed in Scripture combats these two idols.

In his first chapter, the author highlights three words that come to mind when reflecting on the culture's worship of these two gods. These words are insanity, addition, and glory. To Tripp, the culture as gone insane over these two issues. Take sex and the elusive pursuit of beauty for example. He writes, Young girls today surely worry more about the beauty of their faces and the shape of their bodies than the do about he quality of their character (20). Regarding money, Tripp notes that in our denial we actually tink that the way to get ourselves out of the mess we hae spent our way into is by spending more. We are insane indeed! This all reveals one power truth:

. . . when it comes to sex and money we don't have a thing problem; the things (sex and money) are not evil in themselves. We don't have an environment problem, as if our surroundings casue the difficulty. No we are the problem. . . . Since we are the problem, we really have a problem. We can run from a thing, we can change a relationship, we can move to a different location, but we can't escape ourselves. (21)

Similarly, we are "addicted" to these two gods. Tripp notes when we when we turn to something or someone to give us only what God can deliver, when can either wisely abandon those hopes or, like a dog chasing his tail, keep trying to get that god to deliver. Regarding this addition, Tripp notes:

You see, whether we knot it or not, every human being lives in search of a savior. We are all propelled by a quest for identity, inner peace, and some kind of meaning and purpose. And we’ll all look for it somewhere. Here’s the bottom line: looking to creation to get what only the Creator can give you will always result in addiction of some kind. The thing that you hoped would serve you pulls you into its service. What seemed like freedom ends up being bondage. The thing is not the problem; what you’ve asked of it is. (23)

Finally, there is "glory." In short, Tripp argues that, like God, we seek glory. However, instead of seeking the glory of God in all things (When God created the world, he dyed it with his glory [23]), we seek to rob Him of His glory and take it for ourselves. This is what the worship of sex and money does. We become insanely addicted pursuing our own glory.

All of this means that we are sick and these two idols reveal our corrupt hearts. This means that all of our problems are primarily vertical and dividing life into secular/sacred dichotomy is unhelpful. From here the author discusses in some detail giving the reader a number of specific examples and providing the reader with biblical principles and theology to show how these two idols reveal our hearts and how the gospel is the remedy.

A look at the books content reveals that the author dedicates more space to the god of sex than that of money. That is not to say that sex is more problematic, but for Tripp, many of the challenges inherent in our obsession with sex are the same in our obsession with money and greed.

The reader should know that when Tripp speaks of sex and money, he speaks in general terms. Outside of defending sex as only right in marriage, he does not directly deal with the challenges of homosexuality, polyamory, polygamy, oral sex, etc. Tripp is not concerned necessarily with sexual sin and lifestyles, but with the god of sex in general. The same is true with money. He says little about tithing, giving to charity, interest rates, national debt, etc. His concern is with the general worship of money and how it destroys our lives.

In short, this is a book about idolatry with special emphasis on the two gods that consume us the most today. I highly recommend it. It is a great example to pastors on how to counsel and work with those they serve and it is a helpful guide for those enslaved to sin, idols, and sex and money. Freedom is found in Jesus Christ. That is good news indeed!

This book was provided for the purpose of this review by its publisher, Crossway Books.

For more:
"Who Do You Think You Are?" by Mark Driscoll: A Review
"Real Marriage" by Mark & Grace Driscoll 
"The Ring Makes All the Difference" by Glenn T. Stanton: A Review
"Gods at War" by Kyle Idleman: A Review
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