Sex & Money: Pleasures That Leave You Empty and Grace That Satisfies

May 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

9781433536496For a while now, I’ve been a big fan of Paul Tripp’s books. Back in the fall I was able to read through his Dangerous Calling. Though I didn’t do a formal review, I did offer some extended thoughts on the book here and here. It is a book I think every pastor or potential pastor should read.

After having the opportunity to read Tripp’s latest, Sex & Money, I would say it qualifies for that list of books as well (which might make a future post, who knows). The target audience is much wider, but judging from recent pastoral failings here in Orlando, it is a book much needed by pastors. If you’re not a pastor, don’t let that stop you from picking up this book. Dangerous Calling was written espeically for pastors. This book is written espeically for people who live in a sex and money obsessed culture.

Tripp begins with a chapter explaining just how crazy our money-sex obsessed culture is. You hope his vignettes of disaster are made up for publication, but deep down you know that they are all probably true. After laying these paragraph long stories of money-sex insanity, Tripp explains briefly what the root problem is. We have a glory orientation and are addicted to looking for it in all the wrong places. Or as he puts it, “this side of eternity really is one big, unceasing glory battle.” (24)

Thankfully Tripp is not writing a purely descriptive book. Though he continues to explain our problem in chapters 2 and 3, it is all building up to chapter 4 where he points readers to the true nature of pleasure, which I think is worth quoting in full:

It is not an overstatement of a distant theological platitude to say that pleasure and its birth are in the mind of God. Legitimate pleasure of any type is God’s creation, and our ability to recognize and enjoy pleasure is the result of his design. There is no better place to see this and to trace its implications than to go back to the beginning, to the garden of Eden. I want to introduce you to the Eden hermeneutic. Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. You and I don’t live life based on the facts of our existence but on our unique and personal interpretation of the facts. Here’s how it works for our topic: if God created pleasure, then pleasure is not the problem. The problem comes when we understand pleasure in the wrong way and then involve ourselves in pleasure in ways that are the direct result of the wrong interpretation we have made. (56)

This is a key in all of Tripp’s books (the importance of how we interpret our life), but it is really central when it comes to how we understand sex and money. In both cases, as Tripp shows through his book, we are looking for ultimate pleasure in the wrong places and therefore we devolve into the sex-money crazed insanity that our culture perpetuates. Because those things can never truly satisfy, we are constantly looking for the next “glory-fix” through our pursuits and never quite attain it.

Having set this context, Tripp spends chapters 5-8 specifically focused on offering a correct, God-centered interpretation of sex and our lives as sexual beings. In short, since sex is about worship (chapter  6), relationship (chapter 7), and obedience (chapter 8) then it can’t just be about us. But the problem for many of us is that we try to do just that: make it all about us and our wants. Tripp carefully and pastorally tries to show readers a much better way.

Chapter 9 is a transition chapter, and then chapters 10-14 are focused on applying this same reinterpretation to our money problems. Playing a bit on a Josh Harris book title, Tripp points out that money is not the problem, love is. We spend money on what we love and so our poor spending habits reflect disordered loves. If we truly want to move forward, we need a heart change and a love re-orientation.

Conclusion

Like I hinted at in the beginning, this is a book for everyone. I think we could all use a re-orientation when it comes to what we love and where we seek ultimate pleasure. Tripp does a masterful job of providing pointed and persuasive biblical counsel on this issue. He is a great writer and is probably one of the best authors of practical theology books writing right now. Maybe that’s my own subjective assessment since Tripp has been so influential in both my and Ali’s life. But, I think anyone who has read of any of his other books will see the pastoral wisdom infused in them, and this book is no different.

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Nate

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I’m an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let’s connect!

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