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Words of Abundance

Your Host, Randy Petrick
  • Writer's pictureRandy Petrick


Updated: Jul 12

John Cortines and Gregory Baumer’s “God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School”

Book Review by Randy Petrick, ChFC, RICP

In "God and Money," John Cortines and Gregory Baumer offer a unique perspective that beautifully intertwines faith and finance. As a Chartered Financial Consultant, I've delved into countless financial books, including many on Christian principles. Let me tell you, "God and Money" has secured a spot in my personal Top Five Christian books on finance. This very readable gem overflows with profound insights and practical wisdom. It resonated with me like no other financial book in quite a long while.  

[An aside: Don’t let the subtitle, “How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School,” put you off as it did me. The book arose from a class at Harvard Divinity School titled “God and Money.” During the authors’ research for the class, they discovered through surveys that God’s people are hungry for more discussion on generosity. So, they synthesized their findings into the framework that became this book.]

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What I liked best:

Cortines and Baumer emphasize the importance of aligning our financial decisions with our faith, emphasizing the values of stewardship, generosity, and contentment. They lay a solid foundation by highlighting our role as stewards of God's resources, a perspective that shapes every financial choice we make. I applaud Cortines and Baumer for starting the discussion of money and finance from a stewardship perspective—they started winning my heart right off by doing so.

Another significant aspect that sets "God and Money" apart from the norm is Cortines’ and Baumer's genuine transparency as they share stories from their financial journeys throughout the book. Their willingness to be open about their struggles with wealth makes the book relatable and exceptionally inspiring. Their authenticity struck a chord, causing me to pause and reflect on my financial attitudes and behaviors. This book can make a difference in your life, just as it did in mine. (See summary at the end.)

Beyond its thought-provoking nature, "God and Money" offers practical guidance and insightful analysis that can readily be applied to our lives. It's not just a book of theories but a guide that will help you reevaluate your relationship with money and discover how it can be a tool for serving others and positively impacting the world.

I liked the way Cortines and Baumer started down that path with their definition and explanation of the word stewardship:

“Stewardship is the active and responsible management of God’s creation for God’s purposes. The key distinction in this revised definition is an impetus for action. Stewardship requires that we actively engage in the utilization and distribution of God’s resources to accomplish His objectives. This includes giving, but also entails so much more: praying for wisdom in allocating His resources; providing leadership to organizations (church or para-church) that are utilizing or distributing those resources; and directly utilizing or distributing those resources ourselves. A steward is not just responsible for collecting and distributing funds; he is also responsible for how those funds are used – indeed, for the actual outcomes obtained through the use of those resources.” (47)

Cortines and Baumer fearlessly tackle tough questions, addressing the dangers of materialism and our perception of "enough."

A red question mark in neon lights against a black background

For example, how should a 21st-century Christian think about buying a house? How “nice” of a house can a Christian buy without crossing the principles of gratitude and generosity to which he knows he should adhere? … This book is intended to help answer questions such as these. It is intended to evaluate the more granular wealth-and-giving issues of Christian life.” (9)

Mission Accomplished! I enjoyed and appreciated how they approached questions like this from both sides to reach their answers. I also appreciated that each chapter ends with valuable takeaways and reflection questions encouraging you to apply the principles they discuss.

What I liked least:

I'm just bummed that both Baumer and Cortines are millennials. Don’t get me wrong—I love millennials! These two are so wise for their ages; I only wish I could hear the additional wisdom they will gain over the coming 20-30 years!

Why this book has moved into my top 5 Christian financial books:

Like all its competitors, this book starts with a foundation of Biblical principles. Cortines and Baumer state their goal for the book (page 8) as “to create a very practical, pragmatic framework for making the real-life decisions that most Western Christians will have to make.” Goal achieved. For the following 50 pages, they successfully distill all of God’s teachings on wealth and money down to the seven principles that enable them to live out what they see as God’s overall message.

Where they began moving into my all-time top 5 was on page 62, when they hit me with this thought:

“We began to coalesce around the insight that a faithful reading of Scripture leads not to the question “How much should I give?” but rather to the question “How much do I need to keep? Flipping the question this way is a very countercultural thing to do, even within the church. But it is exactly the mindset we must embrace to truly honor God through our generosity.”

Wow! I'm mind-blown. What a fantastic concept to intentionally limit our lifestyle or net worth to give more generously. My wife and I (like one of the book’s survey respondents) have now set a “finish line” for our retirement savings. Once our savings hit that number, we plan to stop saving and turn any further gains on our fund into money to be given away.

'God and Money' can revolutionize your financial attitudes and behaviors, empowering you to establish a healthier and more meaningful connection between your faith and your finances. If you're seeking a book that will guide you toward living out your beliefs in a tangible and impactful way, I wholeheartedly endorse this exceptional work.

A partial picture of a man showing from below the neck to his extended arm. He is wearing a dark green suit and tie and there are five golden stars floating above his extended hand.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (and then some!).

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