Joe Rigney wrote this book in 2015. It was published by Crossway. John Piper, a respected pastor, wrote the foreword. Other Christian leaders like Douglas Wilson, Michael Reeves, and John Frame highly recommended the book.
Joe Rigney is a Pastor at Cities church and an assistant professor of theology and literature at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He is the author of Live Like a Narnia, C.S. Lewis on the Christian life, and his more recent book, “Strangely Bright.” He is a popular speaker at the Desiring God conference and an expert on C.S. Lewis.
As believers, we have heard so much about the importance of self-denial. We know that it is quite easy to worship the creature rather than the creator and fall into all kinds of idolatry. Calvin once remarked that the heart of man is an idol-making factory.
In our bid to stem the tide of idolatry, we have forgotten passages like 1 Timothy 4:17, where Paul reminds us that it is God who “lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” In our attempt to pursue self-denial, we have forgotten that “everything God created is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving because it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4).
He aims to help us develop a more biblical approach to the things of earth. His goal is to help us see that when we turn our eyes on Jesus, the things of earth will grow strangely bright in the light of God’s glory and grace.
Joe begins by challenging our current approach to the things of the world. He lays out two ways of viewing God’s relationship with his gifts: the comparative approach and the integrated approach. In the former, we realize that when we compare the value of the things of earth to the glory of God, they are like dung. Compared to the glory of God, the entire creation is nothing but dust. If we are thinking about God’s gifts in this comparative sense, then we should value God alone above all things.
However, Joe argues that there is an integrated approach where we “integrate our joy in God and our joy in his gifts, receiving the gifts as shafts of his glory.” In this integrated approach, we receive the gifts as communicants of God’s glory; we enjoy God in everything and everything in God.
Joe suggests that we should live our lives on this integrated approach, but we should use the comparative approach as a test to ensure that our sinful heart is not falling to the idolatry of worshipping the gifts rather than the giver.
In the rest of the book, he builds a convincing case for this approach and addresses issues like suffering (when we lose God’s good gifts), generosity, death, and self-denial.
Why I love this book
- Its timeliness
The book came at the right time in my life. It made a huge impact. It is one of the books that have made the greatest impact on my life. It helped me to understand God’s call on me as a believer living in between paradise lost and paradise restored. It was a complete turnaround.
- Its balanced approach
Things of Earth approached this topic with careful theological balance. He is able to confront the false self-denial that applies the comparative approach as the standard outlook to life. However, he does this while helping us to understand the realities of idolatry and how the comparative approach can help keep our hearts away from idolatry. The integrated approach that Joe argues in this book helps us to see the world God created in a new and life-changing way.
- Dealing with the difficult issues
One of the great aspects of this book is how Joe anticipates objections at different points and faces difficult questions. He addressed various difficult questions relating to self-denial, suffering, the loss of good things, idolatry, among others. Joe is not afraid to examine the difficult questions and bring biblical answers to bear upon those inquiries.
While this book is about the things of earth, it is really a book about God’s glory. The more we learn to enjoy God in his gifts, the more we bring glory to his name and the more of his glory we come to enjoy.
Joe helps us to answer many of the practical questions that bother our minds around this topic. His aim is not only to set out theological arguments but also to see how those theological arguments enrich our lives in our daily activities. To accomplish this, he employs many examples from daily life – food, sports, family, relationships, entertainment, etc., to set out the practical outworking of this theology.
- Theological richness
The theology in the first four chapters of the book is golden. Joe digs in to unravel theological truths about the triune of God. His understanding of God’s work in creation is so enriching. The theological foundation he set before establishing the biblical teaching about the things of earth is a worthy read
Why you should read it
- It will change your life
If you are Christian and you wonder how you are to live in this world and interact with the good gifts that God has given (and gives) us, this book will change your life. If you are tempted to see any time not spent in prayer and bible study as worthless or time-wasting, this book will give you new (biblical) perspectives. If you do not see any connection between your call to live as a pilgrim and the hours you spend in sporting activities, this book will open new vistas of thought. If you wonder how you can enjoy God’s good gifts and not become idolatrous (many of us already are), this book will help you see the biblical approach
- Easy to read
Authors like Joe Rigney will help you see that a book can be theologically rich and easy to read. He communicates his message in a simple language that will help you quickly grasp the concepts.
The practical applications and examples will improve your understanding and enable you to see how all of it applies to your daily life.
- Biblical and God-centered
Joe makes sure that he makes and builds his point on sound explanation and application of relevant scriptural passages and themes. He is not a motivational speaker or a secular hedonist. Instead, he makes a biblical case for the integrated approach to seeing the relationship between God and his gifts.
48-page Excerpt: https://store.faithlafayette.org/content/Things_of_Earth_Excerpt.pdf