Book Review: “The God Guarantee: Finding Freedom from the Fear of Not Having Enough”
The God Guarantee: Finding Freedom from the Fear of Not Having Enough
by Jack Alexander, foreword by Timothy Keller (Baker Books, 2017)
Available at Cokesbury
The conversation about stewardship now centers on holistic giving, generosity that encompasses all aspects of life. Rather than segmenting the life of faith into compartments, Jack Alexander faces the overarching problem of anxiety. Christians may feel stuck in doubt that seems like a roadblock: how can I be sure that God will take care of me and my loved ones if I give everything back to God?
Alexander tackles the source of this problem by naming two prominent falsehoods in our culture: scarcity—thinking that there is no God or that God doesn’t care about our struggles—and “prosperity” theology, believing that God rewards us only in proportion to what we give him or those who claim to represent God (28-31). People of faith must be wise, attuned to messages that counter God’s grace. Alexander offers reassurance of God’s promises, providence, and power. He seeks to addresses the nuances of these complex issues. He includes realistic stories of experiences from his life and those of friends about times when prayers were not answered as expected. Ultimately, his message is hopeful, based on the good news of Christ.
After a successful career in business, Alexander founded the Reimagine Group, creators of high-quality Christian videos, Bible studies, and worship resources. These productions address Christians seeking to live generously in the midst of the busyness of today’s world. The goal is to assist people to recognize how they have been uniquely blessed in order to bless others in practical, life-transforming ways.
Inspired by an analysis of the sacraments offered by the biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann, Alexander discerns “God’s pattern of provision” (29-38) in Scripture. This pattern is found in Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fish in the Gospels, and in four other New Testament passages. The steps are to take, bless, break, and give. Alexander applies this process to God’s actions and our responses in our life of giving (34-36). First, we take what we have and discover capacity, the ability for us to give and God to extend the blessing. Next, we consecrate or dedicate what we have by inviting the Lord to take charge of it. Along the way in our faith journey, we will face brokenness, as God reorders our lives through challenges, like biblical experiences of the wilderness. Then we are free to give joyfully as God opens our eyes and hearts to opportunities, often through relationships with others in our community.
A key concept is capacity. In Alexander’s view, it is far more expansive than the secular idea of potential. He explains, “Living within God’s capacity changes the entire conversation. … in regard to God’s purposes, everything we are and everything we have can be more” (48). Our acts of faithful giving reach much further because we participate in what God is doing. We can genuinely trust that when we willingly present ourselves and our resources “and look to God, with faith in his provision and a commitment to his plan, he will provide for us” (51). God is able to “show us something new—or something familiar in a new, redemptive way—over and beyond what we can see with our human eyes” (51). Focusing on God shifts our perspective, so that the “orbit” of our lives is no longer ourselves but God and God’s will (161-167).
Readers will find engaging insights about Scripture and connections to current events in Alexander’s work. For example, he considers what would have happened if Jesus’ disciples chose not to pass the baskets of bread and fish to the crowd, but kept the blessing for themselves (163). He views Jesus’ greatest commandments–to love God and our neighbor–as a life-long call that involves “continuously expanding and building our capacity to love” (56). We are in a relationship with a loving God, who “desires for his love to compel [us] to outserve, outhonor, and outlove one another” (56), noble goals. Alexander urges us to move beyond “transactional” to relational generosity (183-185). As God makes us aware of people’s needs that we could meet, we, as individuals and as part of the church, may live more fully into the biblical ideal of caring “one to another” (181-188).
Each chapter concludes with a brief section for reflection on “God’s Rhythm of Provision for You.” Discernment questions help readers determine where, on a scale from one to ten, they are currently in terms of living the quality of faith discussed in the chapter. Readers have the option of taking the quiz online or posting their score on the website. By doing so, readers gain access to an excellent ten-minute video in which actors embody a contemporary take on a biblical theme described in the book. The video would be a wonderful discussion-starter. A complete set of accompanying resources is available for purchase on the website for small groups or a congregation-wide emphasis.