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Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power

Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power

by Richard J. Foster

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The Challenge of the Disciplined Life explores the three great ethical themes crucial to people of faith living faithfully. Drawing upon practical examples, Richard J. Foster guides the reader in day-to-day ethical decision making while helping each of us determine "the proper place in Christian life of money, sex, and power."


The Challenge of the Disciplined Life explores the three great ethical themes crucial to people of faith living faithfully. Drawing upon practical examples, Richard J. Foster guides the reader in day-to-day ethical decision making while helping each of us determine "the proper place in Christian life of money, sex, and power."

Editorial Reviews

Christian Century
The author's words on how giving can bring authenticity and vitality to a devotional experience are important to hear in this day in which once again there is increased emphasis on spiritul formation and devotional exercises.
Christian Bookseller
Foster leads the reader to a contemporary response influenced by a Christian world view and yet still appropriate for modern society.
Christianity Today
Earthly spirituality . . . full of common sense and good advice.
Book of the Year.
Ralph F. Wilson
Richard J. Foster gives you a front row seat in the three arenas where Christians still fight the lions . . . . Wrestling with the issues of money, sex, and power, [he] forges a truly Christian response.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Money, Sex and Power inChristian Perspective

It is vanity to seek riches that shall perish and to put one's hope in them. It is vanity also to aspire to honours and to climb to high degree. It is vanity to follow the lust of the flesh.

The crying need today is for people of faith to live faithfully. This is true in all spheres of human existence, but is particularly true with reference to money, sex, and power. No issues touch us more profoundly or more universally. No themes are more inseparably intertwined. No topics cause more controversy. No human realities have greater power to bless or to curse. No three things have been more sought after or are more in need of a Christian response.

The issues of money, sex, and power catapult us into the arena of moral choice. In this book I am seeking to describe how we are to live ethically, but I am not at= tempting to cover the waterfront of ethical inquiry, as one might do in a textbook on ethics. Instead, by dealing with three issues of such importance in modern society I hope to give clues for how we, as followers of Christ, are to handle the many ethical choices we must face daily.

In doing this I believe I am following the pattern of Christ himself. Jesus did not give detailed instruction on how we are to live in every corner of life. Instead he took the crucial issues of his day and showed how the gospel message bears upon them. And in this way he gave us paradigms for conjugating the many other verbs of ethical choice.

Jesus gave considerable attention to the themes ofmoney, sex, and power. Of the three, he spoke more about money and power than he did about sex, for the simple reason that sex was not the burning issue then that it has become in our day. Today, however, we must deal vigorously with the sex issue for there is obvious misery in modern society from a lack of subordination of eros to agape.


You may well wonder why I would choose to write a book on the specific topics of money, sex, and power. The answer is simple. Throughout history, and in our own experience, these issues seem inseparably intertwined. Money manifests itself as power. Sex is used to acquire both money and power. And power is often called "the best aphrodisiac." We could discuss at length the interlacing connections. There is, for example, an important relationship between sex and poverty: sex is the poor man's holiday and the poor woman's disaster. Note also the connection between power and wealth: power is frequently used to manipulate wealth, and wealth is used just as frequently to buy power. And on it goes. The truth is that it is not really possible (or even desirable) to unravel all the intricate ways money, sex, and power intertwine.

Another reason for writing on these themes is that the need is great today. We have gone through upheavals in our culture with regard to each of these issues. The time is right for an attempt to respond to the money--sex--power question. Christians need a fresh articulation of what it means to live faithfully in these areas, and those who are considering the Christian faith deserve some indication of what they might expect if they become followers of Christ.

I have a third reason for writing about these themes. Historically it seems spiritual revivals have been accompanied by a clear, bold response to the issues of money, sex, and power. This is true whether we think of the Benedictine movement, the Franciscan movement, the Cistercian movement, the Reformation movement, the Methodist movement, the modern missionary movement, or any number of other groups. When these revivals occur in a culture, there is a renewal of both devotional experience and ethical life. We need a modern-day renewal of spiritual experience that is ethically potent.


It is important right at the outset that we see the farreaching social implications of the issues with which we are dealing. These are matters that profoundly affect corporate and institutional, as well as private, life. The social dimension to money is "business"; for sex it is "marriage"; for power it is "government.'"

I am using the terms business, marriage, and government in their broadest , sense. Business refers to the task of bringing forth the goods and services of the earth either to bless or oppress humankind. Marriage refers to the human relationship par excellence that creates the context for either the deepest possible intimacy or the greatest possible alienation. Government refers to the enterprise of human organization that can lead toward either liberty or tyranny. Instantly you can sense that money, sex, and power are vital issues, not only to each of us as individuals, but to all human society.

Business, marriage, and government can be either a supreme benefit or a plague of monstrous proportions. And the variables that tip the scale one way or the other are more numerous and more complex than merely the character of the individuals involved. Our problems will not be solved simply by getting the "right" kind of people in business or government. That is certainly a good thing, but it does not guarantee that these institutions will serve humankind. Inherent within the institutional structures themselves are destructive forces that need to be transformed by the power of God if they are to benefit human society.


Money, sex, and power are three of the great ethical themes that have concerned human beings throughout the centuries. It was these three things that Dostoevsky dealt with so sensitively in his masterpiece The Idiot .z In this novel the Christ-figure, Prince Myshkin, is thrust into a culture obsessed with wealth, power, and sexual conquest. But the prince himself has no pride, no greed, no malice, no envy, no vanity, and no fear. His behavior is so abnormal that people do not know what to think of him. They trust him because of his innocence and simplicity, yet his lack of ulterior motives causes them to conclude that he is an idiot.

Meet the Author

Richard J. Foster is the author of several bestselling books, including Celebration of Discipline, Streams of Living Water, Life with God, and Prayer, which was Christianity Today's Book of the Year and the winner of the Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. He is the founder of Renovaré, an organization and a movement committed to the renewal of the church of Jesus Christ in all its multifaceted expressions, and the editor of The Life with God Bible.

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