John Thornton Talks About New Book, Jesus' Terrible Financial Advice

by Logan Cain

John Thornton, Ph.D., CPA, is professor and chair of accounting ethics at Azusa Pacific’s LP and Timothy Leung School of Accounting, and author of Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice: Flipping the Tables on Peace, Prosperity, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

What inspired you to write Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice?

Early in our marriage, Alyssa and I had left our professional financial careers to free up time for more meaningful lives. Though our budget called for us to live at just half the national poverty line, six years later our family had doubled, our net worth had doubled, and we had vacationed from Disneyworld to Maui—three times! I wanted to tell everybody, “We did it, and so can you!” So I set out to write a book about God’s perspective on money. But Jesus’ terrible financial advice ruined my book.

Why do you call Jesus’ financial advice “terrible”?

Webster gives three definitions of terrible, from “strongly repulsive” to “very shocking and upsetting” to “formidable in nature.” The root word is terror, from which we get terrible, terrifying, and terrific. So when Jesus tells us to, “Give to everyone who asks,” we think, “I’d be broke in a day!” And we are terrified when we realize Jesus really means it: “God, increase my faith.” Only when we align our purpose with Jesus’ purpose—to glorify His Father—does His financial advice become terrific.

The book mentions that Jesus’ words “turn conventional Christian wisdom on its head.” How does His advice challenge the status quo?

If your financial plan starts with getting out of debt and ends with retirement, you’ve missed that God offers so much more. Of 1,300 passages on wealth in the Bible, only one half of one verse warns us, “The borrower is slave to the lender.” So get out of debt if you can, but God’s peace is available now regardless of your financial position. To be truly prosperous, our riches must go beyond ourselves and beyond this world; nobody takes it with them when they die.

What kind of purpose should we expect to gain by following Jesus’ advice?

Everybody wants to live a life that matters, full of meaning and purpose. Yet, we are deceived whenever we think we have a better plan for our lives than God does. Money offers what only God can give, but on our terms. So we love it, or fear it—either way it masters us. Our hearts should belong to God alone. What would it look like if we followed Jesus’ financial advice? In a worst-case scenario, we might look a lot like him.

What are some ways we could start practically applying Jesus’ advice today?

Do something. Do it right. And be generous. These are the three biggest themes in Proverbs connecting wisdom to wealth. Everybody recognizes the prodigal son as a fool, for squandering his inheritance in wild living. But many of us work hard, secretly longing to waste the second half of our lives. Jesus calls out a successful farmer who wanted to do just that. “To whom much has been given, much is expected.” Now is our time to walk as Jesus did.

Logan Cain '18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. He is a biblical studies and humanities major in the Honors College.