Book Review: The Economics of Neighborly Love

I am very excited to introduce you to Tom Nelson’s newest book, The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing In Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity. I have had the privilege of meeting and working with Tom over the last few years. His writing and teaching have had a profound impact upon many.

Tom Nelson is the president of Made to Flourish, a network that empowers pastors to lead churches that produce human flourishing for the common good. He is also senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, KS where he has served for almost 30 years. He serves on the boards of The Gospel Coalition and Trinity International University. He is husband to Liz and father to two grown children.

I am always curious as to the author’s motivation for writing a book. Nelson answers this question in the book’s introduction.

By God’s grace over the past twenty years, the Sunday-to-Monday gap is beginning to shrink in the parish I serve, though we still have miles to go. In my conversations with other pastors and Christian leaders, I’ve come to see that my story of pastoral malpractice is not unique. It is tragically common. I now realize the gap is far bigger and more perilous than I first imagined. The rightful worship of God, the spiritual formation of God’s people, the plausibility and proclamation of the gospel, and the common good of our neighbors—both local and global—are crippled because we have long neglected to rightly understand how the gospel speaks to every nook and cranny of life, including our work and economic systems. Pastors and Christian leaders in all vocations are called to care for the vulnerable and to seek the flourishing of every image bearer of God. I hope this work will contribute to that high and holy task.

The purpose of this book is to communicate the seamless intersection of theology and economics. Tom laments the lack of such education in his training, and unfortunately the gap remains today for many pastors and church leaders.

The glaring irony is that Holy Scripture speaks a good deal about economic flourishing. Yet in our personal lives, in our congregations, and in our work, we all too often woefully neglect to connect the gospel of the kingdom with economics. This harms our witness, our cities, and our future. The church needs to address and begin the hard work of overcoming the perilous Sunday-to-Monday gap.

Throughout the book, Nelson seeks to share insights he has gleaned regarding economic well-being, fruitfulness, communities, economic injustice, generosity, wisdom, and work. Nelson seeks to make the case that economic flourishing emphasizes fruitfulness, not merely faithfulness. The book provides some practical aspects of what this looks like as it describes many different churches around the US. This book has received many favorable reviews and endorsements: 

“Nelson covers a wide range of topics from poverty to jobs and justice to entrepreneurship, providing a highly readable overview of biblically informed economic life. . . Implicit in the book is a much-needed correction to the church: we’ve far too long avoided the work of thinking well about economics, as though somehow that sphere is detached from our spiritual life. ” -Amy L. Sherman, Ph.D. author, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good

“Too often economic essays ignore biblical wisdom while theological reflections on human flourishing pay little attention to the potential of economic activity, especially the opportunity for people to serve others through marketplace endeavors. Nelson avoids both problems.” -P.J. Hill, professor emeritus of economics, Wheaton College

For several years I have watched this book being born, growing out of Tom Nelson’s remarkable work as a pastor in Kansas City, and increasingly as a teacher to the wider world. The Economics of Neighborly Love makes this simple argument: the everyday world is an economic world, and there are implications for who we are and how we live. …This is a book for everyone who cares about the moral meaning of the marketplace. -Steven Garber, , author of Visions of Vocation and professor of marketplace theology at Regent College

This desperately needed book shows that a concern for fruitfulness—relational and vocational—is a deep pattern running through Scripture, literally from beginning to end. -Greg Forster, director, Oikonomia Network, author of Joy For the World

I heartily recommend this book for your reading along with Tom’s previous book Work Matters. (By the way, the footnotes at the end of the book are a beautiful gift citing a whole host of additional books on the topics Nelson covers here.) Please contact my friend Byron Borger to order your copy.

Click here to read an interview with Tom Nelson published earlier this year regarding this book.

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