The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant
I received a copy of this book when I was out in Nashville getting trained as a financial coach by Dave Ramsey’s team. (Actually, I received a half-dozen books for free while I was there. That was pretty awesome.) If you are an employee at his company, then this book is required reading. That sounded like a ringing endorsement to me, so I moved it to the top of my reading list. At 160 pages, I found it an easy read, and I was able to tear through it in less than a day.
At its heart, this novel is trying to impart twelve principles that are to be the building blocks of a successful life. The author, Terry Felber, has couched these principles in the fictional story of a grandfather retelling his history as a lifelong merchant to his grandson who is about to enter the marketplace. The story is set in and around Rome in the 16th century, but the setting merely serves as a painted canvas backdrop for the conversations between the main characters. The struggles of a young merchant learning to become a success in business while serving his Maker are what takes center stage.
Antonio turned the page of the book in his hands and laid it down on the table in front of him. With his eyes still connected with Julio’s, he spun the book around so it faced his grandson.
“This is the first secret to success,” he said as he pointed to the only writing on that page. Julio looked down at the book and read the words out loud.
Each of the book’s twelve principles are taught within the context of how they were learned by the old merchant, and the story flows very smoothly from tale to tale. Felber is clearly making the case that being in business, either as an owner or employee, is a spiritual action. Our work is a form of worship, and we are honoring our God by serving our customers. Work is a ministry, no matter what the profit margin is.
Unfortunately, the simple wording of a few of Felber’s principles can be misinterpreted. For example, the first principle is “Work hard and God will prosper you.” That can easily be taken to mean that God delivers riches to those that please him. That’s not biblical, and within the context of the story, it isn’t what is being said. Based on my reading of the book, I seriously doubt that Felber is pushing a prosperity gospel. He simply wants us to approach work, money, and business with the right attitude.
“Antonio, you have done well. You have followed your passion and built a great empire to the glory of God. You have used your gifts and talents to serve people and to extend the reach of your influence. Now it is time for you to reach up.”
I recommend The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant. It’s not a perfect book, but what is being shared is a great introduction to the concepts of work as ministry and biblical money management. The simple language and short length make it a quick read and easily accessible by young men and women in your life. I’d encourage you to get the version that includes the forward by Dave Ramsey, as his take on the material does a good job of setting the tone for the book and is well worth the read.
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