The Barefoot Disciple - Five Money Habits for Modern Disciples 

by Yoël Frank (Indie)

Although not associated with Scott Pape’s bestselling book The Barefoot Investor, The Barefoot Disciple uses the same no-shoe imagery to approach the contentious topic of money in a straightforward manner. Author Yoel Frank wants us to consider why we aren’t living financially radical lives. He starts with hard lines in the sand, and expands on them with more room for nuance and context as chapters unfold. He does it bluntly and, at times, abrasively, to make us question why we’re so reluctant to let go of money – a good thing for all Western Christians to ponder. 

Live off a minimum wage?

The book investigates why we spend our money the way we do, so time for reflection is necessary. Frank starts by challenging every reader to live off the minimum wage and donate the rest. Can we live off less than we do now and give away more?

His five principles are biblical and attack our biggest idols: comfort, greed, security… stuff. We’ve made ourselves so comfortable we can easily switch off and forget that whole families around the world struggle for shelter, safety, food and fresh water. In Australia, we take access to fresh water for granted, to the point that we use it to flush our toilets. It is a sobering perspective about how rich we truly are. Frank is so committed to this idea of using excess for kingdom good that he donates profits from the book to the many causes mentioned within it. 

It’s refreshing to read tips for money management that don’t  focus on setting up for a comfortable retirement and a few lattes along the way. Instead, Frank wants us to be savvy stewards of God’s resources, finding ways to save, spend and invest that have the biggest spiritual impact. He challenges our idea of generosity so that gospel projects can be funded, the word of God will spread and the people of God provided for. He talks through investments and long-term financial goals, asking us how we can love our neighbours as ourselves along the way. All good challenges! 

A percentage problem

The section on tithing is where the book stumbles. It’s one of the few false steps it makes, but navigating tithing can be so tricky that it’s worth investigating. Frank starts off well, arguing that the age-old 10 per cent rule was only abolished by Jesus to encourage generosity. Ten per cent was a good guide, but it was never meant to be the maximum sacrificed for the kingdom. As all money belongs to God, the question we should be asking is, “How generous can I be?” 

Yet he adds that “for a modern Australian there is no scenario in which giving less than 10 per cent is justified” – going as far as saying we should give 10 per cent, even if this means not paying rent, not eating one day a week, or asking for financial assistance from government, friends, family or church. 

How much should we give?

I’m no financial expert, so I called Arya Darmaputra for his thoughts. He is director of outreach and planning for Thesauros Consulting, a Christian organisation that assists individuals and churches with godly stewardship. 

“God loves a cheerful giver,” he says. “Our giving is now not under compulsion or under the law [in the New Testament], it’s something we do as a response to what God has given to us. 

“Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8 [that] giving is not a command… but it is a test of sincerity. If we say we love God and Christians, supporting the gospel and the kingdom is our number one priority. If we aren’t joyful in giving, the problem is not solved by giving more. The problem is our hearts, and we have to take a step back and self-examine.”

Darmaputra says it’s right to use what God gives us to meet our basic needs. Those of us with disposable income should then consider carefully how to use any funds that remain. He suggests matching what we give with what we spend on luxuries and nice-to-haves, a practice he incorporates into his own budget.

“How are you seeking to [put] the kingdom first in your finances?” he asks. “If you spend $10,000 a year on holidays, and $5000 on eating out and streaming services, but then can’t afford to spend $300 a week on giving to church and ministries, you need to step back and reprioritise. It’s up to the individual to work out how to do that.” 

Pondering my own purchases

Aside from the small section on tithing, the book had me asking hard and helpful questions. Can I truly live on less? When I do spend, am I doing it as missionally as possible? Am I making decisions based on what is easiest, or because it has the most impact for the kingdom of God? How would my spending look if I was saving, budgeting and investing with a kingdom-first mindset? 

This book can help every Christian, especially those in their twenties and thirties, so we can all make as much kingdom impact as possible with what God has given us.