Making Life Rich Without Any Money. By Phil Callaway. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998. 255 pp. Paper, $12.99.
How can you enjoy your life without spending any money? That is the question Callaway seeks to answer for us with this vast assimilation of stories, tips, anecdotes and humorous narratives that seek to explain how we can lead a rich and fulfilling life. He has a lot to share, since the book is comprised of forty-six chapters, each loaded with several illustrations and accounts. Each chapter revolves around one of six messages Callaway is teaching here, all of which aim to help the reader to understand the main point of the book: that richness comes from living life well, not from your bank statement.
Expecting a book on personal finance, I was pleasantly surprised with the first few chapters as Callaway discussed the importance of both laughter and learning to slow down. But by the fifth or sixth chapter the book became tedious.
The author is both an accomplished speaker and writer, having penned some twenty or so works many of which deal with the need to view life’s ups and downs with a pair of positive lenses. But I suspect the material for his books, including this one, come from the hundreds of messages he gives each year as a traveling speaker. Simply put, each chapter reads as if it came from a speech, which by itself isn’t so bad. But Callaway is an expert at family-oriented humor, and thus he peppers each chapter with humorous lines and jokes. A lot of them. Every other line is a joke or exaggeration meant to induce laughter. While this may work for a live audience, sitting quietly in a study his jokes fall flat. Actually, they become irritating. Remember the guy you met at the party who really, really, really wanted to be funny? This is that guy. Suffice it to say, I was able to finish the book only after learning to skip every other line. Too much of a good thing is, well, too much.
Second, Callaway has a great message that believers in Christ can identify with, namely, that everything we own won’t count for a whole lot once we are dead. Yet despite such a positive message, his teachings aren’t much different from other religious authors save the last chapter or two. I believe this is on purpose, since he starts out with quite possibly hundreds of stories highlighting how there must be more to life than this, then narrows down his message to the fact that we will all die one day, that there is a God, and lastly that His Son is Jesus Christ, the author of true peace and happiness. While Callaway does limit his gospel response to simply “trust Jesus,” it is mentioned only in passing. Also, this only happens once, and the reader is left to wonder what we are trusting Christ for, exactly.
Third, since Callaway is writing to a broad audience he mentions the fact of eternity without any sense of future judgment. Why should I live differently than my neighbors? What is the goal for living life in light of eternity? The only reason Callaway gives is that you’ll enjoy life more if you do. Slowing down your work schedule will lead to fewer heart attacks. Quality time with the kids will pay off for you when they are older. Reasons such as these are the only ones given for taking a view on life much different than the world. While they may be true, the book is far too long to expound on such simple (and frankly, common sense) notions.
Minneola Community Church