Book Review: The Man Who Quit Money

Money is the root of all evil – an oft quoted maxim that no one I know actually believes.  Belief would lead to action, lead toward an avoidance of the cause of evil, a shunning at least, and if you were an evangelical par chance, maybe even a well organized boycott.

And yet no one I know personally or whom I’ve read about in story has actually quit money.

No one until today.

In The Man Who Quit Money, author Mark Sundeen tells the subversive, interesting and unsettling story of Daniel Suelo.

In the autumn of 2000, Daniel Suelo deposited his worldly wealth – all thirty dollars of it – in a phone booth.  He has lived without money ever since.  And he has never felt so free – or at peace.

So begins the masterfully written story of Daniel Suelo.  Sundeen mixes personal interviews, philosophical extrapolations of the money systems of our world, spiritual journeys, analogies and personal reflection in the telling of Suelo’s twelve years lived without earning even one dime.

While Daniel Suelo’s life is one that few will desire to emulate – he lives in a well stocked cave, eats food found in dumpsters or found in the wild and has no plan for retirement – there is a certain freedom in his bohemian existence that is to be admired.

Living outside of Moab, Utah, he has a rich social life, eats well and maintains a blog from the public library.  Daniel is not one to just pull away from society to live a hermit life of solitude.  Rather, he has decided that living in what he perceives as a broken system is no longer an option.  And so while others work to reform the system, he has decided to live without it.

Suelo’s philosophy on money is highly nuanced, influenced from both the right and the left and in that sense both Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street folks can find kinship in his presence.  His influences include Abbie Hofman, John Birch Society Member, C. Edward Griffin and political reporter for The Nation, William Greider.

He is also influenced by eastern Buddhism, Hinduism, and his own roots, Christianity and the teachings of Jesus.  The son of Plymouth Brethren parents, Suelo abandoned much of his Christian faith on life’s journey.  He embraced an alternative lifestyle, wrote his own theology and wandered the globe in search of enlightenment.

This spiritual journey was of great interest to me as it chronicled this man’s abandonment of the faith his parents professed.  As someone who desires to encourage young men and women to grow in their own faith in Christ, Daniel Suelo’s journey is one from which many lessons can be observed.

His thirst for truth was meted out in the beginning on the Boulder University campus where the Campus Crusade and Inter Varsity groups he had  joined were ill prepared for questions he asked and the spiritual dilemmas he faced.  For him, Evangelicalism was not a safe place to bring his doubts and questions.

Issues of money and greed were especially troubling to him as he observed Christians mixing the American Dream and the faith they professed into a strange brew that little resembled the Jesus he read about in the Bible.

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air;  they do not sow or reap or store away in the barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them . . . who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?


It was Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount however that eventually convinced him that he actually could give up money.  He’d been hanging on to his last fifty dollars in case of an emergency, something big.  When he left those last thirty dollars in a phone booth in Pennsylvania though, he stepped permanently out of the money system that rules the world and into the life of dependence;  dependence on the goodness of others and for Suelo, of fate.

The story of Daniel Suelo is an interesting one.  As someone who has a subversive streak myself, I enjoyed the questions that this book posed, and left it with new questions of my own.  Sundeen’s writing is well woven, inviting and at 259 pages, can be tackled in a week of reading.

If you are interested in learning a bit more, be sure and watch the video above from the BBC.

I found this book at our great small town library.  You can also order it from Amazon HERE. [affiliate link]

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