The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant | Terry Felber

Author: Terry Felber
Author: Terry Felber

Main Theme: Successful Living
For People Who: Need to see their job and money in the marketplace as ministry.

I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan, so when I saw that he recommended The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant: Twelve Keys to Successful Living I put it on my list immediately. The first half of the book is a story that introduces twelve keys to successful living. The second half of the book is a small group study guide that walks through each of these principles, using the story as the illustration. The book is written from a Christian perspective and is aimed at Christians who are in “the marketplace” – (that’s Christian-ese for ‘work regular jobs throughout the week that are outside the church). While I personally don’t agree with a few of these principles, as a whole, they can be helpful for those who think that because they aren’t a “pastor” they are not ministers. The book makes a wonderful case that we each have our purpose and passion in life that ought to be purposed to honor and glorify God.

Many men have robbed themselves of their destiny because they have allowed discouragement to rob them of their dreams. –The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant, pg. 68


  • See your challenges as blessings that help you get better. When a giraffe is born it’s mother kicks it until it gets up. Then kicks it again to knock it down. This enables the baby giraffe to learn quickly how to get up, stand, and walk/run in a world of lions, hyenas, and leopards. Being knocked down makes us stronger and better in the long run.
  • When you lend someone money it stresses the relationship – often to the breaking point. If you want to help someone out, simply GIVE them the money. But remember not to enable a persons’ bad behavior – it may be the challenge they need to get better themselves.
  • When you discover your vocation (your calling in life) it’s not work. When you are passionate about what you do each day, you’ll love spending time doing it.
  • The Bible doesn’t command Christians to take a vow of poverty. Money is amoral, which means it has no morality. What you do with money can be immoral. But money itself is not immoral. Jesus told one man to go sell everything he had, he didn’t tell the crowd to do likewise.
  • When you budget your finances, live beneath your means and work hard; you will face far fewer financial difficulties than you would have if you had not done so.

Brief Summary

Felber tells a story of a wealthy merchant named Antonio who is passing on life lessons to his grandson, Julio. Antonio had a wonderful mentor, who was also a successful merchant, named Alessio. Throughout the story, Antonio and Julio walk through the journal Antonio kept while under Alessio’s mentorship. He learned twelve principles for a successful life in business.

Principle 1: Work Hard and God Will Prosper You

This first principle is about working hard at what God has entrusted to you. “It means that hard work is the beginning of success.” (pg. 40) Does it mean that things will be easy if you work hard? Absolutely not! But when you give of yourself in the areas that God wants you to, God’s blessing will be upon you.

Principle 2: Financial Prosperity Is Often Connected to Soul Prosperity

If you are wearied and weighed down by the pressures of life, it will affect every aspect of your life. If you love what you do there is very little motivation needed to spur you to do your best at it. If you’re passionate about what you do, you will be fully engaged in making the organization better.

Success in the marketplace is finding a need and filling it. –The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant, pg. 152

Principle 3: A Man Must Do Whatever He Can to Provide for His Family

The Apostle Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, states, “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” What an incredible thing to say! Certainly there are healthy boundaries that must be maintained. If someone is incapable of managing finances, then giving them money is merely enabling bad behavior – that is certainly not what Paul is referring to. But success requires that we take care of others who are in need.

Principle 4: Trials Develop Your Character, Preparing You for Increased Blessings

Getting knocked down does not mean you’re knocked out of the game. Pick yourself back up and keep moving forward. Sometimes we face challenges that are of our own making. In the story, Antonio is a merchant who creates Venetian Trading Beads. The furnaces needed to create the glass beads run very hot and too many furnaces are built under one roof which causes a massive fire. Often self-inflicted challenges are the worst. But we can always recover from them. And often, we recover to be much stronger than before.

Principle 5: Take Responsibility for Problems That Are the Result of Your Own Bad Decisions. Don’t Displace the Blame.

Many times we…try to save people from struggling, not understanding that God has told us that it’s the struggle that develops character and allows us to survive life. –The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant, pg 160

It’s so easy to blame other people or outside forces for the bad results of our own decisions. We usually like to place blame on someone or something else because then we can hide “our part” in our pocket so no one else will see it. If we are to be successful then we need to “face the music” and take responsibility for our action.

Principle 6: See Challenges As Stepping Stones, Not As Obstacles

Rather then whine about your challenges, try shifting your perspective and see them as a way to make you stronger so that later in life you’ll be more prepared to face even greater obstacles. The strongest man in the world doesn’t start out that way, he slowly builds up weight until he reaches his goal.

Principle 7: Be Meek Before God But Bold Before Men

What does fear stand for?

  1. False Evidence Appearing Real
  2. Finding Excuses And Reasons
  3. Failure Expected And Received
  4. Forget Everything And Run

Fear is temporary. Regret is forever. Action gets rid of fear. –The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant, pg. 163

Principle 8: Live Debt-Free and Below Your Means

“Normal” in our culture is having a car payment, having a house payment, having credit cards – basically spending money you don’t really have to begin with. “When the Forbes 400 were asked, ‘What is the most important key to building wealth?’ 75 percent said it was living and staying debt-free. Yet 60 percent of Americans do not pay off the monthly balance on their credit cards.” (pg. 169). If you want to be financially successful, you need to bust it to be debt-free and then stay that way!

Principle 9: Always Keep to Your Budget

Money flows from those who don’t know how to manage it to those who know how to manage it. Either you will learn to manage money, or it will manage you! Managed money goes further. The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant, pg. 170

Principle 10: Loaning Money Destroys Relationships

People often want wealth handed to them. Many times Christians are in this group. We think that praying is a substitute for putting our hands to the plow.” (pg. 153) When money is lent to a friend or family member, that relationship immediately changes. From that point forward the money that needs to be repaid will be a barrier in the relationship – especially if a payment goes unmade. If you know someone that needs financial help, just give them the money, don’t lend it.

Principle 11: Set Aside the First 10 Percent to Honor God

While I personally don’t believe tithing is required of Christians, I believe it is a good discipline. Historically, the Church didn’t practice tithing until the Council of Macon in 585AD. But since then, it has been a church tradition to do so. I think setting aside an amount each month is important to do because it reminds us that we are dependent upon God for all we have been entrusted with to steward.

Principle 12: Understand the Power of Partnership

A mentor should be comfortable not only with teaching you but also with learning from you…The ideal mentor believes in your ability to succeed, and he/she helps you define your dream and what needs to be done to achieve it. –The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant, pg. 174


This book was a very simple read and has easily digestible principles in it. If you’re looking for a refresher for yourself, or a small group study, I think you’ll enjoy it. It wasn’t that impactful of a book in my opinion compared with others I’ve read. It felt like a lot of the ideas were restated principles I hear from Dave Ramsey – who I really like! – but I expected something different.  I think the big thing you walk away from the book knowing is that some people are merchants (business world) and some are monks (vocational ministry) – but God blesses both and neither is more important than the others.

Information and Personal Rating

General Information:

Personal Ratings (1-10)

  • Applicability: 7
  • Readability: 8 (easy read)
  • Originality: 6
  • Recommendation: Probably not. If you’re familiar with Dave Ramsey, this is pretty similar to what he teaches on his radio show. If you’re looking for a small group study with the purpose of helping people find principles of success in business (or life), then you’ll definitely want to pick it up.

2 thoughts on “The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant | Terry Felber

  1. It sounds like you don’t know how much impact this book had on Dave Ramsey. It changed his life. Please look into it further.


    1. Oh yes I’m aware. It’s the reason I read it because I heard him talk about it on his radio show. I have found that for most people, an influential book was the right book at the right time in their life. I have read some fantastic books that were game-changers for me, but when others read them they didn’t enjoy them as much as I did. I’m sure it was deeply impactful for Ramsey, but for me, not so much.
      That’s not a knock against Ramsey. It’s just that we’re different people at different stages of life doing different things – so books will impact us differently. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it.


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