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Three Truths about Wealth in the Bible

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Let’s take a minute and remind ourselves of three important things the Bible says about money. Continue reading . . .

Let’s take a minute and remind ourselves of three important things the Bible says about money.

(1) First, material wealth or money is never denounced in Scripture as if it were evil in and of itself. As you know, Paul never said that money is the root of all evil. He said that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful with being wealthy, so long as one’s wealth was not obtained illegally. Likewise, there is nothing sinful or shameful with being comparatively poor, so long as one did not become poor because of laziness or negligence or reckless and careless spending of money. So, the poor need to stop making the wealthy feel guilty for having money and the wealthy need to stop looking with disdain on those who lack it.

Just a quick parenthetical note. I genuinely hesitate to use the words “poor” or “poverty” at all. As I recently told the people at Bridgeway Church, by the world’s standards, no one here is poor! If you have clothes to wear and food to eat and a roof over your head and indoor plumbing and central heat and air and a car to drive, you are incredibly wealthy in comparison with the majority of people in the earth. You may lament your condition when you compare yourself with the extremely wealthy in OKC or some other city in the U.S., but you and I quite honestly have no idea what real poverty is. That being said, I’ll still use the words “poor” and “poverty” so long as you understand that they are relative terms.

If I may, this reminds me of a story that illustrates how twisted our perspective is on wealth and poverty and how genuinely out of touch most of us are with how the majority of people in the world live day in and day out. The daughter of a wealthy family was asked to write an essay in school about a poor family. Her opening words said it all: “Once upon a time there was a poor family. The mother was poor, the father was poor, the children were poor, the butler was poor, the chauffer was poor, the maid, the gardener, and all the other servants were poor. Everyone was poor!”

(2) Second, although money per se is never condemned in Scripture, rarely if ever is it discussed without a stern and serious warning about its dangers. There are several wealthy people in Scripture who did not succumb to the temptations that wealth so often brings: people like Abraham, Joseph of Arimathea, and Lazarus. But more times than not, those who are portrayed as wealthy end up falling into all manner of trouble and temptation.

I don’t say this to condemn you for being wealthy. Neither do I say it in order to create false feelings of guilt. I say it as a warning: take heed, “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

(3) Third, so-called “materialism” is not primarily an issue of how much you own but of how much you wish you owned. Or again, materialism is less about the amount of money you possess and more about the attitude you have either toward what you do own or don’t own. Thus the materialist in Scripture is not the man who has a lot of money but the man whose life and ambitions and priorities are indistinguishable from his money, however much or little of it he has. Some of the most materialistic people you’ll ever know are comparatively quite poor.

In other words, he who possesses little but desires much is more the focus of the biblical warnings than is the person who possesses much but desires little. So don’t ever think you are immune from temptation based on the amount in your bank account. It’s the attitude of your heart that puts you at great risk.

2 Comments

"attaining" wealth is not condemned in Scripture unless it is pursued for selfish motives or by unjust means. But, it is unjust and sin to retain wealth when needs are before the believer.

Good stuff, all to often we assume the warnings in scripture are "For the other guy" the one with more money than me, but on a world scale all Americans are the 1%. Just before calling the love of money the root of all kinds of evil, Paul cautions against pursuing wealth. "8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."

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