By Madeline Kalu, Crosswalk.com
The theme of wealth is one that the Bible addresses in over 2,000 Scriptures. Hence, we can reasonably deduce that God considers wealth and its stewardship an important part of Christian living.
However, despite its many teachings, the theme of wealth is one that continues to arouse controversy amongst believers. Terms such as “prosperity gospel” and “poverty gospel” potentially polarize Christians into opposing theological positions.
Consequently, Christians judge their brethren for flamboyant displays of spending, others live with guilt for possessing wealth, and some take a vow of poverty.
Through an accurate understanding of the Bible, many of these misconceptions about wealth can be cleared up, which can lead to greater sympathy and unity in the Body of Christ.
Therefore, what does the Bible actually say about Christian wealth?
Is There an Unequal Distribution of Wealth?
According to World Vision’s 2021 statistics, 9.2% of the world’s population — that is 689 million people — live in poverty.
The Bible addresses this unequal distribution of wealth through its many teachings through the testimonies of its heroes in particular. Some had riches, and others didn’t.
Characters such as Abraham, David, Lydia, and Lazarus of Bethany possessed great wealth and used it to pass on God’s legacy to others. However, others, such as the widow who offered two pennies in the temple, or the widow at Zarephath who gave Elijah her last morsels of food, still served others and honored God with what little they had.
According to the Bible, having wealth does not make you holier than others, neither does the lack of financial means make it impossible for you to minister to others. God looks at how available your heart is, not how big your wallet is.
Mammon Vs. God’s Blessings
An issue that arouses suspicion and concern amongst Christians regarding wealth is the way that people strive for it with the purpose of self-gain.
Proverbs 23:4-5 warns us to not implement our own cleverness in the pursuit of worldly goods. To do this is to submit to the vices of Mammon, which can be defined as “the pursuit of earthly riches.” It is derived from the transliterated Greek word Mammonas, which means “treasures” or “riches that are in opposition to God.”
The acquirement of wealth through Mammon distracts people from God and replaces Him in their hearts with worldly values (Philippians 3:19).
The Bible warns us about the danger of being Christians and loving money in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Does the Bible Condone or Condemn Wealth?
According to Paul, the Bible neither condones nor condemns wealth. What it does warn us about, however, is that a desire for wealth is a wrong mindset.
Paul explains in 1 Timothy 6:9-11 that love for money and an aspiration to become rich can become a trap that can ruin us. He repeats this sentiment in Hebrews 13:5 by reminding us to keep our lives free of the love of money.
Instead, Paul stresses the importance of contentment. In 1 Timothy 6:8, he states that we should be satisfied with just food and clothing. Furthermore, Paul gives a personal testimony about contentment in Philippians 4:12:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Paul echoes the author of Proverbs 30:7-9 through his plea for God to only give him what he needs, in order to avoid sin and dishonor.
Through the Eye of a Needle
In Matthew 19:24, Jesus compares the passing of a rich man into heaven with a camel passing through the eye of a needle.
Jesus’ declaration follows an encounter that He has with a rich man, who is told that in order to receive eternal life, he would have to give up his riches and follow Jesus (Matthew 19:16-22), which he chose not do.
A misinterpretation of this biblical account can lead Christians to believe that possessing wealth can be a hindrance to entering heaven. This belief is fortified by a similar account in Luke 16:19-31, where a rich man and a poor man called Lazarus both die, and only Lazarus enters heaven.
What Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 19:24 teaches us is that no man can enter heaven through his own merits or achievements. Rich or poor, it is only through the blood of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary, that we may enter heaven, through faith, by His grace.
We Are Stewards of God’s Wealth
The Bible refers to money and its stewardship more than 2,300 times. Almost half of the parables that Jesus taught refer to stewardship.
Why does God put such emphasis on wealth and stewardship?
God knows that money is something that will distract us from Him. Instead of worshiping God, we will worship money; as a result, we will give ourselves merit for our financial successes instead of giving God the glory for His mercy and provision.
God wants to bless us with abundance (John 10:10); however, with that blessing comes responsibility. Therefore, God wants to ensure that we have the right heart attitude towards wealth. And that is the heart of stewardship.
To steward God’s financial and other blessings, we have to first realize that everything belongs to God (Job 41:11). The wealth that God gives us is an instrument that we should use to bless others and spread His ministry of love and salvation — all to His glory.
Therefore, having riches does not mean that you have a higher status with God — it means that you have more responsibility towards the Kingdom.
Consider the parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. One day, we too, will stand before God and be required to give an account of how we managed and shared what He gave us. This includes helping the poor (Deuteronomy 15:11), loving others (John 13:34), and helping bring others to a knowledge of Christ (Matthew 28:16-20).
Seek God First
The Bible teaches us to put our hope in God and not in our bank accounts (1 Timothy 6:17-18).
If we seek God first (Matthew 6:33), He will take care of all of our needs. We need not be anxious about paying our bills, or where our next meal is coming from, for God already knows our needs and is taking care of them (Matthew 6:25-33).
Therefore, instead of seeking to make more money, seek God instead!
As Christians, we can get caught up in financial doctrines; however, let us remember that God doesn’t evaluate us based on our income bracket, what kind of car we drive, or what kind of house we live in — God sees our heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us, in order that we may be with Him for all eternity — and that’s essentially what matters.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/William_Potter
Madeline Kalu is an Australian Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog and The Proverbs 31 Home. She is also the co-author of the “My Year of Miracles 2024” journal, which encourages a daily reflection on the miracles that God performs in our lives throughout 2024. Madeline lives in Germany with her husband Solomon and the family’s two cats, who were rescued from the Ukrainian war zone.