What of Wealth?
The matter of wealth among Christians is one of great controversy throughout the Church’s history. Does the Bible condemn wealth? May Christians be rich? Is it all only a matter of how wealth is used? These are not easy questions to answer. The Bible provides more guidelines about wealth than it does specific answers to the questions above. As for some facts we may glean from the Bible (and in no order): Some Old Testament saints were wealthy, such as Abraham; the Book of Proverbs speaks throughout about being industrious, managing property well, and giving to the poor; no, the Bible has nothing to do with “name it and claim it” (we must ask according to His will); Jesus and his disciples had no place to lay their heads; but, according to Luke 8:2-3, some women also followed Jesus who provided for him out of their means, indicating that they had wealth and used it to support Jesus’ ministry; Jesus tells us to sell our possessions and give to the needy; when Zacchaeus was saved, he gave half his possessions to the poor and restored fourfold anyone he had defrauded; money is the root of all kinds of evil; in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man’s eternal reward was not good.
Space would fail me to continue the list, and you could name many more. What we have here is a self-centered man who thinks of no one else, and for that he is condemned. But that does not mean that all wealthy people are going to hell, as some believe. I have known some very generous and sincere wealthy people. On the other hand, the greatest saints down through Church history have been the poorest. And then the question arises as to what is “rich?” If you live in the U.S., regardless of income bracket, you are already richer than at least two-thirds of the rest of the world.
So what principles may we take from this passage? I want to be careful that we don’t say that it is okay to be rich as long as we develop an inward detachment from our riches. I doubt anyone is able to truly do that, and it too easily becomes an excuse for hoarding. So: We are all supposed to be generous with what we have, and not just “wealthy” people (e.g., if we have two coats and someone else has none, we must part with our second coat); we are not to be generous only at Christmas; this world is not our home; we should all take an honest look at how much we spend on ourselves and how much we give to the poor; and most of all, what if God’s people used their wealth more for the kingdom than for themselves? What if we adopted an eternal perspective with our money and possessions?