As I am sure many do this at this time, I have been reflecting on the year that just passed and I found myself thinking about the ‘war on the rich.’ I have been trying harder to read the Bible for myself, and to seek God’s guidance and His wisdom so I can properly understand His word so I can better live it in my daily life. I want to want the things that God wants; the things He wants for me – for each of us. So, naturally, I started to look at what Scripture has to say about wealth. What I discovered Scripture actually says about the issue is far from what the world would have people think it says.
There are many passages about wealth in Scripture, and you can find them by simply doing a search for them on line. But there is one passage that clearly states the Scriptural view on wealth, and it comes from Christ, Himself:
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
But there is more to this teaching. To understand the full content of what Christ was trying to teach us, we should read Matthew 6:16-34. Not only does Christ address those who seek wealth, He addresses those who have nothing – and He tells both to seek and rely on God and not on themselves (or money).
As I continued to search Scripture, I found that in Exodus 30:13-14, God commands that everyone over the age of twenty shall pay the same amount for the Temple tax. This applied equally to both the rich and the poor. Christ even paid this tax. Now, on the surface, this may not seem important to the notion of wealth…until one remembers that, in the Hebrew culture, the Temple was the effective seat of government. So, while I may be reading this wrong, my best understanding is that God commanded His people to contribute to their government equally. He even went so far as to stress that the rich shall not pay more, nor the poor pay more.
I went further into my reading and I found that nowhere does Scripture actually condemn wealth. In fact, it says that if we seek God first, we will be blessed abundantly. From the larger passage I already urged you to read, and from Christ, Himself:
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
If you look, you will find the Bible tells us not to be idle:
A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
It tells us to provide for our family (not to look to government to do so):
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Scripture also teaches us that we are all tasked to care for the needy among us: it is not just to be left to those we call ‘rich:’
“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
Remember, Christ did not say the poor widow who gave her last two coins did not have to give. Instead, He praised her’s as the greatest gift offered that day because it was all she had to give – which means she was as poor as one can get. Neither did Christ tell the rich young man he had to sell his property and give it all to the poor. Christ merely said give to the poor. We will find this reaffirmed in Acts when Peter told Sapphira that she and Ananias owned their property and that it was theirs to do with as they chose. Ananias and Sapphira were not taken because they did not give all they had to the poor; they were taken because they lied to the Holy Spirit.
Now, before you get the impression that I am trying to defend the rich, let me make it clear that this is not my intention. I am just trying to explain what Scripture actually says about wealth, and that truth is that Scripture does not condemn wealth. In fact, wealth is as much a gift from God as everything else in our lives. What’s more, wealth is much more than just money and material things. I strongly urge you to consider the words in this link God’s Gift of Wealth. I would also urge you to remember that what Scripture condemns is not the money, but the love of money. Scripture clearly teaches that it is that love for the world that leads a person to become evil and to do evil. But the Bible is also filled with very wealthy people who we are told loved God and sought to do His will. This is why Scripture teaches:
Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Certainly it is possible for a wealthy person to cheerfully give to the poor. So how are we to know that this not how a rich person became wealthy: as a blessing from God for his or her generosity to the poor? Just as it is equally possible for a poor man to be condemned because he would not share what he had with another in need? For you see, Scripture is concerned with things of God’s world, and God’s world deals with the heart, not the material things of this world.
Finally, we come to the real reason I wrote this post. As I was reading about what God has to teach us concerning wealth, I discovered something I consider equally as important. Scripture also has a great deal to say about greed. For example, we hear a great deal in our society about the worker not getting paid what he is worth, and just as much about people we think are paid too much. But I wonder, how many of us have read and remembered this:
For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
And for those who believe they are owed something by society, and that it is just for the government to take from the rich and give to others, have we read and remembered this:
Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
If you do a search for what Scripture has to tell us about greed, you will find it has just as much to teach on this subject as on wealth. Greed is not confined to the rich. It affects the poor just as much. But whereas you will not find a commandment against being wealthy, you will find one against being greedy:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
I beg of you to remember that the rich man is your neighbor, too. So do not be concerned with what others have or with what you do not have. Look to God and seek His will. In the end, you will not only find a happier life, you will discover a wealth far in excess of that which you might otherwise have coveted.
May God grant you a safe, happy and prosperous New year!