Christians & Money: What Does The Bible Say?

There is perhaps a no more hotly debated topic than that of how money relates to Christians and what they should do with it. Many Christians, especially those in the United States fall into two very unhealthy camps. Proponents of the prosperity gospel assert that it is always God’s will for all Christians to have abundant financial resources (Money/riches)…..and this is supposedly for the sake of spreading the gospel. They also assert that poverty in all cases is due to lack of faith in God to provide. Christians in this camp tell those who have little money to rebuke the “spirit of poverty” over their lives and tap into the wealth that God has entitled them to. They claim that no one should question their financial decisions, make any assertions about financial accountability and stewardship or be jealous of their “blessings”. On the other end of the spectrum some Christians believe that any material possession is inherently evil and that “pious” poverty is equated to righteousness. Whenever I reflect on this view point I often think of the monks that run to the mountains and shut themselves from society, eating minimally and having little contact with anyone. Quite sadly, this is also a bed a false teaching. What’s needed here is balanced teaching.

Money is needed
Put aside luxuries or extra possessions that we don’t need for a moment. What we do know based on scripture and everyday life is that money is needed for the retrieval of basic needs. Money is a part of the exchange system that nations use to secure goods and trade so that its inhabitants can have the resources needed to survive. The argument is not that money itself is inherently evil, but that the love of money is detrimental to the believer. The evil that the love of money is capable of producing in the believer’s heart is beyond comprehension. We’ve gotten a foretaste of this evil when we see pastors or other church staff caught in ponzi schemes or money laundering operations or perhaps even megachurch pastors who refuse to share reports on the finances of their church.
The biggest problem is that we are not swift to examine our hearts for perverse intentions. We think that we can handle a certain amount of money, and beg and plead with God to provide riches, not understanding that God in his sovereign wisdom may choose not to give us that particular sum of money to steward because it may draw us away from him. We believe firmly in scripture when it tells us that God is a supplier of good gifts but perhaps our view of what constitutes a good gift is limited. God in his good grace may choose to entrust some of his children with larger sums of money and others with smaller sums of money based on the council of his perfect will. Whatever lot God chooses to place us in, he requires contentment: 1 Timothy 6:8-10
8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

The problem is that contentment is a characteristic that the American society is not built on. We’ve heard the phrase “The American Dream” many times before. This term describes being and becoming all that one may desire to become within the corporate and societal world; The large house, the sports car, the perfect family and never-ending prosperity within the means of financial gain. This is not a biblical view, but this notion has crept into the church. It is not a sin to climb the corporate ladder, but it is sin to squander the resources on selfish purposes or waste the platform by not preaching the gospel and glorifying God. This is why so many prosperity preachers are popular with main stream celebrities (like Oprah & Ellen). They teach a gospel of health, wealth and happiness but cannot answer the complex questions of life biblically without pinning the blame on the person in need. How do you preach the hope of the gospel to a poor, sick or suffering person? What if God chooses not to change their circumstance in the way we suppose he ought to. How many times have you heard that someone is not prosperous or healed because they failed to have sufficient faith in God’s blessing? Perhaps people who espouse such views should look into the apostolic epistles and the book of Acts. The early church faced intense persecution and so did all of the apostles, yet they never prayed for riches to overtake them or to escape difficulty (although it is not inherently wrong to pray for deliverance from difficulty); they prayed to endure and preach the word of God with “boldness” (Acts 4:29). Perhaps the greatest gesture of fellowship and humility was that those in the church sold their possessions so that others could have (Acts 2:44-46). Nobody horded more clothes, more shoes or that gorgeous handbag at Michael kors that they “just couldn’t give up”.

Proverbs 30:7-9
  7 “Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

What I’m trying to get at here is that 1) people who assert that God’s will is for everyone to be rich misinterpret scripture grossly and 2) Being wealthy is not sin, but requires greater stewardship, responsibility and scrutiny by the word of God.
This does not sound like something I’d like to run after.

Money is not all sufficient
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.—Ecclesiastes 5:10

Perhaps the issue lies within what we treasure or idolize. "Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also" (Luke 12:33-34). A person who does not rest in the sufficiency of God’s sovereign providence cannot experience contentment in what God has given them. This is not an argument against dreams and aspirations but is about seasons. God produces them by his own will. When God chooses to withhold then I must trust that it is for my good, so that I will not stray from his arms. When God chooses to give then I must steward what he has given me well, unto his honor and glory all the while giving thanks – and acting while I have the available means.

1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

 A person who does not find God all-sufficient will covet what their neighbors have or mourn about not being or having what society says they should be or have. I’ve heard Christians presumptuously scoff at the wardrobe of other Christians because it is not the standard of modernity or indicative of a “good” social standing, and this is dangerous. Christians are then divided into the “haves and Have-not's” and some see themselves as superior or as having God’s favor over others who have less. This is a despicable ideology to have……especially since Jesus commands us to take care of the poor and persecuted church.

This leads to the question, what is God’s favor? Is it exemplified in having an abundance of possessions or wealth? To understand God’s favor as new covenant believers we must look to the cross of Calvary. Having favor is descriptive of a person who though undeserving, is granted something specifically and personally; or shown preference. The epistles depict this kind of favor holistically. The body of Christ has received God’s favor in the expression of his mercy and grace. The church is under the favor of God because he has chosen us in Christ to become holy and blameless before him. What we deserved was the punishment and wrath of God, but in his great love God, through Christ chose to save, justify, adopt and sanctify us for the glory of his name (Ephesians 1:4) . This truth should inspire contentment within us and should make us abandon all forms of entitlement. God’s providential care is more than we could ever ask for in this life. Does that mean that we deserve certain positions, jobs, or pay raises? If we presume that God MUST give us blessings in the way we want him to, then we must also presume that Christ was obligated to die for us. Rather than being thankful for the precious atonement God becomes a crux to lean on when we want things. But God desires that we want HIM and not THINGS. Entitlement is a deathly disposition to house in the heart. We understand that God can do wonderful things, and we pray with faith believing that he will all the while reaffirming that his perfect we must be done. We must never presume that God is obligated to answer us as we see fit. This includes when we seek him regarding financial decisions or job changes. God may choose to give us certain jobs or pay raises if he knows that we will glorify him with them. And God certainly does work out events and happenings for the good and benefit of his children, but not always as we want. Every gift is a good grace from God, and God’s favor is undeserved pardon and provision. We must honor and reverence that. God, in response to Job Says: Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine - Job 41:11
Ask yourself…..will money satisfy the most important need of my soul - to be in fellowship with, and to glorify God? Perhaps(and in many cases)  it would only leave more emptiness and bareness. Money can only satisfy for so long. The new car is great until it loses its savor. The new house is spectacular until it needs to be remodeled every few years to fit the societal trend. Jesus is a never ending well of joy and satisfaction. He told the Samaritan woman that if she drank of that eternal well, she would never thirst again. Are you struggling financially? Or are you swimming in a financial abundance? Regardless of your situation, instead of asking “why me" or plundering money irresponsibly be sure to ask God what you can learn and how you can glorify him in your particular situation.

Psalm 37:16-17
16 better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; 17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.

Hebrew 13:5
5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Christians must steward money well
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”Luke 12:15

A Steward is one who guards, oversees or cares for the possessions of another. Every single material gift that God gives us is not ours to hoard. It is borrowed and cannot be taken with us into eternity, therefore what God has given us to take care of, we must take care of well. The instructions we’ve been given to take care of the resources that God gives, must be followed.

Bill peel writes,

“Although God gives us “all things richly to enjoy,” nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. While we complain about our rights here on earth, the Bible constantly asks, What about your responsibilities? Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities. We are called as God’s stewards to manage that which belongs to God. While God has graciously entrusted us with the care, development, and enjoyment of everything he owns as his stewards, we are responsible to manage his holdings well and according to his desires and purposes.”

Below are a few scripture on how God calls Christians to manage the money he has given them, keep in mind that none of the forthcoming scriptures present people as having to be rich or poor to fulfill them:

Don’t become enslaved to debt:
Proverbs 22:26–27 (ESV)
26 Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. 27 If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?

Psalm 37:21 (ESV)
21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
But the righteous is generous and gives;

Always be able to provide for the most important priorities:
1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV)
8 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.

Leviticus 25:35–38 (ESV)
35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

Willingly & cheerfully give:
2 Corinthians 9:6–7 (ESV)
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Acts 20:35 (ESV)
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Ministry to the poor and persecuted church

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you"—when you already have it with you. Proverbs 3:27-28

Then Jesus said to his host . . . When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. — Luke 14:14

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ - Matthew 25:35-40  

What about those who say it can never be a part of God’s plan for a Christian to be poor or struggling financially? What then do we say about the persecuted church having to live on meager means, but impacting their society so forcefully for Christ?
There is no biblical evidence that a Christian can or never or should never be poor. Many Christians live in poverty stricken regions of the world, where natural resources are scarce. They were born into those circumstances before knowing Christ.

Beyond Today Magazine writes:
Many Christians are born into poverty, having no choice in the matter. For example, faithful believers who love God and do all His commandments live in the poorer countries of the world. In fact, God has called many poor into His church. James the apostle asked, “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5).

Some may ask: “Hasn’t the atonement destroyed sin, death and its ramifications?” Yes, it has and we can and do experience physical healing and blessings in this life - but we as human beings still live in a world ridden with the consequences of Adams sin, therefore until Jesus returns there will be poverty, physical death and health issues. Final and complete victory is near but still ahead. Every trial, tribulation or difficulty (including financial difficulty) is a reminder that this world is not our final destination.

Think about it this way, if the gospel promised wealth to all Christians then there could never be such a thing as a poor Christian. Salvation would be an automatic means to money and its appeal would be to live a selfish life instead of one that glorifies God. This is certainly not biblical.
Instead of facilitating poor doctrinal belief’s about why a Christian may be poor, God instructs those of us with more resources to provide and care for our brothers and sisters in need.
In the book of Revelation, the glorified Jesus Christ said to one of His churches, “I know your… poverty, but you are rich” (Revelation 2:9). That is, these Christians were poor in the wealth of this world, but were rich in faith toward God. 
To another church, Christ said, “you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). These Christians, though rich with material goods of this world were very poor in faith an good works.

Trouble scriptures

which scriptures are used to support the notion that every Christian should be rich? Here are just a few:

(John 10:10) I come that you might have life….
The context here is that of ETERNAL life, and the gift of full salvation in Christ. The fullness of life described here is the blessing of having and knowing Christ. Here Christ’s giving of himself is contrasted with the thief who comes to kill, steal and destroy. There is no evidence here or context that describes the gaining of a perfect earthly life or material possessions.

(Proverbs 13:22) The wealth of the wicked…..
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. - Proverbs 13:22

This verse simply talks about the fact that because the “wicked rich” squander their money, it will not be left for the coming generation and will ultimately end up in better hands. There is no description of a supernatural wealth transfer here. Just a proverb offering wisdom on leaving an inheritance.

(Psalm 50:10) God owns the cattle on a thousand hills says:
The context of Psalm 50 sheds some light on the meaning of the statement of God’s ownership of cattle. Beginning in verse 7, God is “testifying” against Israel. He says, “I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices,” which means that the Israelites were carrying out their duties regarding the sacrifices according to the Law; they were doing things right, externally. But then God puts the sacrifices in perspective, saying, “I have no need of a bull from your stall / or of goats from your pens” (verse 9), and He reminds them that “every animal of the forest is mine, / and the cattle on a thousand hills” (verse 10). God can get animals anywhere; they are already His.

What God is demanding here is the rendering of hearts in joyful obedience. He is calling the people of Israel to love him internally. God spells out that he owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He owns every animal and every bird and every beast. He owns us. Because of his greatness, goodness and ownership we he needs nothing from us, and therefore we must “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”.

Should I pray to be rich?
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” - Luke 12:33-34

Then said Jesus to his disciples, truly I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 19:23

The scriptures above are not scare tactics to get you to agree with my point of view but rather show the danger and responsibility in asking for riches. While our intentions may (sometimes) be noble our flesh may not be able to handle the responsibility. I am not against asking God for financial help or blessings, but it would be my observation that rather than asking God to be rich, we ask him to equip us with the necessities to fulfill his will at all stations of our lives. If our dreams and aspirations are in his will, he will make the provisions necessary, if not then he will show us the path he desires for us to take. If we truly love money then we will heap treasures for ourselves here with no regard for eternal life. My encouragement is that we must all honestly examine our hearts asking God to reveal its innermost desire and intentions.


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