And when Jesus died on a cross for our sins, wealthy and well-connected men asked for his body and buried it at their expense. In Acts 2 we read how the early church shared their resources, rich and poor, to take care of all.
God gave us the tenth commandment as a law against coveting. We should not have animosity towards anyone who has been entrusted with greater possessions than us.
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When it comes to earthly wealth, God never condemns it or the wealthy but warns that sin enters the equation when money becomes the ultimate goal, the main pursuit of life. For the love of money emphasis added is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
You cannot serve God and money. What should concern the wealthy, however, is how well they are fighting the temptation of arrogance and how well they are using their resources for good. In the 16th century, theologian Martin Luther wrote that as a practical matter, there are three conversions a person must experience to be fully committed — a conversion of the heart, a conversion of the mind, and a conversion of the purse.
In counseling people about Biblical financial practices for decades, I know this to be true. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. The Bible does not uphold poverty as the pathway to righteousness, nor should we. Yes, I consent to receiving emails. This form collects information we will use to send you updates about promotions, special offers, and news. How we use them is not our business alone either. They may accomplish this in a variety of ways, including donations, investments, and direct service.
The command to use our resources for the benefit of poor people is given directly in the book of Exodus. For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat.
You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. Exodus — Whoever owns land has a duty to let the poor use it free of charge one year in every seven, and even to let wild animals make use of it. This command is repeated in Deuteronomy in even simpler terms:.
The crucial point is that we are not to hoard the resources entrusted to us for ourselves, maintaining lifestyles, homes and church facilities beyond what is needed. As partners with God we have been called to participate in this cause with all the resources at our disposal—including our wealth. The reality is quite the opposite.
If we have been born into a loving family, a prosperous country, a good educational system, a stable society with the rule of law, we have the good fortune needed to make it possible for hard work to pay off. This is not to suggest that hard work never contributes to economic success. Clearly, it is often a factor. Yet even intelligence and creative genius needed to make hard work fruitful are gifts from God. And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?
Biblically, the response to the blessing of provision and abundance is deep gratitude, even if our own work played a major role in generating our wealth. Yet even among Christians, affluence seems to breed ingratitude and a sense of entitlement—as if we are somehow owed something.
This betrays an inflated view of our own importance, and a very limited awareness of gift, grace and good fortune in our lives. Another factor that prevents us from experiencing gratitude is envy. It is easy to begrudge others for what they have, rather than being content and grateful for what we have if we see ourselves primarily as consumers, rather than servants. Western culture feeds this envy. Marketing, advertising, and even entertainment encourage us to make living like the rich our aspiration.
In doing so, we crave for what others have—not only their possessions but also their abilities and circumstances. In contrast, the Bible commands us not to covet anything that belongs to our neighbor—whether positions at work, salaries, economic opportunities or bank balances—but to develop a growing gratitude for what we have been given.
How can we become more thankful? By giving thanks. We become more thankful through the simple act of giving thanks every day for whatever we have that we appreciate.
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Giving thanks actually changes our attitude. Gratitude leads to contentment. Contentment is a delicious feeling in itself, and it is the antidote to greed and envy. In this vision, it is possible to have enough and to cease longing for more. And in a letter written from a prison cell, Paul shares something of his own journey. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.
In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians Both Paul and the far-from-wealthy Philippian church he is writing to were barely surviving economically. Their attitude of being content in all economic situations challenges those who live in plenty to find contentment in what they have.
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Contentment is knowing what is enough. What is enough profit? Hours employed? Savings accumulated? House size?
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Given that none of us have a true gauge on what is sufficient and what is excessive, we will need help from others. What would it be like for Christians to meet in small groups to share their purchasing plans and reflect together whether they reflect true needs leading to gratitude and contentment, or envious aspirations that will lead merely to a sense of entitlement and discontent? So few Christians have tried this that it is hard to know what effect it might have simply to share our ideas about what is enough in practical terms.
Developing right attitudes to provision and wealth will inevitably lead to adjustment in the way we live. This was a well-used word in the Greek world. In ordinary usage, it referred to having something in common with someone. When Paul, in particular, uses koinonia , it carries this strong sense of partnership, including the call to financial partnership.
God provided for the needs of the individuals, through the resources of community. Of course, how this might be expressed in our various twenty-first century contexts will depend on a variety of factors. History has shown that collective ownership generally works out poorly. Yet some still practice full economic sharing within a highly-trusted community.
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Other faith communities might seek to pool donations from the wealthy to distribute to the poor. Still others might choose to give individually to specific people or to charitable organizations that provide for needy people. The Bible prescribes not the method, but the attitude. God provides for his people in the plural, even though the resources may be entrusted to individuals as stewards. In fact, N. The temptation of those who have much to become isolated from those who have little is very real.
High-fenced houses, air-conditioned cars, a circle of friends limited to our own socio-economic group, and a church similarly restricted—all these conspire to keep the well-to-do trapped in their own wealthy enclaves. Those who have little are effectively banished from their world. This means wealthy people often have minimal or no relationship with those who struggle financially—either at home or abroad.
Their understanding of the circumstances of those who lack basic provision is severely limited by the geographic and social distance. As noted earlier, the people of Israel were specifically commanded to care for widows, orphans fatherless and foreigners. These same factors made them prone to isolation.