The Bible has no clear stance on wether or not Christians should be rich or poor. It appears that the Early Church contained both types of people and everyone in between. Instead, the Bible coaches us on how to posture our hearts in relationship to money so that it doesn’t overwhelm us and also offers us several Principles on managing the money given to us so that our hearts remain pure, our family’s needs are met and God’s Kingdom is advanced.
In the Old Testament, money was seen as the blessing and favor of God. The more money, the more God liked you. This belief changed over the course of the Old Testament, the Psalmists and the Prophets often talked about the wicked prospering while the righteous were impoverished. By the time Jesus comes on the scene, it was widely accepted that money was not a good indicator of God’s blessing or lack thereof. But money is a form of power, so Jesus talks a lot about it and its proper use. The main aim of Christ’s teaching on money in the New Testament is to promote brotherly love and affection. With that as our backdrop, let’s dive in.
While the Bible doesn’t discouraged being wealthy, it is plenty honest about the dangers of accumulating large sums. Money has a seductive property to it and, if we aren’t careful, it can take the place of God in our lives. We can start looking to our bank accounts for a sense of security, we can start to measure our self-worth by our net-worth and we can start to make decisions based on their effects on our bottom line rather than on God’s word. It doesn’t have to be that way — the Bible is replete with wealthy people who loved God and served him well — but it is a real danger. We will talk about two common pitfalls which the Bible calls the love of money and the spirit of Mammon.
Mammon – Mammon is the personification of money in the Bible, it is Money with a capital “M”. Jesus talks about Mammon as an idol that some people choose to worship instead of God. We fall victim to the disease called Mammon when we start to value the tangible and temporal benefits of money more than the intangible but eternal benefits of belonging to God.
Mammon looks like finding a sense of security about the future in a large bank account rather than in God’s good will towards you. Mammon is feeling important and valuable because you’re rich rather than because you are God’s son or daughter. Mammon is when you spend more time thinking about your investments and talking to your financial advisor than you do talking with God and doing the things he has created you to do.
The love of money is primarily about consumption and loving the things that money can buy and Mammon is primarily about accumulation. To those worshipping Mammon, wealth has no use other than to provide a sense of security. Mammon is about storing up treasure on earth and finding value in it. Interestingly, those infected with the spirit of Mammon always seem to suffer from a sense of lack, of never having enough. Mammon wants more, more, more, out of fear of the future, rather than any desire to be generous or to even spend it. Mammon makes money the master of your life, directing your every action to protect and increase your treasure.
Several parables of Jesus demonstrate what it looks like for people to be infected with this disease. One is the rich man and Lazarus and the other is the man who died just after building bigger storerooms to house his wealth. Both men died and their wealth secured them no reward in eternity. It isn’t supposed to be that way.
The Love of Money – The love of money affects rich and poor alike. Again, this is a heart condition, not a financial one. Our hearts are vulnerable to the love of money when we believe the lie that “just a little more” money will fix all of our problems. There are some people in the world who truly have income problems and they can’t earn enough to make ends meet, think bonded labor in Pakistan or refugees trying to find work in foreign countries. However, the truth is that most of us have a spending problem. The problem lies in our consumption, not our production.
Most people who are sick this with the disease the Bible calls “the love of money” love money for what it offers them — comfort, status, luxury, and the ability to consume more and more, be it food, drink, clothes or experiences. The love of money distorts our sense of reality. It convinces us to lay aside our morals and relationships in the pursuit of more because it convinces us that our relationships and integrity can always be repaired once we have earned enough. It makes us think that a good and happy life is based on the number of things we can consume, rather than what we can create. It makes us think that, with just a little more, we can really and truly be happy. But, as the saying goes, “The gap between ‘more’ and ‘enough’ never closes.”
I read an abstract of a study some years back comparing people’s psychological responses to wealth and perceived wealth. This study found that people would rather have $50,000 and all of their peers have $25,000 than for their peers to have $200,000 and the person have $100,000. This means that, even though the person in the second scenario would have twice as much money as in the first, people would rather be poorer on the whole if it means they have more money than the people around them. That is a superb example of the love of money.
That is pretty wild, isn’t it? It reveals some pretty yucky things about the human heart — about our tendencies towards selfishness and the desire to have power over other people. This is why the Bible goes so far as to say that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” 1 Timothy 6:10. Just to clarify, it isn’t money, but the love of money that causes so much evil in the world.
I wanted to clarify that because I heard that verse misquoted often in my youth as “money is the root of all evil” and that led to the belief that, if having money was bad, then not having money was good. And there are a large number of people in the Body of Christ who believe this. They equate poverty with holiness and that isn’t true, it isn’t what the Bible says. In fact, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13, “I can give all I have to the poor and my body over to hardship, but if I don’t have love, I gain nothing.” Poverty and wealth are not indicators of holiness, love leading to action is.
In truth, the poverty mentality mentioned above is still the love of money, but in its inverse form. The poverty mentality loves not having money because of what that gives them — mainly a sense of superiority, holiness and self-righteousness.
We ought never feel pressured into being rich or being poor for those two things are up to God. What we are commanded to do is to use a portion of our money in some very specific ways and to let God take care of the rest. On the whole, I believe that God has set things up so that, if we do what he says, we will prosper throughout our lifetime. However, there are enough exceptions to that rule that it is better to focus on being faithful to do what we are called to do and trusting our Good and Gracious Father to take care of the rest.
Neither of these two — Mammon or the love of money — is a way to live. Life isn’t found in excessive consumption or accumulation. Life is found in creativity, generosity, enjoying good things without being enslaved to them, helping others, caring for the poor and needy and leaving behind a legacy that will make the generations after you better off. I think it is the Biblical model of wealth to prosper almost in spite of extravagant generosity. You give and give and give and yet your wallet is always full. And that giving is pure, you aren’t giving in order to get, you give because that is what you desire to do, what you love to do, and what brings you the most joy.
I think the Prosperity Gospel has gotten a lot of bad press.
Does God want you to prosper? I think so. What good Father doesn’t want to see their child succeed? But that is not the same thing as saying God wants you to be a multimillionaire. Money is the least important (but most talked about) aspect of prosperity.
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers,” wrote the Apostle John to a good friend (3 John 2). A prosperous soul is the chief thing John longed for in his friend, but he didn’t equate that with poverty or sickness.
Above all, God wants your soul to prosper. He wants you changed, renewed and transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus. He wants you to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. He wants you to have healthy relationships and to love others in the same way Christ loves you. He wants you to grow in wisdom, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He wants many things for you. How those things happen in your life, your route to a prosperous soul, is uncertain. The story of the rich young ruler comes to mind. In this man’s individual circumstance, wealth was keeping him from obedience and reliance on God. The only way for his transformation to happen was to lose it all. But to take that story as the blueprint for all people is irresponsible. In fact, many of Jesus’s parables advocate the increase of wealth as the sign of faithfulness (see Luke 19:11-27)
Does God want you to be healthy, wealthy and wise? Yes, I believe he does. But that doesn’t mean it is going to happen in this life. For instance, we know that in God’s Kingdom there isn’t any sickness or crying or pain. Yet how many good and godly people die prematurely due to sickness and disease? You and I are caught between the times — between the time of Jesus’s victory over sin and death and the time in which that victory is fully established in every life and every sphere of society. Until Jesus returns and forever establishes the Kingdom of Heaven on the Earth there will be opportunity for the enemy to steal, kill and destroy — in part or in full. This is why I advocate faith in God’s Goodness and obedience to his Principles. You can do everything right in this life and a freak accident or the enemy’s schemes can undo all your work. That isn’t the end, you will be repaid by the Lord many times over, but that may not come until Judgement Day. All we can do is to love and serve God with all that we are and trust that he will take care of us.
Thanks for reading friends.