An Open Discussion About Wealthy Christians | Part II

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Today I’m posting the second post on a discussion I had with Paul Williams (from Provident Planning) regarding wealth Christians.  I have attached our email exchanges:

wealthy Christians

My response to Paul


Sorry for the long delay.  Here’s my follow up.  Perhaps it is more of a discussion starter than another point.

Paul, I think it is clear that we are more in agreement with each other than we are in disagreement.  So the question becomes – where then is the prophetic voice?  I think both you and I recognized the danger of ‘calling out’ wealthy Christians just because they have nice houses and buy luxurious things.  We recognize that it is an issue of the heart.  And we both recognize there is a spiritual danger with wealth. 

Christians dismiss everything as “as a matter of the heart”.  Of course, it is a matter of the heart, but throughout the Bible people were often at a place of spiritual blindness.  Since we are the wealthy teaching the wealthy, it seems that all of us feel hypocritical about addressing the topic.  I know that I often do.

But doesn’t the heart impact actions?  Is there ever a point where what a person keeps or what a person gives indicates the heart is tainted? I firmly believe that the Bible does not allow Christians to judge the heart, intention, or motives of another.  Thankfully, that is God’s job.  However, there are many examples where we are encouraged to challenge each other’s actions.  An unhealthy action reflects an unhealthy heart.

Is there ever a point that someone can challenge another Christian and say, “You have too much”.  Jesus did, but he was Jesus.  The prophets did, but their words were the Word of the Lord. 

In many ways, I don’t like the phrase “personal finance.”  I think as Christians our finances should be a lot more “open” than “personal”.

How can we honestly and legitimately check the condition of our own heart when it comes to self evaluating our relationship with wealth?

Paul’s Response


You’ve brought up some excellent questions.  And I’m not sure there are definitive answers or lines in the sand.  For me, calling other wealthy Christians to examine their hearts regarding wealth is a matter of encouraging them to look at their response to those in need.  And this is how I try to examine my own heart.  When I see a person in need, do I close my heart of compassion against them or do I look for ways I could help – even if it means sacrificing some of the things I’d like to keep for myself?

If we’re not willing to help those in need or lay down our lives (deny ourselves) for our brothers in need, then I think we have an unhealthy relationship with whatever money we have (whether a small amount or a great amount).  I think this was part of Jesus’ point in His teaching on do not worry.  He seemed to be telling us that we ought to generously give what we have to help the poor – trusting that God will provide for our needs as we seek His kingdom first.  Our first reaction is, "I might need that for myself or my own family." or "I don’t want to give that up."  But Jesus seems to challenge us to first trust God to provide for our needs, and second, to carefully examine ourselves and make sure we’re serving God and not money.

So I think we can still challenge each other as Christians, even if we’re wealthy and not quite there ourselves, to be looking toward a generosity that isn’t bound by our worries or our selfishness.  We can push ourselves to make loving sacrifices for the sake of those in need and encourage others to do the same.
What do you think?
Paul Williams

Well, Paul finished by asking what I think.  But, I’d like to defer that question to you – what do you think?


  1. Gholmes says

    Challenge yes, judging no. I am challenged by Craig’s testimony ministering where he is. Also I have a “brother” and we are accountability partners. If he challenged me I would listen. If a coworker challenged me to match his giving to our colleges foundation I would listen. If my pastor challenged me from the pulpit I would listen.

    BUT when a “christian” starts judging another christian life style (especially in public) that is wrong wrong wrong!

    I am in favor in calling finance, PERSONAL finance. I have a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus not an OPEN relationship. I do not consider myself wealthy because I covet what everyone has that I dont. Maybe if I was talking to a Paupa New Guinea brother he would think I was wealthy beyond imagination. So it is a matter of perspective and we need the Holy Spirits prompting in our lives not Christinians bashing each other’s life style.

    You want to challenge me, then give me testimony with what you are doing with your walk with the Lord.

    • says

      When does challenging become “judging”?

      Consider that our works of faith (our deeds) are in fact the most telling testimony we will ever give. If I then see a Christian brother or sister living in a way that does not testify to Jesus Christ, how would it be wrong for me to admonish, encourage, and challenge that person? (Assuming, of course, that I do it humbly and not in a self-righteous way – having examined my own life as well.)

      • Gholmes says

        The Bible describes how to confront a Christian when his/her deeds need correcting. First you go alone to the brother/sister, if correction isn’t heeded then you bring “elders”, if correction isnt heeded eventually that person is asked out of the fellowship. In my many years I have not seen any person asked out of fellowship.

        Challenging me by calling me to engage with you is not judging. If you are challenging me to justify my position then you are judging.

        So lets say you see me buying something that is public like a 3000 sq foot house on the lake with boat launch you can make assumptions about me and not know what I give in secret. So when you challenge me to justify my purchase of that house you are judging.

        So lets say you say hey the Lord is calling me to give to the food pantry what I spend a month on my dogs pet food why dont you join me then that is a challenge.

        • says

          But if I go to you first about your house and encourage you to consider whether it’s the best use of the resources God has given you, is that judging or challenging?

          You have to leave room for Christians to encourage each other toward holy and righteous living. Otherwise, you might as well throw out most of the New Testament.

          And it’s not so much about what we give in secret (or not in secret). It’s about what we’re doing with what’s left. This matters because it can be a very clear indication of where our true priorities are – even better than the amount we’re giving. That’s the root of what Craig and I were discussing.

          • gholmes says

            How you are using the word “encourage” is sounding judgmental maybe I am reading too much into it. I dont think in my comments above that I am saying that Christians cant encourage one another.

            If you come to me without knowledge of my situation and “encouraged” me about best use of resources I would not pay attention to you. If you were my confidant I would listen to what you said.

            Now if I have been observing your testimony on being a good steward I may compare your experience to mine because that is my goal too as a Christian. I want to be found that I was faithful. If the Holy Spirit convicts me of my purchase based on your testimony then I would need to adjust.

            I read a blog about guy “extreme retirement” and he is against cars. I commute 56 miles a day by car in rural Oregon so my son can go to a particular school. The blogger would not understand why I do that. I admire his activism but not fit my life style. I do want to limit my consumerism but not to his extreme. His experience though does impact my choices. I am not convicted that I am being a poor steward by that commute.

          • says

            I think you are reading more into “encourage” than what I mean. I mean it in the same sense you do – as in a close Christian friend urging you to walk closer with God and consider the testimony your life is giving. But I would say that it shouldn’t be completely limited to just those Christians who are close to you. Yes, you’re more likely to heed their advice. But we are all brothers and sisters in the one family of God and should be able to walk with each other as such. Our familiarity and comfort with each other as Christians should be based more on our common relationship with Christ than our relationship with each other.

          • says

            In my opening question I asked – where then is the prophetic voice?
            I am a person who believes very strongly that we need to be challenging North American consumerism and I’m concerned about very low giving statistics. A change must occur, but the question is how.
            Reviewing the comments it is more than clear that Americans have no tolerance for public prophetic voice. The voices that urge and challenged to change are too easily dismissed as judgmental. That is a sign of our growing individualism. Thus, we must find another pathway if we wish to be effective.
            It looks like if there is to be one who challenges our thinking about wealth then is needs to be one who
            (1) We give them permission [via friendship, respect, or interest]
            (2) They do it in a less direct way. Perhaps we all need a few more prophets like Nathan who use subtlety to challenge us.
            @Jessie – very true about being poor and spiritually bankrupt. I know many people like that. Poverty is not a virtue. However, when Christians in any one country (America) give 2-3% of their income doesn’t that indicate that the wealthy of this world are not spiritually wealthy? Can I ask it this way – can a person be wealthy and give 3% of their income to church, poor, or charities and be considered spiritually wealthy?
            I’m not trying to get up in your face, this is just a question that constantly haunts me.
            Re confronting a Christian – we do have an example of confronting a Christian in the way you mentioned ( go to them in private). But we also have very public criticisms of wealth. Like Simon who the apostles said, “To hell with you and your money”.
            Honestly, I’m not advocating public calling out of people. I’m trying to discover what does work. The most common approach in the OT was the public prophetic call. Perhaps today this is best done in the form of accountability groups and public forums like blogs or magazines.
            Can anyone else think of other ways to challenge/confront? Do we even need to challenge and confront?

          • says

            I think that’s an accurate assessment of the problem, Craig. It’s hard to realize how much our culture affects our faith in God. It’s much worse than we imagine. We try to find ways to rationalize what we want to be true, which is mostly based on our culture – not what Scripture says. Take loving your enemies and not resisting an evil person as an example (not to go off topic…just to show an example). Jesus was very clear about it, but we so strongly resist following His instructions because it goes against our culture and our human nature.

  2. Jesse Young says

    Perhaps this is a question of where you are “laying up your treasure”? You can be wealthy in a worldly sense, and be spiritually wealthy as well. I also know people who are poor in this world’s goods who are spiritually bankrupt. The issue is not so much money as it is the quality of your relationship with Christ.

  3. Justin says

    Thank you Paul…

    I often find God to measure in percentages (i.e. Mark 12:42-44; the tithe – 10%) not by amounts (which I am sure you agree with)… Having said that, suppose a Believer makes $1,000,000.00 annually and gives away 50% (35% more than what you currently give). That leaves them with $500,000.00… Of which, let’s say, they buy a $100,000 car and a $400,000 home… I find wealthy believers are often criticized unjustly (some rightly so, but most not)… People see the car and the fancy (whatever that means) house but have no clue as to how much they give into the kingdom… Can they do more? Certainly, but if you own more than 2 pairs of socks and have an extra bedroom, then why not downsize… God delights in the prosperity of His Children (Ps. 35:27)… He has given us all things to enjoy (1Tim. 6:17)!

    I have learned this over the years and have chosen to live by – A Gift Is Not What You Give; A Gift Is What It Cost You To Give It… (Mark 12:42-44; 2Sam. 24:24)

    Thanks for the dialogue.


    • says

      I felt like Paul was put in an awkward position by the question regarding his giving so I’m letting the comments start here.

    • says

      Well, you’ve said two opposing things, Justin. First, you say the rich person is unjustly criticized because we only see the wealth and not how much they may be giving to the kingdom. But then you say a gift is not what you give but what it cost you to give.

      Would even 50% really be much of a “cost” to someone earning $1,000,000 a year?

      Is 50% really more generous than 15% if there’s a huge disparity between the two people’s incomes?

      What is it exactly that entitles a wealthy Christian to spend $100,000 on a car while they have brothers who are starving? Why do I deserve a vacation while others are needlessly dying? I’m not endorsing socialism or communism here. I’m just asking: If the love of God dwells in us, why would we consider our wants superior to another’s need?

    • says


      That might be hard to determine. However, I do think we can speak in general terms.

      America is one of the wealthiest nations in the world (I always hear people say that, but I’ve never tried to confirm it).
      American Christians are reported to give between 2-3% of their incomes.

      Something doesn’t add up.

  4. says

    Something Paul said in his email reminded me of a specific meditation on Matthew 5:40-42

    40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    I’ve heard many, many Christians talk about not being taken advantage of. That being a doormat is terrible, and Jesus never meant it to be that way with these words. I agree that being a doormat is terrible (Jesus certainly wasn’t a doormat), but just recently – probably in November – the Spirit began challenging my understanding of that passage.

    I can’t find anywhere in scripture that Jesus tells us to be careful that people don’t take advantage of us. Granted, I haven’t looked exhaustively yet, but it’s not where I’ve looked. :) Instead, I see the opposite. It’s almost like we’re supposed to be so generous that people have no opportunity to take advantage of us. He says, in fact, that even if someone is SUING you for your shirt, you should hand over your coat too! The one suing might be wanting to take advantage, but the one GIVING the shirt and coat isn’t allowing that opportunity. His generosity is interrupting the scheming. That is beautiful, and also very challenging to me. I keep thinking about it, and I love it.

    I think Paul is correct in saying that “looking toward a generosity that isn’t bound by our worries or our selfishness.” I don’t question a wealthy believer, I question a selfish one regardless of their wealth. God blesses us so we can bless others. I firmly believe that.


    • says

      I think that’s a good insight, Jason. Though I will add that when it comes to giving to people, always giving them what they ask for may not be the best choice. For example, a drug addict who asks for money so he can support his habit. Giving him money may not be the best choice there because you aren’t really helping him. But giving your time, building a relationship with him, and helping him out by using your money (for food, shelter, rehab, whatever) would be a better gift. I only say this because some people take that verse to mean that we should give people whatever they ask whenever they ask for it. In many cases I think that would be right, but I also think God’s love looks beyond trying to keep a simple rule and looks to the best way to help a person who asks.

      • says

        Right, I didn’t mean to leave it as open as that. :) I don’t give every homeless guy I see a buck. Therein lies something else that is important as Christians. If we are in tune with the Holy Spirit, we will hear that voice in our hearts when we see someone in real need.

        A quick example of what this verse says to me: I was in Paraguay in 2009 and rented my house. My renters still owe me over 2000, and I probably will never see it. This Christmas I made fudge (it’s my “thing”), and I wanted to give them some fudge. No one understood why I would give them a gift. I just felt like Christ was calling me to a higher standard than how everyone else thinks.


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