It’s been a while since I’ve had a reader question. If you want to ask a question, you’re welcome to contact me.
This week I had the following question/comment from a reader.
Why do you think there is such a black lash to Christians being wealthy? Some internet blogs and various media outlets think it quite the contradiction for a Christian to be wealthy. Is it because of Matthew 19:24? Or the bible’s constant mentioning of the poor being favored in God’s eyes? To the critics I would argue that Proverbs does as much, if not more, to portray God as a proponent of wealth than other the entire rest of the bible does to show him as an opponent. As you have stated in your writing God did, after all, create money and thus it is good, like all things, when used properly and for his glory. In the same respect I would argue that drinking is not a sin, but drunkenness, when abusing wine, most certainly is.
First, let me say that I’m the absolute worst person to answer this question. I’m on a journey to find what the Bible teaches about money, and sometimes I find myself on one side of this topic while at other times I find myself on the other side.
Christian Wealth: What Does the Bible Say?
As an example, on the diversity of options about Christians and wealth, I have a post called Spending Money and Guilt. In that post, I shared a struggle I had (years ago) with a family from church that owned three Lexuses. A reader called “Concerned” commented (quote unedited):
A comment on the guy who owns 3 Lexuses: you miss the point, it’s not about how much you give, but about how much you keep for yourself (widow’s mite, Mk 12). Who gave the guy the means, ability, opportunity, etc. to earn so much money??? Why did God give it to him? One is hard pressed to find biblical justification for purchasing three Lexuses for oneself with so much need in the world (not to mention, what kind of testimony it presents). Wisdom encourages us to live simple (not poverty stricken, just normal) lives and use EVERYTHING that God gives us to make Jesus look good in this broken world. Furthermore, why would one want to invest (waste) significant resources in things that have no eternal value??? I know, I always here the tax deduction justification, but is that real motive behind purchasing three Lexuses???
I’ll respond to the reader question by responding to this comment by Concerned.
As for a biblical justification for Christian wealth, I would point you to:
- Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV)
Paul does not call these Christians to give up wealth (which he clearly could have). Just not to put their hope in wealth. Furthermore, in the midst of a strong warning to the rich, Paul tells us that what God gives (wealth) is for our enjoyment.
In Luke 19, Zacchaeus gives away half of what he owns, and Jesus says that was sufficient for him to be right with God. In the case of Zaccheaeus, what he gave seemed to be more important than what he kept. Otherwise, the Bible would have focused on what he had left, not what he gave. When Nicodemus (John 3) came to seek guidance from Jesus the topic of his wealth never surfaced.
Concerned challenges us to live simple “not poverty stricken, just normal.” Normal is a very hard place to pinpoint. I suspect it is probably defined more by how much money a person makes than anything the Bible teaches. People in North America own a lot of things just for comfort. In PNG, normal means no running water, no electricity, no appliances. So in their eyes, my life is extravagant, not simple. In the eyes of many from North America, my life is simple, not extravagant.
God Never Drew a Line in the Sand Regarding Christian Wealth
God never marks a point where he says that if you have less than this you are poor, and if you have more than this you are wealthy. If you read about my interview with the poor of PNG, you might just conclude that all of us are rich. In my post How Can Christians Find A Right Saving Balance? we find that one person defines wealth as the ownership of shoes, another as the ownership of a car, and another as the ownership of a boat …
Early on in this blog, I tried to make judgment calls on behalf of others. I asked should Christians build wealth like crazy? I now believe that might not be the best use of my time and energy. But, now I ask myself what is God calling me to do with my wealth? In the end, I don’t think I’m the kind of a person who will ever build wealth like crazy. I don’t think that is my call. It’s not my call because of my background (I’ve lived half of my life in the third world), my occupation (I live on a minister’s income), and my preference. In fact, most of my ministry has been supported by those who build wealth.
Thus, when my church needs a $250,000 contribution to fund an important ministry, I won’t be able to help provide for that need. But, a wealthy Christian might. When my church needs $250 to take a meal to local orphans, I may just be able to help. So, is the one Christian better because he can give $250,000? Nope. Is another inferior because all they can give is $250? Nope. The body has many parts.
I respect guys like Bob Lotich from Christianpf who plans to give away millions. God may one day afford me that opportunity, but I suspect my calling is different. That is why I have the following mission statement for this blog:
Money Help For Christians (MH4C) promotes a frugal, simple, debt-free, and generous lifestyle so Christians can faithfully maximize their resources by putting them at the disposal of God’s Kingdom. MH4C is committed to providing relevant resources in order to assist Christians in this effort.
But that mission statement is more about me and my calling – frugal and simple. That is the kind of person God made me. I overflow with joy when I get to enjoy that kind of life. It is a precious gift from God that he blessed me in this way. But it is not a lifestyle for everyone. Try making Dave Ramsey live like Mother Teresa and making Mother Teresa live like Dave Ramsey. Both would be utterly miserable. And it is quite possible that neither would be any more pleasing to God.
If God calls you to build wealth like crazy, pay careful attention to the condition of your heart and maximize every resource for God’s Kingdom. If God calls you to live simply with a modest bank account, be attentive to the condition of your heart and maximize every resource for God’s Kingdom.
Is this a cop out? Shouldn’t I be telling every Christian to sell your possessions? Jesus’ standards changed based on the conditions of a person’s heart. In Luke 18, Jesus demands one man must sell everything. In Luke 19, salvation comes to the home of Zacchaeus when he gives away half of what he owned. We never hear Jesus rebuking the ladies who used their wealth to support his ministry (Matthew 27:55-56).
So in this blog, you will find posts that challenge the notions of Christian wealth (i.e. Could The Money Lover Please Stand Up) – this is a check and balance for those who are pursuing wealth like crazy. Also, you’ll find posts that support the concept of Christian wealth building (i.e. How Wealth Can Strengthen Your Relationship With God) – this is a check and balance for those who judge the rich. And somewhere in the midst of all this, we each need to ask – God, what do you want me to do with His money?