I’ve had this question rattling around in my little noggin, so I wanted some of you smart readers to help me solidify some of my thoughts.
Inevitably, when Christians have a discussion regarding Christian wealth, someone will point out all the characters in the Bible who were extremely wealthy. However, there are a couple of things we need to keep in mind:
1. Biblical narrative is not a moral narrative. Let me explain that. We read stories to our children that have moral foundations. When they read those stories we want them to learn morals from the story. A Biblical narrative can comment on tragic character flaws, and it rarely takes time to add a notation that offers a character judgment.
Consider Noah who got drunk. Was that good, bad, or neither? The narrative does not reflect on the morality of his action. In the same way, just because someone is rich in the Bible doesn’t mean the Bible is making a moral statement about wealth. Because King Solomon was wealthy doesn’t mean exorbitant wealth is good. Solomon also had hundreds of wives.
2. Interestingly, most of those names we throw out will come from the Old Testament. Many of our rich God-fearing heroes come from the pages of the Old Testament. There are some in the New Testament, but many refer to the Old Testament characters.
Is there an intentional shift in the view of wealth between Old Testament and New Testament?
God seems to have a very clear agenda in the Old Testament – to build up and to prosper his followers. However, the agenda seems to (at the very least) morph under the ministry of Jesus. Jesus criticizes some people for having wealth, encourages some people to sell their wealth, and even tells someone salvation came because he gave away money.
Evangelical Christians have had a long and interesting relationship with the Old Testament. One that I cannot fully summarize here. Let’s simply say that different bodies of Christians are willing to dismiss differing parts of the Old Testament as “old law” or “former covenant”, thus making those teachings, examples, or injunctions obsolete.
Our question for today is – was the view of wealth one of those things that changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
In the story of the Rich Young Man, Jesus seems to be challenging his disciples’ assumptions. They thought wealth was the proof you were accepted by God. They wondered how anyone could enter the kingdom of God if this man couldn’t. At the very least, Jesus is teaching his disciples to change their view of wealth. These are not the only people that God accepts.
Without a doubt, I think we could say that wealth is viewed much more positively in the Old Testament than it is in the New. Do you agree?
Then the question remains:
Why the transition from a more positive view to a more negative view?
- The shift represents a cultural critic. During that time, the New Testament addressed audiences that seemed to have an unhealthy relationship with money.
- The shift represents God’s New Testament ethic – a move away from the opulence that once characterized his people.
- The shift is simply an equalizer. Serves to present a balanced view of money – it can be either good or bad, depending on how it is used.
There is a final option. That option is that I have no idea what I’m talking about, and there is not shift between the OT and NT view of wealth. Back in 1997 I was wrong, so I’d be willing to accept the fact that I might be wrong once again.
Is there an OT and NT view of wealth? If yes, why? If no, do you plan to unsubscribe from this blog?