What should be the Christian’s attitude toward money?
Many great men of the Bible had great wealth. Abraham was very rich when he came out of Egypt and was probably already rich in Ur (Gen. 13:2). His nephew Lot also had great wealth (Gen. 13:5,6). Isaac had such great wealth that the heathen Philistines envied him (Gen. 26:13,14). Jacob had been blessed by God with more than enough to suffice his great tribe (Gen. 33:11; 32:5,10). God blessed Solomon with great riches (I Kings 3:11-13). Boaz was known as a “mighty man of wealth” (Ruth 2:1). Job was the greatest of all the men in the east (Job 1:3). God had given Jehoshaphat great substance so that he had riches in abundance (II Chron. 17:5). David, himself, died with great riches (I Chron. 29:28). Hezekiah had exceeding much riches that God had given him (II Chron. 32:27-29).
There were also wealthy righteous persons, both male and female, in the New Testament, as well. Zachaeus, for example, was a wealthy man (Luke 19:2). His position as chief of the publicans apparently brought him wealth and not necessarily dishonestly. But we do know that he gave half, not all, of his goods to the poor and whatever he had gotten dishonestly he payed it back fourfold (Luke 19:1-10). Joseph of Arimethea was not only a member of the council but he was also a rich man who was Jesus’ disciple (Matt. 27:57). There was a group of women who followed Jesus and supported Him with their substance (Luke 8:1-3). Some of them at least were women of some social standing and wealth. Joanna, for instance, the wife of Herod’s steward was one of the women who supported Jesus. Lydia is another example of at least a moderately wealthy Christian women. She catered to a wealthier class of people being a seller of purple and a traveler for her business (Acts 16:13-15). Even the congregation in Laodocea was rich and increased with goods (Rev. 3:17).
The Bible is clear that when God created the world He created it with a social structure that required the ownership of private property. First, this is seen in the fact that at the very basic level God owns the earth because He created it (Ex. 19:5; Psalm 24:1). Second, when God created man He gave him dominion over all the earth and everything that creeps upon the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Then Lord put man to work in the garden to dress and to keep it (Gen. 2:15). When man mingles his labors in the sweat of his face with the soil, or the work of his hands, the fruit of the work is the man’s possession (Gen. 3:17-19). This is how Cain and Abel could bring offerings from their respective fields of labor (Gen. 4:1-5).
When God told Abraham to leave Ur and go to a land that He would show him, Abraham is said to bring all his “substance” which he had gathered (Gen. 12:5). Thus, Abraham is described as being rich (Gen. 13:2). When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments God codified this principle in the law when He condemned stealing (Ex. 20:15; Deut. 5:19). There can be no theft where there is no private property. Again, in the New Testament Barnabas, for instance, and Ananias and Sapphira had property and sold it and gave the money to the apostles (Acts 4:34-37; 5:1-6). When Ananias and Sapphira lied about how much they had given Peter told them “Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?” (Acts 5:4).
Often the Bible declares that it is God that provides riches (Deut. 8:17,18). Job declared that it was God that blessed him with wealth (Job 1:20,21). The wealthy patriarchs declared that it was God that blessed them with great riches (e.g., Gen 33:11; II Chron. 32:29). Certainly it is God Who has provided for us our daily necessities (Matt. 6:25-34). There is no doubt, however, that wicked men can use wicked means to increase their wealth (Prov. 22:16; 28:8; Psalm 73:2-12). Just good old hard work can also make one rich (Prov. 10:4; 13:4). But, generally speaking, wealth and riches are blessings upon the righteous (Psalm 112:1-3).
How, then, do we harmonize this with other statements in the Bible which seem to condemn wealth? For instance, Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven (Matt. 19:24). Jesus often used hyperbole to teach a principle. For example. Jesus said if you right eye or hand offends you pluck it out of cut it off. This cannot be taken literally (is it only your right eye that offends you?) nor did Jesus intend it to be taken that way. He established a principle, however, about the urgency of removing obstacles to righteousness.
The Bible does declare that there is a danger in wealth. Paul said that they that would be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition (I Tim. 6:9). Furthermore, those having wealth tend not to be satisfied with it for “he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase” (Eccl. 5:10). Jesus warned “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
Without a doubt the love of money is he root of all kinds of evil (I Tim. 6:10). Riches can be deceiving (Matt. 13:22) and are only temporary (Prov. 27:24). Riches can lead to pride (Ezek. 28:5), anxiety (Eccl. 5:12) and have caused some to err from the faith (I Tim. 6:10). Most importantly, wealth can never save the soul (Psalm 49:6-9; I Pet. 1:18).
Eric L. Padgett