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I wanna be rich

“I wanna be rich, have a nice house and all the good things I deserve...”

Have you ever said something like this? I know I have; what’s wrong with wanting the good things in life? What kind of God wouldn’t want me to have good things? Sounds like a fair enough statement and a reasonable question, so what does God think about us having good things? Well let’s start with money; we can’t have any of the good things unless we have money. 

Wealth Is not a Sign of God's Favour

In Jesus' time it was a common belief that great wealth was a sign of God's favour and poverty was God's punishment for sin. 

Some Old Testament verses do reflect the idea that poverty is a natural consequence of foolish actions (Proverbs 6:9-11, 20:13, 23:21). 

However, Jesus denied that wealth is a sign of God's favour or that poverty is God's punishment for sin. This is shown most clearly in His Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). At least part of the reason the rich man ended up in hell was because of his hard-heartedness toward the beggar Lazarus. His great wealth was obviously not a sign of God's favour. The beggar Lazarus ended up in heaven although he was about as impoverished as a man could be. His poverty was obviously not a sign of sinfulness or foolishness.

Despite the Bible's many warnings against it, the idea that wealth is a sign of God's favour and that the poor have done something to deserve their condition persists as an undercurrent today that is sometimes used to justify a callous attitude toward those who are poor. 

The Bible Does not Promise Wealth

There is no promise in the Bible that being a Christian will lead to a good job, wealth, freedom from debt, etc.

One verse is sometimes cited:


For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
​ 
Jeremiah 29:11 (TNIV)

In context, this verse was directed specifically to the Israelite exiles in Babylon. The original Hebrew word translated as "prosperity" can mean peace, completeness, safety, health, satisfaction or blessings1. It does not imply financial prosperity.

In the prayer of Jabez we have an often misunderstood prayer:


Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.
​ 
1 Chronicles 4:10 (NIV)

Jabez is asking for God’s blessing on his land, in his safety and in his health and well-being; of course God wants us to have these things.

So what to make of these verses and the hundreds like them? 


May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
Psalm 35:27 
​ 

​​​Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
Psalms 116:7


​ Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
3 John 1:2


Prosperity is a gift from God


The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.
Proverbs 10:22
 
Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 5:19

Look again at these so called prosperity verses; there are many in the Old and New Testament. Read them again knowing the word we translate as prosper means to succeed, promote or be promoted. There are many ways we can be bountifully enriched by the Lord! The last two verses deal with riches, for the most part it means exactly what it says; the accumulation of possessions or money..

So does God want to bless me with money or not? 

Well the truth is God wants to bless you; He wants you to be healthy, happy and safe. He wants you cared for and not going without. If you accumulate wealth God certainly allowed it but there are many places in the bible where wealth and riches come with dire warnings.

Material riches are regarded by the Scriptures as neither good nor bad in themselves, but only according as they are properly or improperly used. They are transitory (Proverbs 27:24); they are not to be trusted in (Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24; 1 Timothy 6:17); they are not to be gloried in (Jeremiah 9:23); the heart is not to be set on them (Psalms 62:10); but they are made by God (Psalms 104:24), and come from God (1 Chronicles 29:12); and they are the crown of the wise (Proverbs 14:24). Material riches are used to body forth for us the most precious and glorious realities of the spiritual realm. See, e.g., Romans 9:23; 11:33; Ephesians 2:7; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27.

It is not money or wealth that is evil but what we do with it.


The Rich and the Kingdom of God
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony,
19 honour your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Matthew 19:16-24

I have left the whole story, the questions and Jesus’ response in for us to have some context. Remember this scripture is after Jesus’ teaching on many hard subjects, setting right many misconceptions.

The verses I want to look at are verses 23 and 24:


23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples response is due mainly to the misconception we looked at earlier, that it was believed (wrongly) that wealth meant God loved you whereas poverty meant He didn’t.


25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus response sums up the truth of the situation.


26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

For those that have sacrificed or denied themselves to follow Jesus, there is a reward far greater than any worldly wealth or riches.

But back to our verses these are the ones I want you to think on


23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Very clearly (in rather dramatic language) Jesus is saying it is impossible for a rich man to go to heaven.  

What he means is it is impossible for someone who puts there wealth first or holds onto it to enter Heaven. How is it right that we have millionaire pastors or Christian billionaires when countless millions starve?

Personally I cannot see how that can work, but many of these people do amazing works with the wealth they have been given. This question is beyond my judgement but it doesn’t sit well with me. 

  • Does it sit well with you?
  • So who are the rich Jesus is talking about?

Fact: Almost half the world, over 3 billion people; live on less than £1.75 a day.

Fact: At least 80% of the world population live on less than £7 a day. 

The growth of income equality has long been a hot topic around the globe, but it wasn’t until the “Occupy” movement that the amount of wealth concentrated in the top 1% of society received so much attention.

Indeed, it's an incredibly powerful club. According to Oxfam, a leading poverty-fighting organization, eight men own as much wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up for the poorest in the world, and one in ten people survive on less than £1.40 per day. Still, the top 1% consists of a lot more than just eight people.

This raises an interesting question: Who exactly are the 1%? The surprising answer: If you’re an American, you don’t have to even be close to being uber-rich to make the list.

​Ranking by Income 

According to the Global Rich List, a website that brings awareness to worldwide income disparities, an income of £17,000 a year will allow you to make the cut. £17,000 amounts to roughly:

  • 19,500 Euros
  • 1.54 million Indian rupees
  • 153,000 Chinese yuan

So if you’re an accountant, a registered nurse or even an elementary school teacher, congratulations. The average wage for any of these careers falls well within the top 1% worldwide.

Some of you reading this are in the top 1% of wealthy people on Earth. By that standard all of us are rich, every single person reading this study is the rich man or woman. 

Does that mean we cannot enter Heaven? Of course not.

It does mean we should seriously start considering what our wealth is for and what we prioritise our spending on. Food for thought; the Bible is not against wealth, but it is clear we shouldn’t chase it.

We should be seeking God’s Kingdom and if while we do that we become wealthy, we should use that wealth for God’s Kingdom.

We are blessed with riches to bless others, we must never forget that; or we may very well end up being the rich man or woman in Jesus’ story.

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