“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:
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 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?
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.
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:
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.
Jesus response sums up the truth of the situation.
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
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.
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:
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.
Thank you for reading
I hope you enjoyed the study.
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