A wealth-creating culture can be a sign of human flourishing, especially when a culture once in extreme poverty begins to create enough wealth to move beyond destitution. We should celebrate it when cultures reach a point where they can feed, clothe, and shelter themselves and use their God-given abilities more fully.
Still, we shouldn’t forget that the Bible repeatedly warns about the dangers of wealth.
- In Ephesians 5:5, the Apostle Paul describes greed as a form of idolatry. He also says in I Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is the root of all evil.”
- James tells certain greedy people in one church that the rust from their ill-gotten money will eat their flesh (James 5:3-6)!
- Jesus talks a lot about wealth. He says to his disciples in Matthew 6:19-21,
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So, scripture is chock full of warnings about money and wealth. Nevertheless, the Bible often does treat material wealth as a blessing from God. If wealth can be a blessing, then it can’t be bad in itself. How do we reconcile this with the repeated warnings about wealth in scripture?
These warnings concerning money and wealth refer either to misplaced loyalty or to hoarding. The Bible never treats money and wealth as evil in themselves.
- Paul says the love of money is the root of all evil, not money itself. To love money, to serve mammon, is to make it your top priority – to value your hoard more than God. That’s why greed is a form of idolatry. Since money and wealth mean power, they can easily be a stumbling block.
- When James warns the rich that their money would eat their flesh, he was speaking to wealthy people who were defrauding the poor of their promised wages – the rich stealing from the poor. Talk about idolizing money!
- In Luke 18:18-23, Jesus commands the rich young ruler to sell everything he had, but he didn’t issue that command to everyone. Jesus knew that this man’s wealth was a profound hindrance to his salvation.
If a person is hoarding or idolizing their wealth, then the wealth is a stumbling block. The Bible has nothing good to say about this kind of miserliness, as we have seen. And while the Bible doesn’t treat wealth as an evil in itself, it does require important things of those who are blessed with wealth. Dr. Glenn Sunshine outlines these responsibilities in a previous post.
The proper view of money and wealth is to see them not as ends, but as means to other ends: serving others, meeting needs, and creating wealth and opportunity for God-given gifts, talents, and creativity to bring about human flourishing.
This post was adapted from the book Indivisible.
What do you think? How does the Bible talk about money and wealth? Leave your comments here.