Public Square & Theology 101

Are There Wealthy People in the Bible?

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Yesterday we began examining some tough questions Christians have about economics.

Many of these questions are about wealth. Can we live as faithful followers of Christ and still be wealthy?

Let’s look to Scripture to see if there are examples of Christians who were wealthy.

Dr. Glenn Sunshine and Dr. Jay Richards both point to the Old Testament examples of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – these patriarchs of the faith were wealthy men. Job was also wealthy. Sunshine points out that these examples remind us that:

Although Scripture has some very harsh things to say about the wealthy, this does not mean that all of them are evil or under divine judgment. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job were rich and yet were also approved by God. Just as poverty doesn’t guarantee virtue, wealth does not guarantee vice.

In his discussion of Acts 2-5, Art Lindsley lists several examples from the New Testament of wealthy believers who gave generously to those in need. Among these Christians are:

  • Joseph, called Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37)
  • Dorcas (Acts 9:36)
  • Cornelius (Acts 10:1)
  • Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12)
  • Lydia (Acts 16:14-15)
  • Jason (Acts 17:5-9)
  • Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2-3)
  • Mnason of Cyprus (Acts 21:16)
  • Philemon (Philemon 1)

These believers lived faithful Christian lives in addition to enjoying wealth. It’s important to take note of the example they set. Art makes a point of saying these people “were wealthy and gave generously.” Their actions illustrate the responsibilities placed upon the wealthy because of how they have been blessed.

In an earlier post, Glenn Sunshine digs deeper into the obligations of the rich, saying,

Scripture is very clear that the wealthy have obligations to the poor that God takes very seriously.

Among the obligations Sunshine lists are:

  • Treating the poor with fairness.
  • Not using the courts to defraud the poor.
  • Not taking advantage of another’s misfortune.
  • Preserving the dignity of the poor by providing opportunities for work.

We encourage you to read more of Dr. Sunshine’s series to learn more about this topic.

Again, God’s real concern, Sunshine writes, is not necessarily with wealth or poverty, but with righteousness and justice.

What do you think? Can you live a faithful Christian life and be wealthy? Leave your comments here.

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  • We ought to be careful to make distinctions on this topic on two counts: poverty, and justice.
    First, we can abstractly identify individuals who are poor due circumstancevs. those who are poor due to vice, and also those who are poor and have the capacity to do something about it vs. those who are poor and unable to do anything about it. In this last category we can include primarily those who are of no economic value to other people. They cannot produce anything which anyone else would want to buy. Markets do nothing directly to help these people. These are the least of these. When social justice advocates discuss poverty we ought to find some agreement on definitions before continuing discussion. Regenerate individuals can recognize the image of God in the least of these, the face of Jesus there, and we are motivated to imitate His sacrifice and love for us in our destitution by caring for these. Also, it is only the person with local knowledge who can rightly discern who the least of these are.
    Second, there is the question of justice. That systematic injustices have existed and continue to exist should be obvious. Those oppressed by these injustices require rescue. This post primarily provides negative obligations to the poor. But such negative obligations are not peculiar to Christians. They are common, and easily motivated in all men with sufficient sympathy. We need to emphasize the positive obligations peculiar to Christians. Where there is injustice we need to find ways to overcome it through personal sacrifice.
    Also, allow me to sugest an alternative definition of wealth: Wealth is a measure of how far you can see into the future. This dovetails with what we know about discount rates and likelihood for vice.

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