Theology 101

Can Wealth Acquired by Unrighteous Means Be Used for Righteous Purposes?

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Job is an unimpeachable example of the righteous rich. But, those classified as the righteous rich are not always such paragons of righteousness, as Abraham’s story shows.

Even when the character of one who acquires wealth is mixed or ambiguous, that wealth can still be used righteously. King David became enormously wealthy, but it seems that some of his wealth came from unrighteous sources.

In fact, God told David that he would not be allowed to build the temple. David recounts to Solomon that God told him:

You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before me. (I Chronicles 22:8)

It is an interesting question as to what this charge meant. Sometimes God gave David a direct strategy to win a battle, such as with the Philistines in I Chronicles 14:8-17. This victory established David’s fame as a warrior. The problem was not that David was a military leader but that he had gone overboard and was excessively cruel in his assaults:

Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt. And David would strike the land and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish. (1 Samuel 27:8-9; see also 30:1-31, 2 Samuel 3:21-23, 5:4-10, 5:19-21, 8:1-7, 12:30)

Certainly as you read the narrative, you wonder about some of David’s military actions.

In any case, David became very wealthy, and much of this wealth came from the spoils of war.

  • He led the way in giving resources for Solomon’s building of the temple. He gave 3,000 talents of gold and 7,000 talents of silver, much bronze, iron, wood, and precious stones (I Chronicles 29:1-4).
  • His generosity inspired others to give 5,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of brass, 100,000 talents of iron and many precious stones (I Chronicles 29:7-8).

Much of David’s wealth was given to the temple project and his generosity inspired others to give generously. David dedicated this project to the Lord (I Chronicles 29:10-20). So even though some of David’s wealth may have been gained unrighteously, he used it for righteous purposes.

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