We’ve all heard the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your self and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:4-5)
This command says less about the individual, discrete elements of the human being and more about the thorough-going, outwardly directed character of the covenantal love that is required in response to the character of God.
The Use of Wealth Can’t be Divorced from the Whole Person
This commitment of the whole person to the kingdom of God is a process beginning with the inner person and extending outwardly to human effort, relationship, property, and wealth. The use and investment of personal property cannot be divorced from the disposition of the heart.
As a result, wealth in itself is never described as morally evil, but rather a gift of God. This gift must be managed and disbursed in a way that is commensurate with a faithful heart and mindful of the purposes of the kingdom of God.
The biblical use of wealth should be marked by generosity, stewardship, and investment, all of which glorifies God and honors others who are made in his image.
The ramifications of such expectations are far-reaching. In particular, there are two primary implications for the Christian life. First, wealth is not morally evil but is a divine blessing. Second, how one uses wealth reveals the commitments of the heart. This post focuses on the first implication; a post next week will cover the second.
Wealth Is a Divine Blessing
Wealth is not morally evil but rather is a blessing from God.
Due to common errors of interpretation, the Scriptures are thought to malign the accrual of wealth as merely a sign of unfaithfulness. The biblical account does nothing of the sort.
Wealth is a gift of God from whom all blessings flow. The cultural mandate, found in Genesis 1:28 and reiterated after the Fall in Genesis 9:1, presupposes that humanity is expected to increase in number and dominion over all creation as image bearers of the Lord. Such an expectation cannot be accomplished without the accrual of property.
- Abraham is described as a wealthy businessman whose success was not achieved in spite of his relationship with the Lord but as a result of it (Gen. 24:1).
- The prophetic author of Samuel attributes David’s success as a warrior and king to the blessing of the Lord (2 Sam. 5:10, 7:13).
- When Jesus meets the Roman centurion, he says nothing of the man’s military authority and success, opting instead to praise him for his faithfulness (Matt. 8:10).
Such accounts of wealth and success can be found throughout the Scriptures.
Wealth in the Wisdom Literature of the Bible
Biblical wisdom literature provides a plethora of teaching regarding even the most minute aspects of wealth production and management. While many wisdom teachings highlight the dangers that accompany the growth of wealth, wealth as a whole is shown to be one legitimate result of the wise life.
- In Proverbs 12:27, the lazy person goes hungry. The diligent person gains wealth.
- In Proverbs 3:9-10, the one who gives first from his profits to the Lord will find that the Lord blesses him with disproportionately large abundance as a result.
- The sage of Proverbs 13:22 praises a man as “good” who leaves an inheritance for his children.
The beginning of Psalm 112:1-3, which reads like a wisdom teaching, provides an expansive vision of the blessing that awaits those who fear the Lord:
Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.
These passages do not support a “prosperity gospel” interpretation in which all faithfulness should result in immediate material wealth. The Scriptures are replete with examples of the faithful who live in poverty either by choice or by oppression.
These passages do confirm that the Lord does acknowledge the faithfulness of his people and will certainly bless them with abundance, including material wealth, as he pleases. As a result, all wealth should be received with a spirit of gratitude and heartfelt worship.
This post has been adapted from Dr. Redd’s booklet, Wholehearted: A Biblical Look at the Greatest Commandment and Personal Wealth. Dr. Redd is speaking at an upcoming regional conference on purpose at work, “Gospel, Work & Community” on Jan. 21 at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.