Theology 101

Why Wealth Is Both a Blessing and a Temptation

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Throughout the scriptures, men and women of God encounter wealth of different types. Wealth comes in many forms, whether in reputation, authority, intellect, physical attraction, physical strength, military might, or finances. With each comes significant dividends and opportunity to serve the kingdom of God.

The covenants of the scriptures required a love from God’s people that makes claims on all aspects of their lives from the most personal to the most public, and that requirement is most clearly articulated in what’s called the “Shema” in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Because of the fall of humanity into sin, however, there is also a constant and persistent pull toward fragmentation, toward a rejection of God and his lordship over the human life. As result, the gift of wealth also presents unique temptation to trust in wealth over and against the provision of God.

Viewing Wealth with An Eternal Perspective

Moses recognized this human tendency and warned against it (“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth,” Deut. 8:17), and Christ acknowledged the same when he famously referenced the “eye of the needle” (Matt. 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25), to which the disciples responded, as many of us would have, “Then who can be saved?” Christ’s response is telling, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).

During his preaching ministry, Jesus spoke frequently on the topic of wealth and the proper use of it. A prime example of Christ’s teaching on wealth can be found in Matthew 6:19-21 and its related passage in Luke 12:22-34, both of which deal with the value of material wealth in relation to the value of eternal reward.

In both cases, wealth is not being rejected out of hand. It can be and often is a divine blessing bestowed on those who faithfully pursue God’s call in their lives as diligent stewards of their gifts and circumstances. The warning is against a myopic desire for material gain at the expense of eternal reward. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus encourages his audience to be singular in their service to the Lord and the heavenly treasures that await those who are citizens of his kingdom.

God’s Grace to Enjoy Wealth and Serve Him With It

Ultimately, without the grace of God showered on us as a result of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, by which our sins are forgiven and we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, a person’s wealth provides little more than false reward.

For those who are in Christ, however, the gifts we are given provide us with an opportunity to serve the Lord freely and joyfully to the degree that we are gifted, without the crippling force of covetousness or anxiety. They enjoy the abundance that leaves no room in the human heart for greed or despair. As the apostle John reminds us, “for from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John. 1:16).

Editor’s note: This post has been adapted from Dr. Redd’s booklet, Wholehearted: A Biblical Look at the Greatest Commandment and Personal Wealth.

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