There are two extreme financial teachings in Christian camps today: the Prosperity Gospel and the Poverty Gospel. I believe both are wrong.
Those who believe that riches are a sign of God’s blessing advance what is commonly referred to as the Prosperity Gospel. This teaches that you can command God to prosper you financially, that when you give you can expect a larger financial increase in return, and that your spending can be extravagant and carefree. This false theology is in contradiction to the many Scriptural warnings against greed, selfishness, coveting, idolatry, and the love of money.
Luke 16:14-15: “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”
First Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
You should be on your guard to identify and reject the teachings of the Prosperity Gospel as well as the other extreme, the Poverty Gospel. This false teaching claims that money and possessions are evil, that rich people are greedy and sinful, that being poor makes you more righteous in God’s eyes, and that spending brings guilt and condemnation.
Proverbs 30:8 instructs us not to seek poverty or riches. “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”
We can know that the presence or absence of money is not the way we measure God’s blessing. “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all,” notes Proverbs 22:2.
In Hebrews 11, often called the Faith Hall of Fame, you can read of heroes and martyrs, rich and poor, who made up the fabric of our Christian history.
What made them distinctive were not their bank accounts, but how they obediently used their opportunities to further the work of God on earth.
In fact, of those who suffered the most, the scripture says in verse 38, “The world was not worthy of them.”
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were men of means. King Solomon was said to be the richest king in the world, as a gift from God. In Luke 8:3, it records that rich women supported Jesus’ ministry on earth. And when Jesus died on a cross for our sins, wealthy and well-connected men asked for his body and buried it at their expense. In Acts 2 we read how the early church shared their resources, rich and poor, to take care of all.
God gave us the tenth commandment as a law against coveting. We should not have animosity towards anyone who has been entrusted with greater possessions than us.
When it comes to earthly wealth, God never condemns it or the wealthy but warns that sin enters the equation when money becomes the ultimate goal, the main pursuit of life. First Timothy 6:9-10 says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money (emphasis added) is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Jesus states in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
There are many more examples, but the point is this: For His purposes, God uses both rich and poor for His work on this earth, noting in 1 Samuel 2:7, “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and He exalts.”
What should concern the wealthy, however, is how well they are fighting the temptation of arrogance and how well they are using their resources for good. First Timothy 6:17 says, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” Jesus himself talks about how hard it is for the rich to remain untangled by the trappings of their wealth, saying, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
In the 16th century, theologian Martin Luther wrote that as a practical matter, there are three conversions a person must experience to be fully committed – a conversion of the heart, a conversion of the mind, and a conversion of the purse.
In counseling people about Biblical financial practices for decades, I know this to be true. Often, it is in the use of our money that we last surrender to God’s ways. Crown has some wonderful resources in a new MoneyLife study to teach God’s financial principles.
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