Money tests our hearts like little else on earth. Whether it be the test of poverty, or the test of prosperity, money brings out the best and worst in us. Far too often, and I am sure you’d agree, we don’t know as much about God’s view on money as we ought to, but are afraid to admit. Within church-circles, it’s even more daunting to face our deficiencies on money-management because we’re “supposed” to be people of the Book – with all of the answers rolling off the tip our tongue. Some people preach the prosperity gospel (false), promising God wants you rich. Some preach the poverty gospel (also false), promising God wants you poor. Reality is, everybody needs to continuously revisit biblical principles on money and be a balanced, lifelong student of financial stewardship. To help contrast some of the bad teaching out there, here are some starter-principles to build upon.
Principle #1: God owns everything
When we think of wealth, first, we have to understand that God owns everything! God doesn’t owe you and I anything, He isn’t shocked by the state of the world, and He never “lost the deed to the earth” when Adam sinned, as prosperity preachers and Word of Faith enthusiasts will preach. God doesn’t just hold the deed to all land; He is the Creator of all land.
God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10); He owns everything under heaven, for that matter (Job 41:11). The Psalmist declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). There is no arguing with the Bible on who owns everything. God does.
So if God is the owner of everything, what does that make us? When we understand this first principle, we quickly realize we are simply, managers. One day, we’ll give an account for how we managed what He’s entrusted to us (see Matthew 25:14–30).
Principle #2: Wealth isn’t guaranteed on earth
The Bible is equally as clear that while God owns everything, wealth isn’t guaranteed for everyone on earth. Jesus told His disciples that the poor would always be with them (John 12:8). We can gather from His words that people are naturally going to struggle financially in this broken world. No wonder Scripture is so adamant that the poor be cared for—they are some of society’s most vulnerable people. Assuming, of course, that they are not poor because they are lazy (the Bible has much to say on laziness, but we’ll have to cover that another time), God cares greatly for those who are in need. The book of Proverbs contains wisdom on serving the poor because wealth is not always going to be evenly spread around the world. Because of that we should:
- Not oppress the poor, but rather, be kind to them (Proverbs 14:31)
- Lend to the poor and trust the Lord with the results (Proverbs 19:17)
- Be generous and share food with the poor (Proverbs 22:9)
- Give to the poor and not ignore them (Proverbs 28:27)
- Protect the rights of the poor (Proverbs 29:7)
Caring for the poor is necessary because wealth is not guaranteed for all. Beyond that, Scripture show us what God wants for all of us. Contentment, not riches, should be the goal of every believer. We must maintain balance in our understanding on wealth and poverty. With his intelligence, extensive religious training (Acts 26:5), and Roman citizenship (Acts 22:27), the apostle Paul was certainly deserving of great wealth, but clearly he wasn’t focused on whatever the prosperity preachers of today are selling. He has learned the value in contentment (Philippians 4:12).
God accomplishes his purposes in and through both the poor and the rich. In the end, contentment is the key to a happy heart (1 Timothy 6:8).
Principle #3: Wealth is a tool for gospel advancement
Even though wealth is not guaranteed on earth, God does give the opportunity to gain wealth. You may say, “Nobody gave me wealth—I earned it!” The children of Israel thought the same thing, but Moses reminded them that it was God who was blessing them based solely on His sovereign will (Deuteronomy 8:17–18). In short, if God has blessed you with wealth, you ought to humbly thank Him and realize that you have a great responsibility.
When it comes to being rich, the Bible is hardly silent on what rich people are supposed to do with their abundance of money. Yes, it’s biblical and prudent to leave an inheritance for your children (Proverbs 13:22), and it’s good to work hard and save for the future (Proverbs 6:6). But you know what the greatest purpose of wealth is? To advance the gospel and do God’s will! Paul told Timothy that rich people are to do this very thing. In a very straightforward passage he says,
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.(1 Timothy 6:17–19)
There you have it. Wealth is not a sin. You’re allowed to enjoy it. But don’t for a second fix your hope on it. It’s a tool for ministry, not materialism.
The best investment strategy on earth is putting stock in heaven! Jesus affirmed this investment strategy when He said to store up treasure in heaven where nothing can destroy it (Matthew 6:19–21).
Use your wealth to advance the gospel. You can’t take it with you. There will be no U-Haul behind the hearse.
Principle #4: Wealth is not a sign of elite spiritual status
Prosperity preachers will tell you that wealth is a sign of an elite spiritual awakening. As in, “You have finally realized your full identity as a child of God when you step into the wealth God has for you.…” Or some nonsense like that.
Again, check the Bible on this. It is estimated the Bible contains upwards of two thousand references to money. Approximately 50 percent of Jesus’s parables dealt with stewardship of money and “stuff,” and nearly three hundred verses in just the Gospels alone deal with money. Doesn’t this tell you that money and wealth are a very serious subject to God? Nor do all these verses contain exciting affirmations about being wealthy; rather, many of them contain warnings about being wealthy. In fact, wealth is often a distraction from what really matters, so it takes a lot of discipline and biblical teaching to keep your heart from being sucked in by money’s malicious pull. The wealthy are often in a tug-of-war between their affections for earthly things (Philippians 3:19) and the eternal life to come. Wealthy believers, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can overcome temptations and use wealth as a tool for good, but more than likely there will always be a battle in the heart between giving generously and the natural inclination to keep, keep, keep.
Does the Bible paint wealth as a mark of the spiritual elite, or does it warn of the dangers of having all the things your heart desires? Look at what the Bible warns about wealth and decide for yourself:
- You can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
- The deceitfulness of riches chokes out fruitfulness (Mark 4:19).
- It’s difficult for rich people to choose Christ over wealth (Luke 18:22–23).
- It’s difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25).
- The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
- Your soul is your most important asset (Luke 12:20).
- You can gain the whole world yet lose your soul if you do not have Christ (Mark 8:36).
Furthermore, in the Bible, the poor and afflicted are given special attention when it comes to spiritual care, and they are often able to worship more freely because they are free of the entanglements that riches bring. Revelation 2:9 illustrates this perfectly and tells us what real riches are. Jesus calls the church of Smyrna “rich” because even though they are in poverty and tribulation, they have held fast to their faith no matter the cost! They receive the highly esteemed crown of life for their faithfulness and suffering on earth (Revelation 2:10). What a powerful truth! Wealth is not a sign of elite spiritual status—having Christ is.
Don’t buy the lies the prosperity preachers sell. The wealthy should be asking, “How can I be more sacrificial?” Rather than, “How can I boast in my elite status?”
Principle #5: Wealth is an immense responsibility
If you’re wealthy, you were meant to build God’s kingdom, not your own earthly empire. Jesus said not to be anxious about any kind of provision but to instead seek His kingdom and his righteousness and that everything else would be taken care of (Matthew 6:31–33). In fact, we are all called to live generous lives with whatever means we have. Jesus said that when a widow gave two cents, she had given more than the wealthy who had given large amounts (Luke 21:1–4). He doesn’t see the size of your gift; He sees the state of your heart. When we give, we must give willingly, not under compulsion (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7). Wealth is a responsibility to steward, trusting that God has blessed you to be a blessing and that He will keep blessing you as He sees fit. Our job isn’t to keep; our job is to work hard, invest well, and give generously (again, see Matthew 25:14–30).
Prosperity gospel preachers want you to give to them to make them rich, but God wants you to give to faithful gospel ministries to help them reach. There is a world of hurting and broken people, and money can make a huge impact in ways that will long outlive you. You will be accountable for how you managed the wealth God has given you. That is an immense responsibility. What will your conversation be like before the throne of Christ? Will you stammer and stutter, claiming to have tried to give a little here and there while you spent most of it on your own pleasures and let the poor suffer and the church struggle? Or will you joyfully report to the Master, saying, “Lord, sometimes it went against the grain of this world to give sacrificially for your work, but pleasing you was the priceless treasure I held on to!” If we live that way, I have no doubt we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).
So go ahead! Work hard, enjoy life, and celebrate the gifts that God has given you. Be content, seek His kingdom first, care for others, and give generously in whatever ways He has enabled you to do. In all your working, living, striving, giving, and caring, remember to maintain biblical balance and keep eternity in mind.
God is not trying to take away all you have—He’s the one who gave it. He is, more than anything, testing the affections of your heart and offering you a joy beyond this world with Him in glory.
Wealth is not a sin; it’s a responsibility. Use it well.