Biblical Teaching on Wealth and Poverty
Interestingly, there is a high degree of scarcity of biblical teaching related to issues on wealth and poverty. This poses serious danger towards the Church as evidenced within the preponderance of the prosperity gospel.
Three insights concerning economic themes may be gleaned from surveying the Scriptures in its entirety.
Firstly, the creation narrative testifies that labor is in fact good. Because God created us with material needs, He has provided us with the ability and the means to labor to meet these needs.
Secondly, the Lord’s followers are commissioned to minister to the poor as exemplified throughout the Hebrew Law and the Gospels. Caring and helping to meet the needs of the poor is an outpouring of our Christlike love from joyful obedience to the Lord.
Thirdly, wealth has the capacity to become a spiritual stumbling block within our faith walk and sanctification towards Christlikeness. Money and material possessions are not inherently evil in and of themselves. Rather, it is when we start placing the accumulation of wealth above our relationship with the Lord that it becomes idolatry and thereby detrimental to our spiritual health. Followers of Christ are cautioned of the swiftness by which wealth can turn into an idol and to carefully avoid this destructive entrapment.
Within culture today, there is a strong assumption postulating an inextricably causal link between material wealth/poverty and spiritual wealth/poverty. What’s fascinating is that neither wealth nor poverty is specifically commended or condemned in Scripture. May I venture to say that we have been approaching this topic from the wrong angle from the start? As humans(myself included), it drives us crazy when we cannot figure things out. We like to solve problems and formulate explanations for mysteries which perplex us on a day-to-day basis within the spheres of Christianity and otherwise.
We also love putting things that are not meant to be fully explained into boxes of our finite thinking and understanding. What is awesome about Christianity is that through faith and trust we are able to accept that there are some things which God does not want us to entirely comprehend…at least not in this age. God sets boundaries, even intellectual ones, not as a killjoy but rather (1) because He is infinite and we are finite and (2) so that we will continuously depend on Him. He is inexhaustible and self-sufficient. Having said this, it is not as though God needs us for anything but, rather, He loves us boundlessly and therefore He wants the best for us even if that means we don’t get to fully understand certain things.
The source of the problem derived from the linkage identified above is not simply that there is a connection between material wealth/poverty and spiritual wealth/poverty, but rather that this way of thinking presupposes a requisite connection. Considering that neither wealth nor poverty is explicitly commended or condemned within Scripture, we can conclude that while there can be a tie between material wealth/poverty and spiritual wealth/poverty, any such connection is nonrequiste. On the one hand it can be argued that someone with good moral traits and virtues (only by Christ’s imputed righteousness) may mean that material wealth will follow. But on the other hand, someone who is just as faithful and made righteous by Christ may still undergo fiery trials and tribulations with their finances and be materially-broke. At the end of the day, we should never rely on material wealth as a barometer for spiritual wealth.
The Gospel message is that Jesus saves all who would believe on Him from the power of sin so that they may have a forever relationship with Him. While we certainly need money to meet our material needs, we need to always trust that God will provide out of His abundant provision. After all, God is sovereign over everything, so even the very means by which we earn money is made possible only by His Grace. Our finances need to be effectively stewarded to glorify God and to reflect His greatness as we serve Him by serving others with everything He has given to us!
I conclude with this piece of wisdom from Proverbs 30 asking that the Lord provides us with only that which we need through our daily bread:
Two things I ask you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord’? Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God(Proverbs 30:7-9)
Lord, I pray that this post may shed light on an often confusing, yet very important topic within Christianity to Your Church. May Your Bride steward their finances to meet those in need so that Your glory may be magnified. Also, please free us from any man-centered thinking concerning finances through ensuring that the Gospel Message is always proclaimed. Help us to trust in You and to humbly embrace our limitations as finite beings as well. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.
Reference: Health, Wealth & Happiness by David W. Jones & Russel S. Woodbridge