Question: "What does the Bible say about wealth?"
Answer: Wealth is the abundance of valuable possessions or money. When we have wealth, we have more than we need to sustain a normal life. By this definition, and in comparison with the rest of the world, most people in developed countries are wealthy. Some believe wealth is wrong and, if someone has more than enough, he or she should spread it around equally. Others say that wealth is the result of hard work and wise investments, and no one else has any claim to it. Wealth is dealt with in the Bible, and it is there we find the proper perspective on it.
We know that wealth itself is not sinful. Wealth is not offensive to God because He often blessed His servants with wealth when they pleased Him (Deuteronomy 28:1–8). Abraham (Genesis 13:2), Jacob (Genesis 30:43), and King Solomon (1 Kings 10:23) are examples of wealthy men in the Bible who were used by God in mighty ways. In the Old Testament, wealth was sometimes an indicator of the Lord’s pleasure and blessing. However, wealth has never been an accurate barometer of a person’s standing with God. Some righteous people are poor while some wicked people are rich (Psalm 73; Jeremiah 12:1).
In the New Testament, too, several wealthy people were instrumental in advancing God’s kingdom. Matthew (Luke 5:27–29), Joanna (Luke 8:3), Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57), Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8), and Lydia (Acts 16:14–15) were all individuals of great means who were called by God for a special work and who used their wealth for a righteous cause. Wealth itself is morally neutral. What we do with wealth can either enhance good or create more evil. Wealth can be used for God’s purposes or for selfish goals.
One verse about wealth often misquoted is 1 Timothy 6:10, which says, in part, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” This verse is sometimes used to say that money is evil, but that is not what it says. It is the love of money, not money itself, that leads to evil choices. In this epistle, Paul warned his young protégé Timothy about false teachers who would infiltrate the church for financial profit. Their greed would not only fleece unsuspecting believers but also infect the church with the love of money. The verse goes on to say, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” The Bible never says that money is evil, only to avoid the love of it.
Another warning the Bible gives us about money is that it can quickly become an idol: “Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10). When we have abundance, we tend to grow lazy spiritually, believing our money will take care of us. Our hearts grow resistant to self-sacrifice, and our focus shifts from eternal riches to earthly bank balances. Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich person to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:25). Our Lord put wealth in perspective when He said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).
When wealth becomes an idol, it also becomes our downfall. Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the rich fool, which teaches the foolishness of trusting in riches without keeping God as the center of one’s life (Luke 12:14–21). Jesus, who knows our hearts, warned us about trying to serve two masters (Luke 16:13). We cannot love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength if we also love money (Mark 12:30). God will not share His throne.
Proverbs 30:7–9 is a prayer that models the right attitude about wealth: “Two things I ask of 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.” When our daily prayer is that God will meet all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19), we remind ourselves where our help comes from (Psalm 121:1–2). Any abundance beyond that daily sustenance is a gift from the Lord, and we are to use it wisely. When we consider that all we have and all we are belongs to God, we are more careful to use it all for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). When we see wealth as an investment entrusted to us by its rightful Owner, we are more likely to keep it in right perspective.