THE NEW TESTAMENT APPROACH TO WEALTH (Can a Christian be rich?)
Contrary to popular belief, the New Testament’s approach to wealth is one of contentment and caution...
5 Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never, never fail you nor forsake you."
TLB (Notice God said, “…never, never).
1 Tim 6:8-9
8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
NKJV (Desire to get rich-temptation-trap-foolish and harmful desires-destruction and perdition)
God has promised to provide for our needs (not our greed)....
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we
eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
NIV Emphasis Mine
15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
The Bible defines ‘needs’ as food and clothing (Matt 6:31,32; 1 Tim 6:8) Greed, on the other hand, is an unquenchable lust for more than what God has provided, the diametric opposite of contentment. Abundance is being blessed beyond our needs and carries with it the responsibility of providing for the needs of others, especially those in the household of faith...
2 Cor 9:8
8 God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.
TLB (Abundance= everything you need plus more)
13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
NIV (See also Acts 4:34,35 and Gal 6:10)
Having said all this, we can now answer the question in your mind “Can a Christian be rich?”...
· God blesses through natural means...
First of all, the Bible says that we are to do something useful with our own hands (Eph 4:28) which means we are to work to provide for our needs and the needs of our family (and relatives)…
1 Tim 5:8
8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
· God blesses according to the principle of ‘sowing and reaping’...
Secondly, we are blessed according to what we sow. A worker who does not use his time faithfully and diligently will not reap the full potential of the gifts and talents that God has endowed him with (take note that laziness is a sin-Proverbs 12:24 and poverty is one of its consequences-Proverbs 24:33,34)...
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. NIV (Although the context of this verse and verse 8 following, refer to sowing in the flesh, the principle of sowing and reaping is taught universally throughout the Bible. See also 2 Cor 9:6).
Conversely, a worker who works hard and diligently (using the talents God gave him) will reap proportionately and this is translated of course into material blessings (and an inheritance for his children if he saves and perhaps invests this wisely). Behind all this, however, we must remember that the Lord’s unseen hand is at work providing opportunities, good health, etc, so that we can make use of the natural talents that He has given us to “produce wealth”...
18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
NIV Emphasis mine
As a foot-note, please bear in mind that the acquisition of wealth by illegal, unethical or illegitimate means is not consistent with the Biblical pattern of Christian Living and such practices may effectively exclude a person from the Kingdom of God, notwithstanding his church membership status…
1 Cor 6:9-11
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. NIV
‘Kickbacks’ a common practice in business circles is synonymous with thievery and swindling (verse 10 above) as the process cheats and steals from legitimate sources (most of the time) to reward illegitimate recipients. Christians should renounce such practices. Appropriate restitution should be instituted if such a practice has been adopted in the past. Restitution should even extend to one’s inheritance if this is proven to be derived from ill-gotten gains!
· God blesses prudent investments...
Thirdly, proper investment principles help to procure legitimate material gains and benefits…and we are certainly expected to invest wisely even in this present world system...
27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
Gambling is putting our capital at risk for a return based on chance. It is not investment but covetousness or greed. Speculation in the Stock Market is not based on sound financial principles and cannot come under the category of prudent investment. More appropriately, it would be greed (covetousness) rearing its ugly head again! Take heed that covetousness is idolatry (Col 3:5) and no idolater can enter the Kingdom of God.
15 And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness,
NKJV (Verse quoted in part) The Lord says to ‘take heed and beware’, like a pedestrian keeping a look out for oncoming traffic in a busy street.
· God honors Spirit-led giving...
Fourthly, we are commanded to give proportionately to what we earn for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom...
1 Cor 16:2
2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
In so doing, we would have entered into a Covenant with God according to the principles laid out in Proverbs 3:9,10 and 2 Cor 9:6,7,8...
9 Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Tithing is not compulsory for the New Testament Christian but ‘Giving’ is part of the Covenant of the New Testament Church (2 Cor 9:6,7,8). It is a covenant because God promises to bless as you give.
New Testament ‘Giving’ is Spirit-led not ‘Law-Bound’ and Spirit-Led Giving will be blessed accordingly.
2 Cor 9:6,7
6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
NKJV Verse 7 above assumes that the believer’s will is in one accord with God’s Will; what he purposes in his heart, therefore, reflects What the Spirit prompts him to give.
38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." NIV
Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. NIV
Once again I wish to emphasize that ‘Giving’ is not tithing subtly or forcibly induced upon the congregation.
It is a Spirit led Covenant for the New Testament Church which God on His part, honors. “Give and be blessed Get-Rich-quick schemes” propounded by prosperity preachers originate from the pit of hell and can only incur the wrath of God. Remember that giving to a prosperity preacher is not necessarily the same as giving to God.
Having said all this, we must remember that in the Natural realm, we can only achieve a certain amount through our own work and diligence. In other words, a farmer can only toil physically to a certain level and reap proportionate to the work he puts in. A farmer who tries to work twenty hours a day will just wear himself out physically (There are natural laws and there are spiritual laws). Yes, of course, a farmer can be blessed materially beyond his physical abilities and this is where the Supernatural realm and God’s sovereignty comes in...
· God blesses sovereignly...
21 He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
17 "'The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.'
(NIV) Emphasis mine.
It is God who sets up kings and kingdoms. David was a poor shepherd boy who became King and later gave millions worth of his (personal) gold and silver to the building of God’s temple (1 Chronicles 29:3-5). FJ Dake in the Dake’s Annotated Bible estimated that this contribution was about US$100 million2. Who says a Christian cannot be rich-God’s way, that is.
3 Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple: 4 three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings, 5 for the gold work and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the craftsmen. Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the LORD?"
NIV (God sovereignly blesses some exceptionally in the material sense but not others. This is part of His ‘SOVEREIGN’ sovereignty, so to speak. With the blessing, however, comes proportionate accountability.)
We must bear in mind, that when the blessings of the Natural realm fail, God can use the supernatural realm to provide above and beyond our needs...
· God provides supernaturally when the natural fails....
26:1 Now there was a famine in the land--besides the earlier famine of Abraham's time--and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar.
12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy.
NIV Emphasis Mine
27 "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."
NIV (Notice that the Lord told Peter to take the first fish that he caught, not the second or the third. We know that in the natural, fishes do not swallow four-drachma coins and men do not normally throw four drachma coins to fishes. This particular fish did not swallow a three drachma coin...God knew that the temple tax for two is exactly four drachma. The moral of this lesson is that God can provide supernaturally when the natural realm fails. See also 1 Kings 17:4).
Lastly, didn’t the Apostle John mention something about Christians being prosperous in his Epistle?
The verse being referred to is 3 John 2…
3 John 2
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
The literal translation of the phrase “mayest prosper” (euodoo in Greek) is to “succeed in reaching” as in a journey [Strong’s Greek/Hebrew Definitions]3. The New Testament does not equate spiritual well being (as thy soul prospereth) with material prosperity. In fact, the converse seems to be the case as shown in the following verse...
6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."
Doesn’t it sound strange to you that the same Peter who got three thousand saved with a spiritually touching sermon in Acts Chapter 2, now claims to be a ‘destitute’ person. Well, Peter did not say he had nothing; he simply said he had no silver or gold to give. Let us once again recall what the New Testament says about wealth...
God provides our needs not our greed...
19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
God provides Abundance for every good work....
2 Cor 9:8
8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
Abundance is one level above sufficiency. God provides abundance so that we can carry out “every good work” called of God. God did not promise us silver palaces and gold chandeliers, but over and above what is sufficient, so that we can do His Will on planet earth.
It may seem paradoxical but the Apostle Paul endured hardships and even lacked the necessities of life in the course of his ministry...
2 Cor 11:27
7 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
Here again, in the course of our calling and ministry we may have to ‘willingly’ endure deprivation even of our basic needs for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus did say ‘the Son of Man has no place to lay his Head’ (See Luke 9:58). Jesus did not say that He had no place to lay His Head on all the time (He did stay in Lazarus’ house in Bethany); rather in the course of His Ministry and Calling He had to at times endure hardships (and suffering). From New Testament examples, this deprivation of basic needs appear to be temporary in nature. Sustained ‘poverty’ is Biblically contrary to God’s Will for His Children (Matt 6:32; Luke 22:35).
We are also not denying that there were rich Believers around; for Joseph of Arimathea was certainly a rich man...
57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus.
NIV Emphasis mine.
In the book of Acts, we have the recently converted New Testament Believers selling their properties to give to those other believers in need (those selling their properties must be men and women of some means)...
34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
NIV Notice that the provision was for anyone who had a need.
Let us now return to 3 John 2. What was the journey that we should “succeed in reaching” that John referred to even as our soul prospers?
There is only one journey in the Bible, viz, the road that leads to life...
4 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
NIV Notice the ‘gate’ and the ‘road’!
Having entered the ‘gate’ of salvation, we are to journey on the narrow ‘road’ of salvation.
Remember that it is those who do the will of the Father who will eventually enter the gate(s) of heaven [the gate of salvation and gate(s) of heaven being spiritually quite far apart]....
21 "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. NIV
Do not listen to the prosperity teachers and evangelists who promise to multiply your giving in the Name of God. Prosperity Preachers preach a False Gospel and are eternally condemned…
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
NIV TAKE NOTE THAT THE WARNING WAS REPEATED TWICE!
They will enrich themselves at your expense and in the end make you twice as much a son of hell as they are...
15 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
So what did 3 John 2 really say?
3 John 2
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
It says that as your spiritual life prospers, so may your health also prosper (you will need good health to fulfill God's purpose in this life)...and may your journey in the path that God has chosen for you be a prosperous (successful) one too. AMEN.
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