Christians and riches–can the two coexist? Can a Christian be rich? These questions can bring all kinds of responses.
Some people try to bind poverty as the only way a true Christian can live. Others claim that the only way to show you’re a faithful Christian is if God’s making you rich!
What is the truth?
In I Timothy 6, Paul shoots some advice to a young preacher–some advice on how to deal with the topic of riches. This apostle told his son in the faith that there were some who did not consent to the “words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 6:3). One of the ways they did not agree to Christ’s teachings was that some “supposed that gain is godliness” (6:5). There were some people back in the first century who believed that getting rich was a sign that God was pleased with them. The same philosophy exists in many religious organizations today, and is referred to as the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth gospel.”
Is this a valid view of riches? Paul sure did not think so!
The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, tells Timothy to avoid those people. He says this in no uncertain terms: “from such withdraw thyself” (6:5). He’s telling Timothy, as well as us today, that we’re to stand separate from such people, because they’re in error, not agreeing to the words of Christ.
Paul said that true gain (riches) comes from being godly and being content with what we have (6:6). We weren’t born with money in hand, and when we die, we can’t take it with us. Because of this, we should be content with the food and clothing that we have.
Are you content with the things you own?
But what of those who seek to be rich? Should the Christian seek after earthly treasure?
Jesus spoke of such things many times, all of which are well stated in the words “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [material needs] will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The one who wants to follow Christ won’t put his focus on gaining money and riches, but on gaining heaven. The ones whose desire is for money are in trouble–“they fall into a temptation and a snare” (I Timothy 6:9). Immediately afterwards, God says “the love of money is the root of all evil” (6:10). Those who covet after money have “erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Being rich is not a sign of God’s approval, but neither is it a sign of his disapproval. The Bible shows what happens to those who put their focus on material wealth instead of spiritual wealth, but does that mean it is wrong to have money?
No it does not.
What this does mean is that the rich are to “not be high-minded, nor put their trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17). The rich are to “do good” and “be rich in good works, ready to distribute” to needs that arise (6:18). This is to be done so that they may “lay hold on eternal life” (6:19).
Jesus commands that those who follow Him must lay up “treasures in heaven” and not “treasures upon earth” (Matthew 6:19-20). This is talking about priorities. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). If seeking money is your goal, your heart will be on earthly things. If you are seeking primarily after God, all of your physical needs will be supplied (Matthew 6:33).
What better life could there be than knowing that all of your needs will be taken care of here on earth, plus knowing that after death, you will have a home in heaven? It’s not wrong to have money, but when that becomes the priority in your life over following God, your soul is in jeopardy. Where are you seeking treasure?