is wealth bad?

one of the weird things about a being a pastor is “the line.”  this phenomenon happens every sunday immediately following the sermon.  as a preacher is gathering up his paraphernalia (bible, notebook, xanax, etc), “the line” forms at the edge of the platform. “the line” consists of people who suddenly and urgently need to speak with you.  they require your undivided attention on some pressing problem when, all the while, you see “the line” growing longer and longer in your peripheral vision.  when i was a new pastor, “the line” took me completely by surprise.  last week (when i wasn’t a pastor) nobody wanted to talk to me.  now that i’m a pastor, though, the people are lining up.

queer.  but i digress.

a few weeks ago after preaching on john 3, a young lady in my fellowship approached me and asked, “is wealth bad?”  (for context: we had discussed john the baptist’s compelling statement in verse 30–“He must become greater; I must become less”–with the idea that god is calling us to ruthlessly lay our appetites/agendas on the altar).  the young lady in question has apparently become quite successful in the real estate business, and i happen to know that she genuinely seeks to honor god with her whole life.  she is an extravagant giver, helps the underprivileged, and even spent a season doing missions work in china.  her heart’s desire is to love the things that god loves and hate the things that god hates.

considering the title of my blog, this question (“is wealth bad?”) is especially salient to me.  here is the crux of my answer…

wealth is not bad.  god seeks trustworthy conduits for kingdom resources, and gifts people to be skilled in earning, business, and distributing wealth according to kingdom purposes.   if you’re wondering why some christians have more money than others, a hint may lie in the words of jesus: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10a).

on its own, there is nothing inherently evil about wealth/money.

on the other hand, wealth (and the desire for wealth) tends to take on a life of its own. nothing in our lives captivates our devotion like wealth.  it seeks to empower its owner in subtle and seductive ways.  it demands attention and will ultimately dethrone all competitors.  jesus was quite plain-spoken and on point when he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). altogether now, let’s all quote the famous christian disclaimer: “not me!  i would never allow myself to be devoted to money…to serve money.”  yeah, right.

wealth may not be bad, but it is overwhelmingly dangerous.

the question i would put forward (it also happens to be the question i am continually asking of myself) is, “why don’t we just trust jesus?”  while on vacation, i read david platt’s convicting book “radical” and, to me, the subtitle says it all:  “taking back your faith from the american dream.”  platt suggests that “faith” and “the american dream” cannot co-exist.  he calls it “living biblically.”  jesus said it like this:

“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.” (Luke 12:29-32 – The Message)

so what if it comes down to a choice:  wealth or the kingdom?  in that hypothetical, is wealth bad?


8 thoughts on “is wealth bad?

  1. I love the tough topics this one being the most difficult. My flesh longs to earn great amounts of money so I can show my abilities but at night the verses run throughmy mind and I feel cold and empty.

    Based on the scripture above we should despise money and treat it like a snake.

  2. If it comes down to wealth vs. kingdom then kingdom wins every time. “don’t lay up treasures here on earth ” and all that. But I would agree that wealth is not bad in and of itself. If the young lady in question (for example) has people in her life who keep her checks and balances in site, she can truly be a God-honoring wealth person. Her failure to have them can become her downfall since wealth is so tantalizing. This is a great post randy. Love the thoughts. As for me: wealth has never been an issue. More of the other way around. 🙂

  3. I think you answered that quite succinctly. I think in my life it is easy to ignore that wealth is more than just money. We Americans have a lot of ‘stuff’ that elevates us to some of the most wealthy in the world. Owning a home and a car puts us into the top 3% of the wealthy in the world.

    I struggle with how to adjust to that thought.

  4. So then, I guess my next question would be: “What if someone does give all and is willing to give all to the Lord for kingdom purposes?” Have I become so affected by my culture to think that the scripture, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” means I will have all the material wealth I need or want? I must say that my thinking is effected by my culture in some ways, but I look at characters of the Bible like Solomon who was told he could have anything he wanted, asked for wisdom and then God added all the things he didn’t ask for (wealth)….what about Abraham though messed up as he was some times, turned down an offer from a king for further wealth and the Lord blessed him financially. I wonder if because I have never seen a true example, other than in the word, of someone being blessed financially and living in total abandonment to God and his kingdom purposes, if I have come to believe that it’s not possible? Actually, I think it is and I just trust Him to keep me and my heart. (Through accountability partners, of course.) But, I’m not afraid to live in a manner that sets the example for future believers. The generation coming up behind us is fearless and they need to see strong, biblical examples.

    I agree with Tony, we are truly blessed in America…but I pose this question…how many of us “OWN” the home and car without a mortgage and car payment? Just a question…..

  5. One more post….Randy said, “it (wealth) seeks to empower its owner in subtle and seductive ways.” The word, “owner” here I believe is the key. I TOTALLY agree with this statement but the emphasis in all sermons I’ve heard, books I’ve read and lives I’ve watched is from the view point that individuals “own” the wealth. I experienced a great discipleship program early in my life that taught me that I am simply the steward, care taker, manager of all I’ve been given. So, if that perspective and conviction is maintained through accountability, the “seductiveness” of wealth will be ineffective.
    Also, the word “serve” in the scriputre about serving money and God. All sermons, books, etc. have concentrated on the words God and money. I think the key word here is serve. Which one do I spend my time seeking, which one holds my attention? Good questions….

  6. I know men who have been blessed with the ability ot make money. They give tons of money to ministries to help and advance God’s kingdom. But most of us seem bent on using what we have for our own glory and its a shame. God wants us to focus on HIM, through faith in CHRIST. Nothing else will do. So many of us fail.

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