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?