What does the Bible say about Christians and wealth?
The Bible neither condemns nor encourages wealth. It treats neither poverty nor prosperity as a virtue. Christians should not trust in their wealth, but in God's provision and blessings.
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In the Old Testament, God often allowed someone to become wealthy in response to their faithfulness to Him. This is consistent with the Mosaic Covenant. God promised that if Israel followed Him and obeyed the law He gave Moses, He would bless them. Deuteronomy 28:11 describes some of the blessings: "And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you."
Figures in the Old Testament benefitted from this covenant. Job's wealth (Job 1:3) was surpassed only by his righteousness (Job 1:1). Solomon was rewarded monetarily for his request for wisdom (1 Kings 3:11-13). God also blessed the faithfulness of Abraham (Genesis 17—20), Joseph (Genesis 41), and Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:5).
But despite the Mosaic Covenant, God was still sovereign over wealth. Job's friends questioned Job's righteousness when God took away his property and children (Job 1:13-19). God refuted their assumption that Job had sinned (Job 42:7), saying that He had His own reasons for allowing Job to lose his wealth (Job 38—41).
There is a method of interpreting the Bible, called "replacement theology," which asserts that the church has taken the place of Israel in God's promises. This would include the Mosaic Covenant. Proponents of replacement theology, including many in the prosperity gospel movement, say that the church in general and Christians in particular can claim the blessings of the Mosaic Covenant as their own—if they faithfully follow God, God will grant them material blessings on earth.
The New Testament does not support replacement theology. God has a future plan for Israel independent of the church. We cannot claim the promises that were made to the Israelites.
Characters in the New Testament give evidence to this. Jesus had no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). The disciples had no guarantee of daily meals, and resorted to taking the charity reserved for the poor (Matthew 12:1). John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest born of women (Matthew 11:11), wore clothing of camel's hair and ate locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). The New Testament does not guarantee that Christ-followers should expect or will receive wealth.
In fact, Jesus explained that wealth can discourage some from following Him. In Luke 18:18-30, the rich young ruler had no problem following the Mosaic Law. But he couldn't manage to put Christ first in his heart, over his money. In response, Jesus said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" (Luke 18:24). It can be very hard for those who rely on their riches to let go of that earthly security and trust God for what they need.
That isn't to say that wealth is condemned in the Church Age. Lydia (Acts 16:14), as a merchant of rich cloth, was most likely wealthy, as was Nicodemus (John 19:39).
Instead, the Bible tells Christians to have the proper perspective regarding wealth. We should not rely on our money to save us (1 Timothy 6:17). Instead, acknowledge that God provides what we need (Philippians 4:19), and that sometimes money can lead the Christ-follower away from Him (Luke 16:13).
The Bible does promises riches to those who faithfully follow Christ, but they are heavenly riches—specifically eternal life (Ephesians 1:18b). The early church relied on this promise, giving up their earthly wealth (Acts 2:42-45) for something far greater (Mark 8:36).
For believers, wealth is a blessing from God to be used for His purposes. It is not something to be coveted, it is not a reward for obedience, and it is not something we should expect. There is nothing specifically wrong with being wealthy, but as Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21,
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
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