Making more money will not fix your life — it will just make you more of who you already are. If you get rich and you’re a jerk, you just become a colossal jerk. If you get rich and you have a big heart, they call you a giver and they give it a big long name, a philanthropist. If you get rich, you become more of what you are as you build wealth. So be careful of what you are.” ~Dave Ramsey
It’s quite confusing, isn’t it?
Some preachers say it’s more righteous to be poor; being rich will prevent you from being in God’s Kingdom. Other preachers say no, you cannot glorify God by being poor; it’s His will that all His children be rich.
Who is correct? What does the Bible really say?
I posed this question to the teens and young adults in one of our weekly Wednesday night Bible studies many years ago. I divided the group in two and asked them to discuss it for 15 minutes and then come up with relevant Bible passages that would support their position.
At the end of the Bible study, I think we all had a better understanding of this interesting topic, which I would also like to share with you. Here are seven questions or points to consider:
It’s not wrong to be rich. The Bible teaches sound principles of wealth and financial success — tithing, saving, investing, and being smart with money. The book of Proverbs in particular contains numerous admonitions about hard work, discipline, frugality, and generosity.
God is not against the proper use of money, riches, or wealth. A number of God’s servants were very wealthy, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, King David, King Solomon, Joseph of Arimathea, and others. Physical abundance and material wealth is one of God’s blessings.
And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…
~Moses, Deuteronomy 8:18
On the other hand, it’s not a sin to be poor. Poverty doesn’t automatically make you less righteous, or more righteous. Poverty is a sad condition due to widespread sin in this world. It will be eradicated when Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) comes back to establish His Kingdom here on earth. Poverty can be, but is not always, caused by personal sin or laziness. Nor is material wealth always the result of personal righteousness and diligence. But all things being equal, diligence, generosity, wisdom and skill certainly bring material wealth. However, many other factors play a part as well, including health, God’s blessings, and time and chance.
I returned and saw under the sun that — the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.
~King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 9:11
I have lived in the United States for five years, and have seen first-hand what a wealthy country it is. For the same type of work, an American working in the US earns about 8 to 9 times more than a Filipino living in the Philippines. Therefore, what an American earns in one hour is what a Filipino earns in one day. The output is almost the same, but the US is a more blessed nation.
Many years ago, my wife and I saw a documentary called The Veil of Tears. We learned that in India, the women toil at back-breaking jobs and get paid no more than $1.50 per day. Baby girls are unwanted and are sometimes left to die. Young girls are carted off to brothels as sex slaves. Widows there are seen as carriers of bad luck and are avoided and neglected even by the husband’s family.
Is it their fault that they were born in that country and not the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, or New Zealand? In many other third-world countries, the conditions are far worse, through no fault of their own. Therefore, the Bible tells us to look after the poor.
For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.
~Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), Matthew 26:11
For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.”
~Moses, Deuteronomy 15:11
God shows no partiality. He doesn’t regard only the rich, or only the poor. He created them both. He loves both rich and poor. So should we.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.
~Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:7
Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of His hands.
~Elihu, Job 34:19
The rich and the poor have this in common, the Lord is the maker of them all.
~King Solomon, Proverbs 22:2
I haven’t yet met someone who wants to be poor. Have you? I mean dirt poor, with nothing to eat. But I know a lot of people who would love to be rich. From a purely material standpoint, being rich does seem to be much better than being poor.
While there are definite advantages to being wealthy—such as being able to help others on a massive scale—if we’re not careful, it also has its tradeoffs and sacrifices: our health, our marriages, our relationship with our kids, our integrity, and above all, our salvation and relationship with God. This is a real danger which the Bible warns us about:
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. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
~Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 6:9–10
And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
~Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), Mark 10:24
You may have heard of J. Paul Getty, one of the wealthiest and most successful American industrialists in history. He made his first million when he was just 23 in 1916. Yet, his relentless ambition for financial success affected his marriage relationships. He was married and divorced five times. Here’s what he said at the end:
I hate and regret the failure of my marriages. I would gladly give all of my millions for just one lasting marital success.
~J. Paul Getty, American industrialist
The richest and the wisest man who ever lived has some words for J. Paul Getty and all who desire to be rich like him:
Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease!
~King Solomon, Proverbs 23:4
For our own good, the Bible counsels us to seek neither poverty nor riches. This balanced approach is reflected in this quote:
Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches — feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.
~Agur, Proverbs 30:8–9
The first definition of “rich” in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th Edition) is “having great material wealth.” But is “great material wealth” the kind of riches God wants for us? Did He promise us an abundance of things?
No doubt, having lots of money and an abundance of material things can be enjoyable. But notice the words of Jesus Christ:
Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.
~Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), Luke 12:15
According to Christ, life is not about things. Being materially rich is not what life’s about. So you and I are not better off (or worse off) based solely on the abundance of our material things (or the lack thereof).
Here’s where God wants us to focus our attention. Here’s the answer to our main question:
Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
Most true Christians today are not materially rich. Some are, but most aren’t. This contradicts the prosperity preachers who claim that all of God’s children are supposed to be wealthy and living their best lives now. Apparently, they haven’t read the words of Christ to the faithful church in Smyrna: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)” (Revelation 2:9).
How can they be “rich,” yet live in poverty?
They were not materially rich, but they were rich in faith, which is far more precious than gold:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.
~1 Peter 1:6–9
Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
~Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 6:18–19
Faith is not enough. Without works, our faith is dead, the Bible says (James 2:14–26). How much have we actually done for others? Are we rich in good works? If you’re one of those God has blessed materially in this life (and even if you’re not), you have the opportunity to give and share your blessings with others. I have known a few people who have been very generous with their time, talents, and resources. May God bless them even more, especially with the ultimate possession — eternal life in the Kingdom of God!
“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
~Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), Luke 12:21
Christ just spoke a parable about a certain rich man, whose field yielded abundant crops, season after season. The blessings kept pouring in until he could no longer store everything in his small barns. So he decided to tear down the old barns and build much bigger ones.
So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing, except his focus on laying up treasure for himself.
Notice his attitude: “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing. Take it easy, man. Live it up!”
Little did he know that God was taking his life that very same night. So much for the “best life” he thought he already had.
Could we be like that? Seduced by self, money, and pleasure that we neglect the most important thing?
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
~Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), Luke 9:25
Being rich toward God means being rich from God’s point of view. Where it really matters, where it counts. It means being rich spiritually, in faith and in good works.
It means laying up treasures in heaven by putting God first in everything — serving Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly — and helping the poor and needy as well.
The rich fool may be a millionaire here on earth, but his account in heaven has a zero balance.
How much you have materially and financially is not what life’s about. What God cares about is how rich you are spiritually — how rich you are in faith toward Him and in good works toward others.
Our relationship with God should be our greatest asset. God the Giver, and not His gifts, should be our greatest treasure.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
Your bank balance and the kind of car you drive don’t really matter. It’s your character and attitude that matter a great deal to God.
Apparently, some people think they are rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing. Little do they know that God sees their character and attitude as wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17). Christ tells them:
I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich…
~Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), Revelation 3:18
This “gold refined in the fire” is referring to that precious, genuine, and living faith. This can only come from Christ.
Many prosperity preachers teach that godliness is a sure ticket to wealth. This is a deceptive teaching, designed to appeal to human greed and self-interest. They also do this to take advantage of unsuspecting people. While God promises to bless His obedient people, He has never promised to cater to our every material whim. There’s no such thing as “name-it-and-claim-it” with God.
[The false teachers] suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
~Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 6:5
Here is how it reads in the New Living Translation: “To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.”
If there is anything God has promised Christians, it’s a life of hardship. It won’t be easy sailing to the Kingdom of God.
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
~Apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 3:12
Yes, but God’s power and strength will help us make it through every trial and tribulation that may come our way!
It should be clear that material riches is not the main thing God wants for us. He may bless us with money and material wealth, but it is not a blanket promise for every Christian today. Yes, God wants us to prosper, but prospering financially is only one part of the equation (and it's not even the most important part). Godly CHARACTER is what He's really after.
This present evil world ruled by Satan is not yet our home. God doesn’t want us to get attached to it. This is not yet the Kingdom of God. We are still praying, “Thy kingdom come.” But the time is coming — and soon! — when Christ will return and we will have the best life then. Unprecedented peace will grip the earth and untold prosperity will be the reality for every man, woman, and child!
In the meantime, our focus should be “godliness with contentment.” That’s what will make us truly rich.
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
~Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 6:6–8
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
~Apostle Paul, Hebrews 13:5
I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.
~King David, Psalm 37:25
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
~Apostle Paul, Philippians 4:11–13
We all struggle with bills to pay, debts to settle, and mouths to feed. Sometimes, we catch ourselves being overly worried or anxious about what may happen tomorrow. Will we have enough to eat? Will we have enough to drink? Will we have the money to buy clothes or pay for tuition? Will we have enough to survive?
Through it all, God assures us that He knows our needs even before we ask Him. He numbers the very hairs on our head. He loves us so much and knows how much money we have in our wallet at any given time, down to the last cent or centavo.
Trust Him for all your needs. He did not promise to make you a millionaire, but He promised never to leave you nor forsake you.
The Kingdom of God is the pearl of great price. We shall encounter many obstacles along the way to the Kingdom. Satan the Devil will throw all kinds of diversions and distractions to try to get our focus away from what’s truly important. Let’s not allow him to seduce us from pursuing the Kingdom of God and His righteousness — the greatest treasure God has in store for us all!