The Myth of Wealth

This seemed like a good follow up to my post last week on cleaning out the garage…

While listening to the audiobook Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster, I was astounded at the amount of Scripture that was quoted in the chapter on simplicity related to money, possessions, and wealth. I’m sure I’ve heard and read all of these verses before, but I’m not sure I have ever heard so many of them put together at once.

As a disclaimer, I want to say up front that I am not against owning things, having money, a house, car, and so on. I have these things, and while I don’t consider myself wealthy at all, there are always those less fortunate who would disagree with me.

The point here is not a poverty versus wealth debate, as if one or the other is absolutely right for everyone. That is certainly not my belief. But the power of money often leads to greed and selfishness, and both of those qualities are anti-Christ; they have no part in Him. Christ is generous and selfless, and so I believe there is benefit for reflection and continuous transformation in this area.

Neither is the point to condemn anyone into changing their lifestyle out of guilt, shame or fear. I don’t believe God works in that way, and I certainly don’t desire to either. I am suggesting that there is an opportunity here for internal reflection, and that internal reflection may result in external actions.

To denounce all material possession is to become legalistic, as Foster points out. God certainly blesses us with things in this world, either for our pleasure or to advance his kingdom, or both. At the same time, we live in a materialistic, consumer culture. Many people are driven to anxiety for the latest gadget or trendy item. There is an obsession with owning things (when it is often wiser to rent, borrow, or do without).

The solution to balancing the budget (at least in many cases) is not to make more to get more, but to be content with what you have already. If you want to add joy to your contentment, give away whatever you don’t need. Don’t be worried about your earthly net worth; you are infinitely valuable because you are a part of Christ!

Remember that everything has a price, but everything also has a cost. As Christians we must count both the cost and the price in light of Christ’s life in us. If you don’t think you can do this, just spend some time getting in touch with the Christ who indwells you, for He is Contentment and Joy, and He will lead you in His way.

I’m doing some soul searching on this topic after listening to and reading this chapter on simplicity. I highly recommend it to you, especially if you are struggling to “keep up with the Jones'”. 😉

I have listed below the Scriptures cited from the simplicity chapter in the order they appeared. I have expanded some to add context, and I have used some different translations. The book gives much narrative on this topic and these verses.

23 “The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me. (Leviticus 25:23 NLT)

10 Do not trust in oppression, Nor vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them. (Psalm 62:10 NKJV)

28 He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage. (Proverbs 11:28 NKJV)

13 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13 NLT)

20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” (Luke 6:20 NLT)

24 “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now.” (Luke 6:24 NLT)

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:19-21 NLT)

21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19:21-24 NLT)

21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:21 NLT)

30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. (Luke 6:30 NLT)

9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10 NLT)

3 He [one aspiring to be an elder] must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. (1 Timothy 3:3 NLT)

8 In the same way, servants in the church should be dignified, not two-faced, heavy drinkers, or greedy for money. (1 Timothy 3:8 CEB)

5 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT)

4 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3 NIV)

5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. (Ephesians 5:5 NLT)

11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. (1 Corinthians 5:11)

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT)

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4 thoughts on “The Myth of Wealth

  1. Greed versus generosity has to do with how much we keep for ourselves,versus how much we give to the poor. The American myth (dream) is all about upward mobility (getting more for ourselves); Jesus’ gospel is all about downward mobility, joyfully giving generously to the poor. Unfortunately, church leaders tend to downplay all that, and if they say something about giving, it’s about giving to the church (and its budget, that pays their salaries). How many poor do we know or come in contact with? How many poor do we joyfully give generously to?

  2. Thank you for this, Mark. Christ is infinitely more desirable than all the “things” one can try to acquire. Though it’s hard most days, I’m grateful that He is the only “wealth” I have. I’ve learned to live without a lot of things. My necessities are the bare necessities.

    It may sound strange, but it really is a blessed life. It’s not better or somehow glamorous compared to having more income. I’m blessed not because Christ is all I have, but because He’s become all I WANT. Sure, I’d love to have an apartment that’s not in somebody’s basement, and a little extra to save for a rainy day, but I don’t, and somehow that’s ok. I want “inward mobility” – growing deeper into Christ, and Him into me. He is my one Treasure.

    All that said, it’s really frustrating being around Christians who have much more than they need, and are blind to the poverty around them, especially that of their own brothers and sisters. I’m in a small group at a traditional church with some really sweet people, but none of them know any lack. They make sure the tithes get in (so God will continue to bless them) but they don’t share what they have. It’s very sad. Why would the poor want to join a church and follow a “Jesus” who doesn’t care about their need, where no one ever asks if they’re alright?
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