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Ask Donnell: What's The Bible's Position on Wealth, Riches and Luxuries?

We received the following question from Nahom;

"Donnell, what do you think about luxuries? A rich person should definitely use their money to help those less privileged/poor. Like donating to charity. But does that make it bad to buy a luxury car for example? As long as they don't put it over God and aren't materialists, is is it okay?"

Nahom, thanks for another great question. The relationship between Christians and money can sometimes be a complex one. On the one hand, King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 10:19 that money answers all things, but then a few thousand years later Apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10 that the love of money is the root of all evil. In the same way, Jesus said to use money to make friends in Luke 16:9 but in Matthew 19:23, He said it's hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So what are we to think? Which is it? Is it good to be rich or is it bad? Should a rich person enjoy their money or should they give it all to the poor? The answer is, it depends. 🙂 Let's dig in a little deeper.

Enjoy the Fruits of your Hard Work!

Ecclesiastes 3:9-13(NLT) - What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

It's a good thing to work hard and enjoy the benefits of your hard work. Solomon described the fruits of your labor as gifts from God. For instance, if you like eating at nice restaurants and you can afford it, dress up nice, order whatever you want and take a box home with you when you're finished. There's nothing to be ashamed of. God has given you the strength, ability, and favor to generate enough revenue to maintain a particular lifestyle.

It Can't Be All About Money!

James 4:1-3(NLT) - What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

Some people will never be rich and God will see to it that it does not happen. It's not that God doesn't want people to be rich. It's that people whose priorities are in the wrong place won't get His help to be rich. They can help themselves or the devil might help them get money but God won't. When people's motives are wrong, God doesn't get involved in helping them to do wrong. His main concern is not our money. His main concern is our hearts.

Luke 12:13-21(NLT) - Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

Nowhere in this parable did Jesus condemn the rich man for being rich. That's an important observation because some people don't get that. Being rich is not a bad thing. The bad thing is when the riches consume your entire life. That's what happened to this rich man. He was a fool to make his money his priority instead of building his relationship with God. He could have had both but he chose one, the wrong one.

Though it's Good To Have Money, Money Can't Have You!

Mark 10:17-25(NKJV) - Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 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! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

The rich young ruler did not have money but money had him. Jesus knew that and put him to the test. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything and give the money to the poor not because that's what every rich person is supposed to do but to prove a point. What point? That it's hard to trust in riches and also trust in God. When Jesus told the rich young ruler to get rid of his money, Jesus was asking the young man to trust Him. Unfortunately, he could not. That's the same test Jesus put the twelve disciples through in Luke 9:1-6 and the seventy disciples in Luke 10:1-12. He asked them all to leave their money behind and trust Him to provide for them on a missions trip. They all did it and guess what happened? In Luke 22:35-36, they were free to get their money back.

Mark 10:28-30(NKJV) - Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

When Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give up his money, it was really an opportunity. After the rich man had already left, Jesus explained to the disciples what the man had just missed out on. He promised that when people sacrifice anything they have for His sake or the gospel, He would multiply their seed and give it back to them as a harvest both in the time that they live on the earth and for eternity.

Get Your Priorities Right and God Himself will Give you the Money!

2 Chronicles 1:7-12(NLT) - That night God appeared to Solomon and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” Solomon replied to God, “You showed great and faithful love to David, my father, and now you have made me king in his place. O Lord God, please continue to keep your promise to David my father, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth! Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?” God said to Solomon, “Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people— I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!”

Solomon never asked God to be rich. He asked for wisdom to help people. It was God who decided to give him wealth, riches, and fame. In other words, it was God's Will for Solomon to be rich. If it was up to Solomon, the wisdom to rule God's people would have sufficed. That was God's decision.

Psalm 112:1-3(KJV) - Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.

The Word of God is replete with promises like these for those who choose to fear God and delight in His commandments. God did it for Abraham, Solomon, David and many others and He can do it for you too. Yet, it's hard for some people to accept God's blessings of wealth and riches. That's fine. It's not for everyone so if a person doesn't want it, they don't need to have it. However, if you are faithful to God and He chooses to reward you in that way, enjoy it. It is His Will for you to have it.

Riches Come with Social Responsibility!

1 Timothy 6:17-19(NLT) - 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. 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. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

Again, Apostle Paul reiterates the earlier message of Jesus concerning trust. Rich people should never trust in their money. Their trust should be in God who is the one who gives riches for our enjoyment. They should enjoy their money and they should use their money for good. They should give to others and store up treasures in heaven. That's their social responsibility. If God blesses you with riches, that's what you need to know.

Giving Money to the Poor is not Always the Answer to Everything

John 12:1-8(NKJV) - Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

King Solomon said in Proverbs 19:17 that when you give to the poor you lend to God and God will pay you back. However, some people have turned giving to the poor into an excuse for telling rich people what to do with their money. Why did you buy that expensive car? You could have given the money to the poor. Why do you own a private jet? You should have given that money to the poor. Why is your house so big? You should have given that money to the poor.

Unfortunately, like the example in John 12, people who criticize the spending practices of the rich aren't always doing so because they care about the poor. They do so because they are jealous. How do we know that? Ask them how much of their own money they give to the poor. It's God's Will to give to the poor but it's not God's Will to try to put a rich person on a guilt trip about their charitable giving because you are jealous of their money. It's their money. If you believe the poor need to get money, you give it. Leave other people's money alone.

Acts 3:6(NKJV) - Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

Give people what they need. Sometimes, what they need is not money.

The timing of your inquiry could not have been better. I have a new book coming out on January 1st which addresses the role of finances in God's Kingdom. It's called "The Fish with the Coin in Its Mouth". You can click the link to find out more. It's available now for pre-order on Amazon. Check it out!