The Christian view of wealth should be derived from the Scriptures. There are many times in the Old Testament that God gave riches to His people. Solomon was promised riches and became the richest of all the kings of the earth (1 Kings 3:11-13; 2 Chronicles 9:22); David said in 1 Chronicles 29:12: “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.” Abraham (Genesis 17-20), Jacob (Genesis 30-31), Joseph (Genesis 41), King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:5), and many others were blessed by God with wealth. However, they were a chosen people with earthly promises and rewards. They were given a land and all the riches it held.
In the New Testament, there is a different standard. The church was never given a land or the promise of riches. Ephesians 1:3 tells us, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Christ spoke in Matthew 13:22 concerning the seed of God’s Word falling among thorns and “the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (NKJV). This is the first reference to earthly riches in the New Testament. Clearly, this is not a positive image.
In Mark 10:23, ” Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’” It was not impossible—for all things are possible with God—but it would be “hard.” In Luke 16:13, Jesus spoke about “mammon” (the Aramaic word for “riches”): “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Again, the imagery here is of wealth as a negative influence on spirituality and one that can keep us from God.
God speaks of the true riches He brings to us today in Romans 2:4: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” These are the riches which bring eternal life. Again, this is brought out in Romans 9:23: “And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (NKJV). Also, Ephesians 1:7: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Referring to God giving mercy, Paul praises God in Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” The emphasis of the New Testament is God’s riches in us: “That you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians1:18b). God actually wants to show off His riches in us in heaven: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7).
The riches that God wants for us: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16). The greatest verse for New Testament believers concerning riches is Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” This statement was written by Paul because the Philippians had sent sacrificial gifts to take care of Paul’s needs.
First Timothy 6:17 gives a warning to the rich: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” James 5:1-3 gives us another warning about riches that were wrongly gained: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” The last time that riches are mentioned in the Bible is in Revelation 18:17, speaking of the great destruction of Babylon: “In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!”
To summarize, Israel was given earthly promises and rewards as God’s chosen people on earth. He gave many illustrations and types and truths through them. Many people desire to take their blessings, but not their curses. However, in the progression of revelation, God has revealed through Jesus Christ a more excellent ministry: “But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
God does not condemn anyone for having riches. Riches come to people from many sources, but He gives grave warnings to those who seek after them more than they seek after God and trust in them more than in God. His greatest desire is for us to set our hearts on things above and not on things on this earth. This may sound very high and unobtainable, but Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). The secret is knowing Christ as Savior and allowing the Holy Spirit to conform our minds and heart to His (Romans 12:1-2).