The Bible Does not Promise Wealth
There is no promise in the Bible that being a Christian will lead to a good job, wealth, freedom from debt, etc. One verse is sometimes cited: 1 (TNIV, Jeremiah 29:11). In context, this verse was directed specifically to the Israelite exiles in Babylon. The original Hebrew word translated as “prosperity” can mean peace, completeness, safety, health, satisfaction or blessings. It does not imply financial prosperity. God’s faithful people may be rich or poor (2 Chronicles 17:3-5, Job 1:1-3, Matthew 27:57, Mark 12:41-44, Luke 16:19-22, 19:2-9, Proverbs 22:2, Luke 6:20).
Wealth Is Not a Sign of God’s Favor
In Jesus’ time it was a common belief that great wealth was a sign of God’s favor and poverty was God’s punishment for sin. Some Old Testament verses do reflect the idea that poverty is a natural consequence of foolish actions (Proverbs 6:9-11, 20:13, 23:21).
However, Jesus denied that wealth is a sign of God’s favor or that poverty is God’s punishment for sin. This is shown most clearly in His Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). At least part of the reason the rich man ended up in hell was because of his hard-hardheartedness toward the beggar Lazarus. His great wealth was obviously not a sign of God’s favor.
The beggar Lazarus ended up in heaven although he was about as impoverished as a man could be. His poverty was obviously not a sign of sinfulness or foolishness. Despite the Bible’s many warnings against it, the idea that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and that the poor have done something to deserve their condition persists as an undercurrent today that is sometimes used to justify a callous attitude toward those who are poor. Related verses: Proverbs 15:16-17, Ecclesiastes 5:10-12, Luke 1:52-53, 6:20, 6:24-25.
Wealth Is a Gift from God to Be Used in His Service
Jesus saw wealth as a gift from God to be used in His service (Matthew 25:14-30). Those who have been blessed with wealth must share generously with the poor (Matthew 25:31-46), and avoid the sins of arrogance (1 Timothy 6:17-19), dishonesty (Exodus 20:15, Mark 10:19, Luke 3:12-14) and greed (Luke 12:13-21). Those of us who are blessed with wealth beyond our need have a responsibility to share generously with the less fortunate. We should view our wealth as a gift from God, entrusted to us, to carry out His work on earth. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (NIV, 1 John 3:17) [Also] 1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Wealth Is Dangerous
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words… (NRSV, Mark 10:23-27).
It is not that wealth is intrinsically evil, or that poverty is blessed. Rather, a devotion to gathering wealth is incompatible with devotion to God. God must always be the most important thing in our lives: … (NLT, Luke 16:13).
The craving for wealth and possessions can lead us into all kinds of temptation. While we spend evenings and weekends earning extra money, we are depriving our families of our love and attention. We may take unfair advantage of our customers, employers, or employees. We may attempt to rationalize our greed by closing our minds and hearts to the needs and rights of others. In the process, we could end up being stingy, bitter and isolated… (NIV, Proverbs 23:4-5)
The rationalization required to obtain and keep dishonest gain can make a person cold, cynical and separated from God. It may be taking unfair advantage or misrepresenting the facts to employers, employees, customers, clients or associates. It may be stealing, fraud, inflating insurance claims, cheating on taxes, “pirating” music and movies, willful nonpayment of debts, or any form of dishonesty for personal gain. In whatever form, dishonest gain brings only fear of discovery – never peace of mind.
‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. (NAS, Leviticus 19:13)
The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight. (NIV, Proverbs 11:1).He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil– this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him. (NIV, Isaiah 33:15-16).Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God… For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them – taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. (NRSV, Romans 13:1, 6-7)
Related verses: Exodus 20:15, Leviticus 19:35-36, Proverbs 21:6, Amos 8:4-8, Micah 6:10-13, Mark 10:19, Luke 3:12-14.