Earlier this week, we asked if all Christians should be poor. In this post, let’s take the opposite tack: Can Christians be wealthy?
We should be clear up front: money is not evil. Money is amoral, neither good nor evil.
“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 Tim 6:10 NLT)
It’s the love of money that hatches all kinds of evil. Money can be used to build hospitals, schools, orphanages… you get the idea. So before we dismiss money altogether, we should realize it does have a place in loving and caring for our neighbors. John Wesley put it this way in the 17th century:
“[Wealth] is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless…” – John Wesley’s sermon, “Use of Money”
So, how can we ensure we use money, instead of love money?
Perhaps these questions will help us determine whether we use money, or love it (a little too much!):
– Does it come before God in my life (is it an idol?)
– Could I give it away and still be content?
– Do I own it… or am I managing it for God?
I love how my friend Steve looks at the act of tithing, or giving 10% back to God.
Most people get upset when you ask them to give 10% to God. That’s because they don’t understand that it’s all God’s to begin with. Once I understood that, I thought, “Cool… God lets me keep 90%.” – Steve N.
Steve gets the difference between owning and managing. And when it comes to money, Christians are to be managers of God’s money.
Yet at the same time, we don’t have to give until we are destitute. So how do we create a healthy balance between being “rich” and “poor?”
I love John Wesley’s view, found in detail is his sermon, “The Use of Money.” He gives us three steps:
1. Gain All You Can
This does not mean gain at any cost. This gain is not greed. It means legitimate gain that does no harm.
Our gain should not harm ourselves nor our family. We cannot legitimize becoming a workaholic in order to support the Kingdom. Relax, the Kingdom doesn’t depend on you alone!
Our gain cannot harm others. There are certain professions that are off limits (Sorry, no dealing drugs for God!). Our gain should be honest and should build others up, in body, mind, and spirit.
2. Save All You Can
This is not a call to hoarding. Having gained all we can, we should then continue to be good stewards. As Wesley would say, we should ensure our families are adequately housed, fed, and clothed. But we should do so simply, and not in excess.
This is a call to simple living.
This is a great place to ask, “How much is enough?” Am I buying clothes or cars to impress others? If so, I am not saving all I can. Simple, reliable, and adequate living creates the surplus that allows the third step:
3. Give All You Can
This is not a call to destitution. This is a call to live simply and share what becomes excess after living simply.
Wesley is famous for living out this example. He learned to live on 28 pounds per year (he could pull that off in the 18th century). But as he earned more money, he continued to live off 28 pounds per year and gave the rest to charitable causes. If he got a raise to 30, 2 went to charity. If he got a raise to 40, 12 went to charity, etc.
As Wesley said, “What should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living, but his standard of giving.”
Imagine the impact we could have on this world if even a handful of the millions of people who identify as Christians lived by this standard.
And imagine how we would be changed, as we are shaped in the image of Christ.
What would have to change in your life to live these principles? What’s stopping you?