Living Rich, is it a sin to have money?

We have mentioned in many posts recently what God says about the rich. Mainly that it is impossible for the rich to get into heaven, and yet every one of us in the United States and the western world in general are rich. Considering the fact that most of the world lives on less than $2 a day we can get a sense of just how rich we truly are.

I know that many of those articles can be very convicting and give the impression that we are need to give all possessions away and live like the poorest so we can give away everything. I know the thoughts that can go through your mind when reading these articles because this is a struggle I have had for the past several months. I don’t write these articles with an attitude of “I got it all together, now do what I do!” On the contrary, I write these articles because it is what God puts on my heart, and He puts them on my heart ninety-nine percent of the time because it is the lesson I need to be taught.

The past several months I have been in conviction over my money, am I making too much, am I using it wisely, do I give it all away, what about retirement? I have had nights where I get home from work in the morning and weep and seek God in prayer because I am just so lost on what to do. I don’t want God to say it is impossible for me to get into heaven because I am obsessed with riches, or because I saved one million in the bank instead of giving it away. (ha, like that would ever happen :P)

So after months of seeking God in this, I finally have a hint of where to go. I wish I had the full answer, but until God reveals it to me you will be in the dark with me. 🙂

Is it wrong to make money?

Being wealthy is not a sin. Many heroes of the Bible were wealthy, Abraham for one, and even Zaccheius was wealthy and likely some of the disciples had at least a decent amount of money such as Mark (tax collectors generally did well then) and Luke, a physician had the ear of the “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3) which meant he probably had a position of power, which means wealth.

The difference, between any follower of God in the Bible and the rich man Jesus rejects in Luke 18, is that a follower of Jesus doesn’t care about the wealth. If you are following Jesus, your goal should never be about money, making more or saving more or even giving more, focus on Jesus. When He is your focus you realize that your wealth is really nothing more than a resource God has given to you to manage properly and serve Him.

Is it wrong to save money?

Saving money is not a sin as long as you are following God with your money. Zacchaeus (Luke 19) gave away 50% of everything he owned, because he wanted to use his resources to serve God, not to just save for himself. But why not give away 100%? He gave away what he was convicted to give away, following God’s prompt on his conscience. It no longer was about saving or having money to him, just about following God, even if it meant giving away his wealth. He didn’t care because he was following God, that is what matters. He is just one of many examples of how when we focus on Jesus, we care less about ourselves and our achievements and start to adopt the heart of God for the lost.

Here is another thing to look at. There is a joke of a guy who was trapped in a house during a flood. A guy on a canoe came by, asking if he needed help while the guy tried to climb to the highest point on the roof. The guy responded “No thank you, I have faith God will save me”. Then as the water continued to rise a helicopter came by to save the guy, who just replied “I have faith God will save me.”

Well, the guy ends up drowning. He gets to heaven and asks God, “why didn’t you save me?” To which God replies “I gave you warning a flood was coming and even after you ignored it I sent a canoe and a helicopter, what else could you need?”

Bad joke, I know, but it shows a lesson which is true. We can’t throw away God’s blessings and then expect him to miraculously save you last minute. He might, because He is sovereign and loves us despite us being bad stewards of His money. God has given us in America the money to get out of most situations. We just choose to blow it on ourselves and buy things we can’t afford and then cry out to God when we are out of money. Yes God provides for us, but does that really sound right to waste his provision and then blame him for “not providing” when times are tough?

Is that how we are supposed to manage God’s resources?

Is debt wrong?

The Bible does give some allowance for debt, but I do not recall ever seeing the Bible promote or say it is a good thing. I personally think debt is a sin, for two reasons.

First, debt is almost always caused by our wanting what we cannot afford. You want that new car? Save up for it! Or find a cheaper alternative.

God has given us tremendous resources, there should be no reason we can’t save up for something whille still having money to give to those in need and supporting our family. It may take sacrifice, but at least you will be buying what you afford and not borrowing.

The second reason I see debt as sin, is something God has recently shown me. I am absolutely tired of not being able to help people like I once was able to, why? Because of my debt. My debt is draining so much of my money that I live paycheck to paycheck and have a really hard time paying for food, let alone helping others.

If I did not have my debt it would free up my resources to be able to help others. Lost your job? Sure, here is $350 to help you get back on your feet, oh wait, that money has to go to my car payment, sorry. There is so much more we could do without debt.

Stay Tuned

In my next article I will discuss about worrying over money and what God has told me about each of these areas in my own personal finances.

What do you think? Is it a sin to make money or save money? How do you ensure that you are using God’s money wisely and not just blowing it on yourself? Let me know in the comments below.

The link between wealth and salvation

Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:8-10

Both this passage and Luke 18:18-27 mention a link between wealth, what you do with that wealth, and your salvation. What is this link, and what does it tell us about our salvation?

Two noticeable events take place in this passage. The first is Zaccheus declaring that he is giving away over half his money, and the other is that Jesus announces that he is saved. At first glance appears like a cause and effect, the cause being that Zaccheus gives away his wealth, and the effect is that Jesus declares that he is saved.

This idea also looks to be backed up by the passage in Luke 18 where a rich man asks Jesus how he can have salvation and Jesus replies saying to give away all of his wealth. The rich man then walks away sad and Jesus says to his disciples that it is impossible for the rich to get into heaven.

There is something you have to remember about reading the Bible though. You cannot take certain passages in the Bible and base doctrines on those passages, you have to take the Bible as a whole. A lot of times concepts are explained and then later on they are refined or more detail is given.

So then how do we reconcile this with verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9?

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

The passage in James 2 ties these two concepts together perfectly and clears any cloud of confusion that some may have. James says “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14,17)

A person is not saved by any work they do, no matter what it is, because our sin is so great to God that no amount of our “good works” could make up for it. It is only through our faith in Jesus Christ that we can have salvation, and by nothing else. But when you have faith, you will have good works as a response to your faith. It is not something you have to make yourself do, it is out of an act of love.

I love my wife, and because I love her I do things for her, help her out around the house when she isn’t feeling well, or buy her her favorite chocolate as a surprise when I am at the store.  These acts do not make her love, the acts do not make her my wife, they are just acts of kindness that I do in response to my love for her.  Faith in Christ works the same way.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:21-26

Abraham was not saved because of his actions. Abraham took action because of his faith, they work hand in hand. If Abraham did not have faith, then he would not have acted.

Zaccheus was saved that day, but not because he gave away his wealth, but because he had faith in Christ. Once Zaccheus had faith his wealth was meaningless to him because he had Jesus. Zaccheus acted out of response to his faith in Christ. Jesus then announced that he was saved because Zaccheus had faith, and he also had evidence of faith in his works.

The rich ruler in Luke 18 wanted Jesus, but he wanted his riches more. He did not have faith or he would not have cared about his riches.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44

When you are saved through your faith in Christ you have a heart for God, and a heart for others. At that point the things of this world should seem meaningless as you pursue Christ and the kingdom.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27

If you have wealth, how are you using that for the kingdom of God? Are you just spoiling yourself? Are you staying “unspotted from the world”? As a professing follower of Christ you should be pursuing the things God wants you to pursue, and if you are not then why not? Do you put Christ before your family even? (Luke 14:26)

Are you really putting Christ first in your life?

If Jesus confronted you today, would he say “today salvation has come to this house” or would he say “how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God”?

The choice is yours.

Avoiding a Lukewarm Life part 1 – Sacrificing it all

Laodicea, a city in Asia which is known for having a lukewarm church because of a letter written to them in Revelation 3.  I wonder if America will go down in history known for being the modern day luekwarm church?

Revelation 3:15-16 says “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

God wants you to be hot, to be on fire for him, if not you are so distasteful to him that he wants to vomit you out of his mouth!  Why would God have such a severe reaction lukewarmness?  Because God is so holy, and so worthy of every bit of worship and praise we can give him, and when we take our eyes off of Jesus just to focus on the things of the world, it is disgusting to God.

Jesus, a treasure worth sacrificing for

Jesus told a parable of a man who found a treasure in a field, and was so excited to get the treasure that he went and sold everything he had so he could buy the field and get the treasure.  (Matthew 13:44)  This, Jesus says, is how we need to seek the kingdom of God.  We need to seek Him so fervantly that we are willing to sacrifice anything to get Him because we know He is worth it.

Imagine you being this person, following a map that is promised to lead to riches.  You get to a clearing in the trees and you see an obscure X on the ground. So you dig, and you find a stock pile of bars of gold worth billions of dollars.  And then you burry the bars of gold, and you go off to live your life. You could buy that plot of land and take ownership over the treasure, but to do that you would have to sell your car, your tv, or even your house.

If any one of us saw a person give up this treasure we would try to knock some common sense into them, say “come on, that treasure is worth so much more than all of your measly possessions combined!”  But this is us!  We are satisfied with knowing Jesus exists and maybe even going to look at the treasure every Sunday, but we refuse to take any action that could give us possesion of this treasure.

A rich man once came go Jesus and asked “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus responded “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Luke 18:18-23) What did the guy do? “But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.”  This guy let his earthly possessions stop him from having eternal life, from having a relationship with Jesus.  And this is disgusting to God! 

But we do the same thing…

Your head fights that idea instantly by saying “but I’m not rich, I live pay check to pay check and sometimes can’t pay my utility bill.”  Don’t be blind to what you do have.  Most of the world lives off of $2 per day.  Your brain is smart and fires back “but the cost of living is so much more here, it is impossible to live off of $2 per day.”  Well yes, it is true that two dollars will get you more in other countries than in the U. S. but think about this.  If you have a roof over your head, a form of transportation (even a public bus), and food on your table every day, you are richer than 80% of the world.  If you make just $50,000 a year you are in the top 99% of the richest people in the world.  We have so many posessions we cannot even name them all, and we think we are poor?  It was after this that Jesus said it is impossible for a rich man to get into heaven.  Billions of people live in slums and have to live off a diet of rice to survive and we consider ourselves “poor” because we can’t afford to go out for a steak dinner this weekend.

Are your riches getting in the way of you coming to God?  Would you be willing to sell everything you have to follow Jesus?  Instantly your mind races for a reason to hold on to what you have.  You think “God has not asked me to give away my posessions” or “God wants me to enjoy this life and has given me my money to enjoy, not to live in poverty so I can give it all away.”  My question to you is, have you ever asked Him what He wants from you?

But that is legalistic!

The common defense for the church in America when they are told to do something hard.  Throw down the Legalism card as a “get out of conviction free” card.  But is what I am saying  legalistic, or is it Biblical?  Reading the passages above it seems pretty clear that we are to sell everything we have and give to the poor, to get rid of everything that could be standing in the way of you being on fire for God.

There are many places in the Bible where Jesus gives very hard commands that show us that being a Christian involves more than going to church, singing a few songs and hanging around Christians when you play games or spend time on the computer.  “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:27

In Luke 14 Jesus commands people to consider the cost to following Him before you begin, becasue it is costly.  Does not a builder consider if he can afford to build a tower before he starts? Does a king not consider if he is able to defeat an army before he goes to war?  “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

As Christians we are the salt of the earth, but if we are lukewarm then we lose our flavor and Jesus says that salt that has lost its flavor is not even fit to be thrown in the manuer pile. (Luke 14:34)

Revelation 3:17 God says “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Wretched, miserable, are these words you want God to use when describing you?

Do you get it yet?

Do you understand?  God does not want people sitting around being holy couch potatoes.  God wants people that are so devoted to serving him they are willing to sacrifice everything, money, power, family, even their own life.  These are the people God wants to follow Him!

Notice who had joy and who did not in Jesus’ parables.  The man that sacrificed everything to buy the field with the treasure “in his joy went and sold all he had” while the rich man “became very sorrowful.”  Who has more joy, the one holding on to the things of earth or the one reaching for the treasure?

So I must give away everything?

I’m not saying you have to give away everything, but why not?  What is keeping you from doing it?  Is it because it is an idol?  I know my money has been an idol to me many, many times and I still struggle with this, but I know in the end it is worth whatever sacrifice I give, and more.

What I am trying to say, is that you need to seek God, but not in a casual way, in a way where you are willing to sacrifice everything for Him!  I guarantee the instant you enter into eternity you will wish you had sacrificed more!

So what makes God so great to deserve this kind of all-in sacrifice?  I will answer that in part 2.

Leave a comment below telling us how God has asked you to sacrifice to serve Him!