Since Scripture tells us that God wants us to prosper and be in health even as our souls prosper (3 John 2) and that we are blessed with Abraham’s blessing (Gal 3:14) and his blessing includes prosperity, what should be our attitude toward being rich? If we want to have these riches, does this place us on the wrong side of 1 Tim 6, where it says that those who desire to be rich can stray from the faith and pierce themselves through with many sorrows? How can God be against desiring something that He’s promised to His obedient children? Ever wonder about that? If so, I’m hoping this week’s article will help you sort it out!
First, if you read the entirety of 1 Tim 6, and not just verse 10 about the love of money, you’ll find that it is talking about an attitude that some have that Christianity is all about getting more money. Paul urges us to avoid such people. In fact, he warned in 1 Cor 5 not even to EAT with covetous so-called brothers. Yes, covetousness is in the same category as sexual immorality – if the person claims to be a Christian but engages in it, avoid him. (If you think that’s too severe, ask God to update the Bible with a more “user-friendly” release 2.0, but don’t expect it anytime soon.) Anyone who’s just into Christianity for the money is a bad influence and should be avoided.
How can we be sure 1 Tim 6 is only a warning against covetousness and not a warning about actually being rich? Simple – keep reading! Toward the end, you’ll find instructions for those who are rich in this present age. They are nowhere commanded to repent of being rich; they are just exhorted to stay humble and be generous. Besides, if being rich were a sin, then people like Jacob, Abraham and Solomon would have been big-time sinners. Furthermore, heaven would be a hotbed of sin, since it features huge jewels, mansions, gold streets and the like. No, there is nothing wrong with desiring Abraham’s blessing, including the financial part of it!
How can you tell if you’re greedy? That’s important to know because no elder, deacon or other church leader is allowed to be greedy for money – it disqualifies you from serving in leadership. Quite simply, you’re greedy if money is more important to you than the things of God. You’re greedy if when push comes to shove, you’d rather make some more money than go to church, and you certainly wouldn’t want to put more than a dollar of your hard-earned money in the offering, let alone tithe, if you did go. You’re greedy if you’re out to hoard for yourself while ignoring the needs of missions and other people. The story Jesus told of the rich fool who shut his eyes to someone’s need illustrates how ill-advised greed is.
Unfortunately, some of the church world has taken the attitude that the way to make sure we don’t get greedy or covetous is to never want to have any money. But you can have plenty of money without being greedy, and you can be broke and covetous! Since we talked about greed, let’s move on to covetousness. Being covetous is not the same as desiring a blessing that belongs to you. Being covetous is wanting someone else’s blessing! Remember the 10th commandment in the Law of Moses about not coveting your neighbor’s wife or animal or anything else that belongs to him? Coveting deals with wanting something that’s not yours because it’s someone else’s. But there are enough blessings to go around. God can bless you and that other person; you don’t have to get that other person’s blessing to be blessed yourself. This isn’t a poker table where anyone who wins does so at the expense of someone who loses. There’s nothing wrong with taking your inheritance in Christ. Should the world be upset if you take an inheritance that someone left for you by name? Why should anyone get upset when you take the inheritance that you have in Christ? Should the bank teller get upset when you withdraw money that’s been wired into your account? No, because it yours before you ever withdraw it. The same is true of the blessing of Abraham. It’s yours whether you ever take advantage of that fact or not.
When you see someone else get blessed, you’re right if you rejoice with him, you’re greedy if you determine you want to hoard money to keep up with him, and you’re covetous if you snarl, “Must be nice!”