Understanding the real purpose of wealth

Wealth is evil. The only way to succeed is by taking advantage of others.

Wealth is good. It allows me to enjoy life.

Wealth is a blessing of God for use in building His kingdom.

There are a lot of opinions on wealth. There is a prevailing opinion in our society today that wealth only comes by taking advantage of others. I don’t believe that. I think wealth comes from how well you serve the needs of others. If you understand that it all belongs to God anyway then wealth simply allows you the opportunity to be a blessing to even more people.

What does the Bible say about wealth?

So what does the Bible actually say about wealth? Actually quite a bit, but for today I want to look at something the  writer of Proverbs tells us:

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25

I can hear the objections you may be feeling to that scripture already because the same thought occurs to me. You may be thinking that’s nice but I have known a wealthy person or two who was not very generous and they didn’t seem to come to poverty, and I have known some very generous folks who never seemed to have two nickels to rub together.

A general principle

First, understand that the Proverbs are not hard and fast laws. They are intended to be general wisdom of how life most often works. So this verse is not saying that every generous person will become a millionaire, and every miser will always come to poverty. The principle here is the more generous you are the more likely you are to be blessed with more.

If you think about it from God’s perspective, who would you be more likely to bless with more money? The one who is greedy and is trying to keep it all for himself? Or would you bless the one who will  in turn be constantly looking for ways to help your children who are in need?

Blessings and not harm

Second, God is a loving Father. He will not give his children something that will harm them.

Hardly a month goes by and there is not a headline about a sports figure or entertainer or lottery winner who has made a real mess of their lives largely due to the opportunities their wealth gave them.

We see a similar theme in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The master gave his servants 5 talents, 2 talents, and 1 talent respectively before going away on a long trip. When he returned the one who had 5 had earned 5 more. The one who had 2 had earned 2 more. But the one given 1 had basically done nothing with it. The master rebuked him for his lack of action and gave that servant’s talent to the one who had earned the 5 more talents.

When I first read that story that seemed odd and a bit unfair. He already had 10 talents. Why not give it to the one who had 4? I believe the answer is the one who had 10 had proven himself faithful in handling a large amount of money and so the master felt comfortable in giving him even more.

Living with an open hand

Lastly, sometimes wealth is not really a blessing because all it really does is produce fear.

“There are men who gain from their wealth only the fear of losing it.”
Antoine Rivarol

I have known people who while perhaps not wealthy by the Bill Gates or Warren Buffet standards, had still amassed enough money to be able to live comfortably. And yet they lived as paupers, pinching pennies, and refusing to spend the money they had saved.

If you choose to live a lower lifestyle than you could afford so that you have more money to give away that is admirable. But when you live as if you were broke simply out of fear of losing what you have saved, it is just sad.

When we live life holding onto our money with a clenched fist, we may be able to hold on to what we have, but we must understand that it is also very difficult to squeeze any more in to our hand. On the other hand, if we hold our wealth loosely with an open hand, some may escape but we are open for more wealth to come in.

Back to our original question. I don’t believe wealth is evil. Wealth just enables us to be more of what we already are. If we are greedy with a little, we will likely be greedy with a lot and by the same token if we are generous with what we have, having more will just enable us to be even more generous.

I believe when God sees a heart that is driven not by greed but by compassion, he sees a heart that he knows is safe to bless with wealth. The real purpose of wealth is it gives us the opportunity to be outrageously generous to those who are in need, and I think that makes our Heavenly Father smile.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.