As Christians in America, we feel pretty cozy with the idea of wealth and prosperity. So much so that we’ve created a “prosperity gospel” in which we declare that Jesus not only wants us make us wealthy, but that He wants us to pursue wealth and all the material blessings of our society. In my latest podcast, I contrast this idea with a sermon that protestant reformer John Calvin once gave on the 8th commandment, in which he openly decries the pursuit of wealth, and how his sermon takes us back to a time in which serious minded Christians challenged the notion that Jesus encouraged us to become wealthy and to pursue wealth.
Indeed, when we look more broadly at the teachings of the Scripture regarding wealth, we see a lot of things that I think would make guys like Dave Ramsey, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Steven Furtick blush in embarrassment. Instead of having a comfortable relationship with wealth, there are many instances throughout the Scriptures, and especially the New Testament, in which we are warned sternly about the dangers of wealth and pursuing prosperity.
Consider Scriptures such as Luke 6:24, in which Jesus said “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort in full!” In this sermon, Jesus warned us that wealth, instead of being a sign of God’s favor towards us, could be a warning signal that something is wrong with our souls, and that God is judging you by giving you all your possible eternal comfort in the present. “Woe” is a strong word in the Bible, and is not to be taken lightly. It’s a powerful word of lament and warning about impending judgment. In effect, when Jesus makes woe against the rich, His language is so forceful that He might as well be saying “To hell with you who are rich!”
That’s some pretty strong language if you ask me. And it’s not something we should take lightly. Nor should we take lightly the numerous other Scriptures in which Jesus and the apostles warn about the dangers of wealth and prosperity. Jesus reminds us elsewhere in the gospels that we should never hoard our money into barns, lest our soul be required of us. Jesus warns us that you cannot serve both God and wealth, and that the two are masters that will divide the affections of our heart. And instead of looking at the wealthy as the individual whom God has blessed, Jesus reminds us that God has blessed the poor.
Looking at 1 Timothy 6:8-11, we see how the apostle Paul calls us to live our lives in which we are content to have food and clothing. We should strive to live our lives in simplicity, modesty, and frugality. Instead of pursuing wealth and endangering our souls, Paul encourages us to “flee from these things” and instead calls on us to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Our faith as Christians, even Christians living in America, is to be free from the “love of money, which is the root of all evil.”
That’s not to say we can’t have some nice things and enjoy the fruits of our labor and other creature comforts. And that’s not to say money can’t be a form of God’s blessing on our lives. But, even when it is, as Christians we ought to have a very uncomfortable relationship with wealth and prosperity. We should be as cozy with wealth as we are in handling a stick of dynamite. Wealth is something that should give us pause for consideration on where we actually stand in our relationship with God, and not just assume that because we are wealthy and successful that such is a divine stamp of approval on our lives. For as Jesus warned, such wealth could be a sign of our eternal destruction.
In this podcast, I also examine the implications of a recently popular Instagram account called “PreachersNsneakers” and in which some very popular and wealthy preachers are on display wearing the latest and greatest (and most expensive) in fashion, including shoes that range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, and what lessons we can learn from this disturbing trend.