A5 Wealth & Poverty

Biblical theme A6: Wealth, poverty, sharing and giving

A. Wealth is an aspect of God’s blessing:

  1. Genesis 1:26-28: Natural resources given to mankind with command to be fruitful
  2. Genesis 13:2, 24:35 26:13, 30:43: Material wealth of the patriarchs (as God’s blessing)
  3. Exodus 11:2-3, 12:35-36: The Israelites plunder the Egyptians for silver and gold as they leave (at God’s instruction)
  4. Exodus 16:11-30: God’s provision for our material needs – manna in the desert
  5. Deut 8:10-18: the ability to produce wealth is a gift from God
  6. Deut 28:1-68: material prosperity as a sign of God’s covenant blessings, material poverty as part of the punishment for breaking that covenant
  7. 1 Sam 2:7-8: poverty and wealth both come from God
  8. 1 Kings 10: the riches of Solomon lead the Queen of Sheba to praise God
  9. Job 42:10-16: the restoration of God’s blessing includes material wealth

so we are to steward our wealth wisely...

  1. Genesis 41:46-57: Joseph stores up an extraordinary abundance of grain in the seven fat years, in order that Egypt and his own family do not starve
  2. Proverbs 30:8b-9: we should desire neither poverty nor riches, but just enough to meet our daily needs
  3. Luke 16:1-13: the parable of the dishonest manager – we are to use our money shrewdly to win the favour of others

...and give generously

  1. Genesis 28:21-22, Leviticus 27:30-31, Numbers 18:26, Deutoronomy 14:28-29, Malachi 3:7-8: the practice of tithing – giving a tenth of all things back to God is an obligation.
  2. Exodus 22:29-30, 23:19: we are to give the firstfruits to God as recognition that he is the giver of all things.
  3. Lev 19:9-10, Deut 23:24-25, Deut 24:19-22: the practice of gleaning – leaving the corners of the fields unharvested for the poor and the foreigner
  4. Job 31:16-28: the right attitude and actions of the wealthy are to love the poor and meet their material needs
  5. Proverbs 3:9-10, Proverbs 22:9, Luke 6:38: God will treat us generously if we give generously
  6. Luke 10:29-37: we have a duty to help our stricken neighbour with generosity

 

B. The idolatry of wealth damages:

Individuals...

  1. Proverbs 8:10-11: the relative unimportance of wealth
  2. Proverbs 23:4-5: the stupidity of striving after wealth
  3. Ecclesiastes 5:8 – 6:6: the meaninglessness of material wealth, and the blessing of enjoying them as a gift from God
  4. Matthew 6:24: you cannot serve both God and money
  5. Mark 4:18-19: the deceitfulness of wealth illustrated by weeds in the parable of the sower
  6. Mark 10:17-31: the rich young man is unable to obey Jesus’ instructions to sell his wealth and follow Him.
  7. Luke 12:13-21: God will punish those who are generous towards themselves but not towards him
  8. Luke 16:19-31: the parable of the rich man and Lazarus - God will punish those who are generous towards themselves but not towards others

...and society

  1. Deut 15:1-11: the existence of poverty reflects our sinful nature rather than God’s failure to make sufficient provision
  2. 1 Sam 8:11-18: the prophecy of the costs of monarchy – increased economic inequality
  3. Proverbs 13:23: poverty as the result of injustice
  4. Jeremiah 22:13-17: we are to defend the cause of the poor, not exploit them for our own gain
  5. Amos 5:11-12: imposing taxes on the poor to increase your wealth is condemned
  6. Amos 6:4-6: luxury should not distract us from the plight of God’s people
  7. Habakkuk 1:15-17: the worship of the things that bring us wealth in place of God
  8. James 5:1-6: criticism of the rich and their practices –theirhoarding ,self-indulgence and failure to pay wages is described as the condemnation and murder of innocents

 

C. Wealth and giving for followers of Jesus:

individually...

  1. Matthew 6:2-5: we are to give to the needy secretly, rather than for the praise of others
  2. Matthew 13:44-46, Luke 14:28-33 Mark 8:31-38: we should be willing to sell everything we have for the kingdom
  3. Luke 3:11: we are to give anything we have that we don’t need to those who do not have what they need
  4. Luke 6:20-38: Jesus pronounces blessings on the poor, woes on the rich and commands generous giving
  5. Luke 19:1-10: the account of Zacchaeus – his response to grace is to give away half of his money and offer to pay back those he has cheated four times over
  6. Mark 14:3-9: the anointing at Bethany – Jesus praises the woman’s extravagance
  7. Phillipians 4:10-13, 1 Timothy 6:6-10: we are to be content in all material circumstances, rather than lusting after money

... and collectively

  1. Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37: the early church are described sharing and selling as others had need
  2. Romans 12:13, Ephesians 4:28: there is a general obligation to share with brothers and sisters in need
  3. 1 Corinthians 5:10-11: it is appropriate to use church discipline to challenge the greedy
  4. Galatians 6:6, 1 Corinthians 9:3-18, 1 Timothy 5:17-18: the church is expected to support those serving them through set-apart gospel ministry
  5. 2 Corinthians 8-9: Paul extols the grace of giving – ‘God loves a cheerful giver’
  6. 1 Timothy 6:17-19: the rich in the church are commanded to be generous and willing to share with others
  7. Hebrews 10:34: we are to be joyful even when our property is confiscated
  8. James 2:1-7: the necessity of equal treatment of rich and poor in church community
  9. James 2:14-17: faith is fake in the absence of material support for poor brothers and sisters

 

Derived Social Principles

  1. All wealth ultimately belongs to God – we are always stewards, never owners. Natural resources are God’s gift to humankind (Genesis 1 & 2) and only He enables us to use those resources to create wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). We should therefore be generous givers (Job 31:16-28, Proverbs 3:9-10, 27-28, Luke 10:29-37, 19:1-10) and wise stewards (Genesis 41:46-57, Luke 16:1-13).
  2. The existence of poverty is the result of our individual and collective brokenness, not God’s failure to provide. God will provide sufficient resources that there need be no poor among us, and yet poverty will always be with us (Deuteronomy 15:1-11, Mark 14:7). Both through individual actions (Luke 16:19-31) and social structures (1 Samuel 8:11-18) we perpetuate the economic inequalities that lead to poverty. (This is not to deny that God uses material hardship to bring people back to him and sanctify his followers (Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Job).)
  3. Greed (the accumulation of wealth for selfish purposes) damages society and fails to deliver contentment.  Since all wealth ultimately belongs to God we are not to be greedy (Mark 7:20-23, 1 Corinthians 5:10) or exploit others for our own gain (Jeremiah 22:13-17, Amos 5:11-12, 6:4-6). If we do strive after material wealth, we will be disappointed (Proverbs 8:10-11, 23:4-5, Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:6, Mark 4:18-19, Luke 12:13-21).
  4. God’s people, individually and collectively, are to respond to his grace by giving and sharing all they have. Those who are in Christ should be willing to forego all material wealth for the sake of God’s kingdom (Matthew 13:44-46, Mark 8:31-38, 10:17-31, Luke 14:28-33). Collectively, this looks like sharing and selling as other Christians have need (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37, James 2:14-17), creating a community in which rich and poor are treated equally (James 2:1-7) and giving freely and joyfully to support the local and global church (1 Corithians 9:3-18, 2 Corinthians 8-9, Galatians 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:17-18).

[Andy Hood, September 2014]