Biblical theme A5: Wealth, poverty, sharing, and giving

Module I: The wealth and prosperity of humanity in the Bible (A5.A)

Q.1.1 How does God enable people to be wealthy and to prosper? 

Basic texts in Genesis and Deuteronomy:

  1. Natural resources given by God -  Genesis 1:26-28, natural resources given to mankind with command to be fruitful; Genesis 13:2, 24:35 26:13, 30:43, material wealth of the patriarchs (as God’s blessing)
  2. God uses unusual ways to prosper his people - Exodus 11:2-3, 12:35-36, the Israelites plunder the Egyptians for silver and gold as they leave (at God’s instruction)
  3. God   provides - Exodus 16:11-30 (Joseph’s story: the famine situation, and saving his family). God’s provision for material needs – manna in the desert
  4. God gives the ability to produce wealth – Deut. 8:10-18: the ability to produce wealth is a gift from God. 
  5. Godmakes people wealthy or poor- 1 Sam 2:7-8: poverty and wealth both come from him 

We are to steward wisely:

  1. Store goods for bad times - 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. Need to develop a balanced attitude toward wealth and poverty - Proverbs 30:8b-9: we should desire neither poverty nor riches, but just enough to meet our daily needs
  3. Use money in so that you and others will benefit from it - Luke 16:1-13: the parable of the dishonest manager – we are to use our money shrewdly to win the favour of others

Q.1.2 Why does God make people wealthy and prosperous? What is the purpose and meaning of wealth?

Jesus feeding thousands with plentiful food, because God is good: 

1.   A sign of His covenant – 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. 

  1. God to be praised by all nations - 1 Kings 10: the riches of Solomon lead the Queen of Sheba to praise God. 
  2. Restoration - Job 42:10-16: the restoration of God’s blessing includes material wealth.  
  3. For bad times - 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. 
  4. Enjoy them as blessings coming from God - Ecclesiastes 5:8 – 6:6: the meaninglessness of material wealth, and the blessing of enjoying them as a gift from God (A6.B. 3)

We are to give generously in recognition of God who provides:

  1. Worship God by practice of tithing - Genesis 28:21-22, Leviticus 27:30-31, Numbers 18:26, Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Malachi 3:7-8: the practice of tithing – giving a tenth of all things back to God is an obligation.
  2. Trusting God and being thankful by giving the first fruits - Exodus 22:29-30, 23:19: we are to give the first fruits to God as recognition that he is the giver of all things.

We are to take care of needy and poor: it is an imperative in OT and NT (also module IV):

  1. Help people to feed themselves - Lev 19:9-10, Deut 23:24-25, Deut 24:19-22: the practice of gleaning – leaving the corners of the harvest fields for the poor and the foreigner
  2. To meetthe needs of those who cannot support themselves is to show Jesus’ love to the poor and is equivalent to showing love to Jesus - Job 31:16-28, Mathew 25:35-40
  3. The right attitude and actions of the wealthy are to love the poor and meet their material needs - James 1:27 
  4. Our duty is to help our stricken neighbour - Luke 10:29-37, James 1:27 - we have a duty to help our stricken neighbour with generosity. 
  5. To defend the cause of the poor – Jeremiah 22:13-17
  6. God will treat us generously if we give generously Proverbs 3:9-10, Proverbs 22:9, Luke 6:38;

DSP1: All wealth comes from God ultimately belongs to him – 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).

 

Module II:  The consequences of idolatry of wealth (A5.B)

Q.2.1 What are the signs of idolatry of wealth?

Individually and collectively:

  1. Give too much importance to wealth - Proverbs 8:10-11 the relative unimportance of wealth, James 4:13-17
  2. Striving after wealth - Proverbs 23:4-5: the stupidity of striving after wealth. 
  3. Whom do you serve? - Matthew 6:24: you cannot serve both God and money. Serving money is accumulating for tomorrow because of our worries about the future.
  4. You cannot serve both God and money- Matthew 6:24: wealth is deceitful -  Mark 4:18-19: the dangers of wealth illustrated by the weeds in the parable of the sower 
  5. Lack of generosity towards others - Luke 12:13-21, Luke 16:19-31 - God will punish those who are generous towards themselves but not towards others

Q.2.2 What are the consequences of idolatry of wealth?

Individually and collectively:

  1. Deceitfulness - Mark 4:18-19; James 5:1-6.
  2. Unable to obey Jesus - Mark 10:17-31, 
  3. Attracts God’s judgment - Luke 16:19-31; Luke 12:13-21; James 5:1-6
  4. The existence of poverty reflects our sinful nature rather than God’s failure to make sufficient provision - Deut 15:1-11
  5. Increased economic inequality: the prophecy of the costs of monarchy – 1 Sam 8:11-18
  6. Injustice that results in poverty and big gaps between poor and rich - Proverbs 13:23
  7. Worship of the things that bring us wealth in place of worshiping God - Habbakuk 1:15-17
  8. Criticism of the rich and their practices –their hoarding, self-indulgence, and failure to pay wages are equated to the condemnation and murder of innocents - James 5:1-6.

DSP2: 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).

 

Module III: Poverty – its origins and solutions (A.5.C)

Q.3.1 What are the origins of Poverty?

  1. Material prosperity as a sign of God’s covenant blessings, so material poverty as part of the punishment (consequence) for breaking that covenant -  Deut. 28:1-68
  2. Poverty and wealth both come from God- 1 Sam 2:7-8 
  3. The existence of poverty reflects our sinful nature rather than God’s failure to make sufficient provision – Deut. 15:1-11
  4. Poverty as the result of injustice - Proverbs 13:23
  5. The prophecy of the costs of monarchy – increased economic inequality - 1 Sam 8:11-18
  6. Imposing taxes on the poor to increase your wealth is condemned - Amos 5:11-1
  7. The worship of the things that bring us wealth in place of God - Habbakuk 1:15-17

Q.3.2 What are the solutions to poverty?

  1. Luxury should not distract us from the plight of God’s people - Amos 6:4-6
  2. The practice of gleaning – leaving the corners of the fields unharvested for the poor and the foreigner- Lev 19:9-10, Deut. 23:24-25, Deut. 24:19-22
  3. The right attitudes and actions of the wealthy are to love the poor and meet their material needs - Job 31:16-28
  4. God will treat us generously if we give generously - Proverbs 3:9-10, Proverbs 22:9, Luke 6:38
  5. We have a duty to help our stricken neighbour with generosity - Luke 10:29-37
  6. We are to defend the cause of the poor, not exploit them for our own gain - Jeremiah 22:13-17
  7. Help others to help themselves
  8. Every individual has responsibility for others, and that is linked to the community.
  9. We as the people of God are to be a model for the community

DSP3:  The existence of poverty is the result of our individual and collective brokenness, not God’s failure to provide. God will provide sufficient resources so 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. 

 

Module IV: Wealth and giving/sharing for followers of Jesus (A.5.D)

Q.4.1 In the NT, wealth is to be shared: 

  1. With the needy -  Matthew 6:2-5: we are to give to the needy secretly, rather than for the praise of others
  2. For the kingdom - 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. To those who do not have what they need - Luke 3:11: we are to give them anything we have that we do not need 
  4. It is Jesus’s command - Luke 6:20-38: Jesus pronounces blessings on the poor, woes on the rich, and commands generous giving
  5. It is praised in the apostolic teaching - 2 Corinthians 8-9: Paul extols the grace of giving – ‘God loves a cheerful giver’
  6. As others had need - Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37: the early church is described as selling possessions and sharing. 
  7. With brothers and sisters in need - Romans 12:13, Ephesians 4:28: there is a general obligation to share with brothers and sisters in need

Q.4.2 Why should we give and share?

  1. For the sake of our contentment - Philippians 4:10-13, 1 Timothy 6:6-10: we are to be content in all material circumstances, rather than lusting after money
  2. It is a command - 1 Timothy 6:17-19: the rich in the church are commanded to be generous and willing to share with others
  3. To bring balance - James 2:1-7: the necessity of equal treatment of rich and poor in church community
  4. As a proof of real faith - James 2:14-17: faith is fake in the absence of material support for poor brothers and sisters

Q.4.3 How should we give?

  1. Secretly, not for the praise of others - Matthew 6:2-5.
  2. Give anything we have that we do not need, to those who lack what they need- Luke 3:11.
  3. As a response to God’s grace -  Luke 19:1-10: the story of Zacchaeus – his response to grace is to give away half of his wealth and to offer to pay back four times over those he has cheated 
  4. Extravagantly - Mark 14:3-9: the anointing at Bethany – Jesus praises the woman’s extravagance
  5. Accordingly to others needs - Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37: the early church are described selling and sharing as others had need
  6. To support those who have been set apart for gospel ministry- Galatians 6:6, 1 Corinthians 9:3-18, 1 Timothy 5:17-18.
  7. With joy - Hebrews 10:34: we are to be joyful even when our property is confiscated

DSP4: 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 forgo 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 requires: selling and sharing 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 Corinthians 9:3-18, 2 Corinthians 8-9, Galatians 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:17-18).

[Rodica Rosoriu, April 2015]

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