Biblical Views on Wealth and Stewardship –
Debunking Misconceptions on Building Wealth
Article by R. Joseph Ritter, Jr. CFP® EA
I for one do like my world comforts, and I am sure you do too. And you know what, that’s perfectly fine.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just don’t be wasteful. Mother Theresa
I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service.
I served and I saw that service is joy. Kahlil Gibran
- 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
- Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.
- James 5:3-4 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
From reading these four verses, it would seem that the Bible is anti-wealth, and people who are wealthy should be despised. We should all live in poverty, and never engage in any activities that could bring us substantial profits.
If that’s true, then what should we do with skills or abilities that could lead to wealth? Should we suppress them?
I submit to you that not using to our full potential the skills and abilities we have been given is the same as hoarding wealth. In both instances, there is opposition to sharing what we have been given for the greater good of humanity and in honor to God.
Notice that it is the love of money that is the root of evil. The work of our hearts, minds and lives should be to store an unfailing treasure in heaven. It is true that wealth can be a major distraction from the things that really matter in life. That does not mean, however, that wealth is evil and should be rejected.
More importantly, it does not mean that we should not engage in any activity which would lead to wealth. We are instead to be good stewards of what we have, whether it is a skill or ability or wealth. If our activities lead to wealth, we should look upon it as a blessing and not a curse, and for that reason, we should seek to honor God with what we do by developing our full potential.
Did you know that the man who took the body of Jesus from the cross, dressed it and laid it in a tomb he built with his own hands was a “rich man?” His name was Joseph, and we are told in Matthew 27:57 that he was a rich man from Antioch who was also a disciple or a follower of Jesus. Not every person who is a devout Christian has sworn a vow of poverty.
What matters is the attitude of our hearts. Our attitude controls what we do and how we relate to God. That attitude is to be one of stewardship and offering our resources to be used by God. Another word for “attitude” is orientation. Our orientation or our view of ourselves in the world determines how we view wealth.
To help us with a definition of stewardship, let’s review the following verses from the Bible:
- Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
- James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
- Luke 12:15-21 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 “And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Stewardship begins with the attitude or orientation that we do not own the wealth we have. Instead, everything we have, whether it be skills, abilities or wealth, is entrusted to us. Stewardship is also about seeking after the things that matter before things that are temporary. Wealth is subject to taxes, theft, waste, loss, economic forces of inflation, market fluctuation, and so forth. In that regard, wealth is temporary and is more of a tool than anything else. It is a tool we can use to gain the things that really matter.
Finally, stewardship is about making our wealth available to be used by God. The problem with the rich farmer was that he saw his wealth as the product of his own hands and chose to keep it for himself rather than make it available for God’s use or use it as the tool to “pure religion.”
In the words of John Wesley, earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.