Reconciling Faith and Wealth
Article by R. Joseph Ritter, Jr. CFP® EA
The message of the financial planning industry, banks, investment advisors and media is to work hard, make a lot of money, invest well, and retire with $1 million or more. Amassing a fortune is all well and good if wealth is your ambition in life. But what if you are a person guided by faith?
- Jesus instructed us in Matthew 6:31 not to worry about what we will eat, drink or wear because God knows what we need, and all that and more will be provided to those who seek first His righteousness.
- The Israelites took very little with them on their exodus out of Egypt, and God provided for their every need along the way, including parting the sea to escape the Egyptian army.
- Some of the most well known missionaries survived and developed thriving mission posts on next to nothing.
- Christian service workers who follow the call Jesus placed on their lives often earn only enough to get by from day to day and never have an opportunity to save for the future, a child’s education or retirement.
- In Mark 10:21, Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the poor.
- In Luke 14:33, Jesus told His followers that they could not be His disciples unless they gave up all their possessions.
How do we reconcile messages such as these with the process of financial planning, which seems to center around building wealth?
One message we must not fail to grasp is that being a Christian and serving Jesus Christ does not require us to take a vow of poverty. The emphasis of the Scriptures quoted above is not poverty or renouncing wealth; rather, it is to not rely on wealth as a substitute for faith in Jesus Christ.
- Jesus’ instruction not to worry is incredibly freeing because it means we can forego wealth, follow Him, and He will provide what we need along the way.
- The chief lessons of the exodus were faith in God and obedience to God, and all of the difficulties the Israelites encountered were meant to grow and build their faith and test their allegiance to Him.
- God’s providence for missionaries plays a big part in the people coming to faith in God and demonstrating His glory in the world. Had it not been for the faith of many missionaries, their work would have been much more difficult, if not impossible.
- If God opened the door for people to engage in Christian service, He will not abandon them. No need is too small or too great for God.
- Jesus was pointing out idolatry to the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21. The man put wealth above God, and Jesus told him to dismantle his idols.
- If we are to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, managing wealth will be a distraction in our lives and hinder us from growing in our faith and advancing the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
The reality is that relying on wealth reduces the opportunities Jesus Christ has to make Himself real in our lives. Relying on wealth lowers the number of points of contact we have with Him, to the extent that it can stall the growth of our faith. Relying on wealth stands in the way of His glory being made known in the world. Wealth is often a distraction from the work Jesus Christ wants to do in our lives and through our lives. We can employ wealth in self-indulgence or employ wealth by furthering the cause of Jesus Christ. These are the dangers of wealth for the follower of Christ and why wealth is viewed so darkly in the Bible. Knowing this, however, is to our advantage because we can rise above the dangers and hold deep faith while prospering financially.
There have been plenty of notable followers of Christ throughout history who have been wealthy. Even today there are a number of wealthy individuals and celebrities who stand by a strong faith in Christ. There is nothing wrong with being a Christian and being wealthy.
That being said, the purpose of life is certainly not to amass a fortune above all else. Wealth can easily become idolatry and come between our relationship with Jesus Christ. Somewhere there must be a middle of the road commitment to life that finds a balance between faith and wealth, and there are times when following Jesus Christ means forfeiting wealth altogether. Those who are able to live sacrificially have a clear view of the reward that awaits them in the hereafter and are determined to put the gospel message of Jesus Christ ahead of everything else.