Wealth and material possessions have been a topic of much debate among Christians. Some view wealth as a blessing and sign of God’s favor, while others see it as a potential stumbling block to faith. What does the Bible really say about wealth and God’s view of prosperity? Is monetary wealth truly a blessing from God?
- Wealth itself is not condemned in Scripture, though the love of money is warned against.
- God promises to provide our daily needs and bless us, but the Bible does not guarantee health, wealth, and prosperity for all believers.
- Wealth comes with increased temptation and responsibility to steward resources well and generously share with those in need.
- Pursuing wealth as a life goal rather than seeking God’s kingdom is foolish and unwise.
- Giving generously is rewarded by God and blesses us in return more than hoarding wealth.
- Any material blessings we enjoy ultimately come from God and should be used to glorify Him.
What Does The Bible Say About Wealth?
The Bible contains hundreds of verses relating to money, wealth, and possessions. We see positive examples, such as Abraham and Job who were extremely wealthy, yet also faithful men of God (Genesis 13:2, Job 1:1-3). Their wealth was not condemned, but rather seen as a blessing from the Lord. On the other hand, we see clear warnings against the love of money and greed, which lead to all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Wealth itself is depicted as a neutral tool, with its righteousness or unrighteousness dependent on how it is viewed, attained and used. Let’s survey some key biblical principles relating to wealth and prosperity:
1. God Owns It All
To start, we must recognize that God owns everything and we are simply managers of what He entrusts to us during our lifetime. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). Since He owns it all, we should view wealth as a gift, not a right or entitlement. The parable of the talents illustrates this principle, as the master distributes different amounts to each servant “according to his ability” and then requires them to steward what they’ve been given well (Matthew 25:14-15). Our money, time and abilities are all resources on loan from God.
2. God Promises To Provide Our Needs
While the Bible doesn’t promise riches for every believer, it does assure us that God will provide what we need. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us not to worry about food, drink and clothing because our Heavenly Father knows what we need and will provide. Paul echoes this in Philippians 4:19, saying “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Of course, “need” is different from “want” – God promises to provide sufficiently for our basic necessities, not necessarily our every material desire. But we can trust Him to care for us.
3. Wealth Comes With Responsibility and Temptations
The Bible often portrays wealth and prosperity as dangerous snares that can lead people astray. Paul warns that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). James says the wealthy may “weep and howl” in misery for their love of money has rotted them (James 5:1-3). Wealth brings increased temptation to pride, greed, self-sufficiency and indulgence. The more we have, the more we need God to keep our hearts humble, generous and focused on eternal treasure.
4. We Are To Be Content In All Circumstances
Rather than seeking to be rich, Scripture instructs us to be content in our circumstances, whether living in plenty or poverty. Paul testified that “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). Discontentment and envy of others will only rob our joy. Our attitude should echo Agur who prayed “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).
5. Do Not Make Money Your Hope or Confidence
Scripture forbids placing our hope, identity or confidence in money, which is uncertain and easily lost. Paul writes, “as for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God” (1 Timothy 6:17). 1 Timothy 6:17 warns us not to become arrogant or rely on our wealth because it is fleeting compared to God. Those who trust in riches will ultimately be disappointed compared to those who trust in the living God (Psalm 52:7, Proverbs 11:28).
6. Pursue Generosity, Not Riches
Rather than pursuing prosperity, we are instructed to pursue generosity. Paul says this very clearly in 1 Timothy 6:18: “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” The early church practiced radical giving so that “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34). Jesus tells us “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Our lives and Resources are given to us to share with and bless others, not solely indulge ourselves. When God blesses our finances, it is often so we can bless others in return.
7. Giving Is Rewarded and Required
While generous giving may seem counterintuitive, Scripture paints it as both a reward and command. “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” (Proverbs 11:25). Jesus assures whatever we give to God’s work will be repaid with interest (Luke 6:38, Mark 10:29-30). Paul says “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 9:6). We are even promised that we cannot out-give God! While giving large sums may be nerve-wracking, we can trust God to provide when we obey and bless others.
8. Loving Money Leads to Evil
1 Timothy 6:10 gives a sobering warning: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” This doesn’t mean money itself is evil, but loving it and pursuing wealth above all else can open the door to many sins. We see this vividly in Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus not for power or acclaim, but simply “because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself” (John 12:6). The love of more and more money led him to ultimate disaster. Scripture urges us to guard our hearts against greed and find contentment in God rather than riches.
9. Our Wealth Will Diminish
Multiple passages remind us that our money and possessions will ultimately disappear. As Job lamented, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return” (Job 1:21). Ecclesiastes 5:15 concludes that “as he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.” No matter how large our bank account grows, we cannot take our possessions with us. Moth, rust and thieves will eventually destroy all our earthly treasure (Matthew 6:19-21). Storing up eternal reward in heaven is the wiser investment.
10. Wise Stewardship Is Required
While the Bible does not condemn wealth itself, it places great responsibility on those God blesses financially. To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). Wealthy believers should live modestly, avoid arrogance, remember their dependence on God, be generous to the poor, and not trust in their shifting riches (1 Timothy 6:17-18). Our stewardship of God’s resources directly impacts our heavenly reward. God entrusts wealth to us as a test of our character more than a guaranteed blessing.
Does God Want Us To Be Rich?
Given the multitude of warnings Scripture places around money, it would be difficult to argue that God intends every believer to become fabulously wealthy or materially prospered. In fact, we see the opposite far more frequently modeled among early disciples and apostles who joyfully chose poverty, persecution and generosity over comfort and abundance.
At the same time, it would be wrong to believe God only blesses the poor and opposes financial prosperity. We see many examples of faithful saints greatly blessed by God with wealth or resources to carry out His work. As in all things, biblical balance and wisdom are required.
Psalm 35 offers this balanced perspective: “The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.” Wealth and poverty alike can be used for our growth and God’s glory. But just as poverty does not necessarily indicate God’s judgment, wealth is not always a sign of His favor or blessing in every circumstance.
We all know financially prosperous but spiritually impoverished people who are trapped in the deceitfulness of riches. And we can think of generous but poor Christians who seem to embody Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
Our focus should not be on becoming rich or on trying to avoid poverty at all costs. Rather we are simply called to be faithful stewards of whatever resources God entrusts to us in fulfilling His purposes, whether great or small. His provision is promised to be enough for each day, and riches sufficient for eternal joy and reward.
Wise And Unwise Attitudes Towards Wealth
While wealth itself is not evil, Scripture clearly warns against certain unwise attitudes and practices which often accompany prosperity:
Pride and Arrogance – Forgetting our complete dependence on God’s grace and blessing in all we have. Thinking we somehow deserve or earned it through our own wisdom and strength (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).
Idolatry – Allowing wealth to become our chief source of confidence, identity and security apart from God. Trusting in our own riches more than God’s provision (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Self-Indulgence – Using God’s resources primarily to lavishly indulge and gratify ourselves while ignoring others’ needs (James 5:5, Luke 16:19).
Greed – An unhealthy desire to acquire more and more, never feeling content or satisfied with what we have (Ecclesiastes 5:10, Luke 12:15).
Ingratitude – Forgetting to thank God for all He has provided and feeling deserving of wealth and blessings (Deuteronomy 8:10-14). Failing to use it for His intended purposes.
Indifference to the Poor – Ignoring the poor and needy rather than generously providing for them from our own excess (1 John 3:17-18).
Proverbs 30:8-9 offers a wise prayer for all believers regarding wealth:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
This petitions God for only daily provision, protecting the heart from both lacking basic needs and from the temptation of excess. It asks for sustenance and sufficiency but not greed or luxury.
If blessed by God with wealth and abundance, we must maintain humble and generous hearts, using His provision to glorify Him and meet needs, not simply multiplying comforts for ourselves. Our aim should mirror Paul’s in Philippians 4:11-13:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Wealth and The Prosperity Gospel
A distorted view of biblical prosperity has been promoted in some circles today under the label “prosperity gospel” or “health and wealth gospel”. Adherents claim Bible promises of physical and financial healing, asserting that God’s will is for every Christian to be rich, healthy and prosperous if only they have sufficient faith.
Is this what Scripture teaches? Should we expect God to reward our faith with limitless health and wealth in this age? Or is the prosperity gospel a misleading and unbiblical teaching?
Problems With The Prosperity Gospel
Overemphasis on Earthly Prosperity – Our eternal destiny far outweighs temporal comfort and prosperity. Jesus frequently warned against treasuring up earthly rather than heavenly riches (Matthew 6:19-21). Even faithful believers like Paul knew significant persecution and need (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Promising unlimited earthly prosperity to believers contradicts Jesus’ own example of lowliness (Philippians 2:5-8).
Misapplied Promises – Many verses prosperity preachers cite actually refer to spiritual rather than material blessings. Passages on God supplying our needs or rewards for giving still depend on His wisdom, not our demands (Philippians 4:19, Luke 6:38). And promises of physical healing for groups like Israel under the Old Covenant do not guarantee all believers perpetual health.
Wrong Motives – Seeking God primarily for selfish gain rather than delighting in Him is rebuked, not encouraged, in Scripture (Psalm 37:4, James 4:3). Our faith aim should be God’s glory and eternal reward, not garnering earthly wealth and comfort. Even pagans pursue such temporal ends.
Minimizes Suffering – The prosperity gospel leaves no room for brokenness, suffering or unmet expectations – things Jesus told believers to expect in this age (John 16:33). It fails to explain why godly saints throughout church history often faced poverty and affliction. And glibly attributes all such outcomes to a lack of faith.
Unbalanced View of Faith – While God can certainly bless our faith, reducing Biblical faith to a force for compelling Him to materially prosper us whenever we ask goes beyond Scripture. We often walk by faith rather than sight amid unanswered prayers and unexplained sorrow (2 Corinthians 5:7). True faith trusts God’s wisdom above our desires.
God’s Sovereignty – If God’s will was automatically health and wealth for all believers, it would impugn His sovereignty and contradict His own words that His ways are beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9). Nowhere does Scripture teach that we can or should dictate outcomes to God by our faith.
In summary, the prosperity gospel takes biblical truths – like God blessing and rewarding His children – to unhealthy extremes not supported in full context. Our lives will still involve suffering, unmet hopes, delayed answers, and subverting our desires to God’s higher ways. While God often blesses the faithful, Christlikeness not material prosperity should be the aim of our pursuits. Our confidence is in God’s eternal purposes, not shifting riches.
How Should Christians View And Handle Wealth?
Considering all these principles, what should our perspective and practices be as believers when it comes to material wealth and prosperity? Here are some wise applications:
- Wealth is a Tool, Not a Trophy – Earthly assets have no bearing on our righteousness or standing before God. Prosperity should not be showcased as a badge of spiritual maturity. Those with much and those with little can both faithfully walk with Christ.
- Steward Well – Remember that all we have is on loan from God. Use resources wisely, accountably and generously as He leads rather than wastefully for selfish gain. Invest in eternity.
- Maintain Perspective – Whatever our earthly assets, they are temporary. Our hope is set fully on eternal reward and the treasures laid up for us in heaven which will not fade (Matthew 6:19-20).
- Avoid Debt – While not forbidden, debt often snares us in unwise bondage rather than relying on God’s provision. Scripture warns, “the borrower is slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)
- Beware of Discontentment – Guard against coveting more or resenting those with more. Be content in God’s provision for you, whether lean or plentiful. “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.” (Proverbs 15:16).
- Pursue Generosity – Hear the plea of the needy and be openhanded to all God puts in your path to assist. Seek opportunities to regularly give and reflect His selfless love.
- Hold Loosely – Be willing to part with riches freely as God leads rather than clinging tightly. Prosperity can become a burden or hindrance anchored around our heart if not retained loosely.
- Avoid Ostentation – Lavish displays of wealth often feed pride and arrogance. Maintain modesty and steward resources wisely. Remember that true riches are imperishable treasures laid up in heaven.
- Remember the Giver – Gratitude, not entitlement, should mark all we’ve been given. Avoid the deception that we somehow created our own prosperity while forgetting the gracious God who provides every good gift. (Deuteronomy 8:18, James 1:17).
As believers, we can gratefully enjoy and steward the measure of wealth God grants without either exalting or demonizing it. Our hearts must remain focused on the Giver, not just the gifts.
While the Bible clearly addresses money and possessions, it consistently points us to higher priorities beyond material prosperity. Our life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15). Wise and faithful stewardship should mark whatever resources He entrusts to us. But we must guard against greed, discontentment and pride. Loving and enjoying the Giver Himself above all His benefits.
As Paul declares so succinctly in 1 Timothy 6:6-8:
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
May this be our attitude as we learn to hold the gifts of this world loosely and rest joyfully in the eternal riches that can never fade.