Worldly possessions refer to material things that we own, desire, or pursue in this earthly life. As Christians, what do the Scriptures say about worldly possessions? Should we avoid accumulating possessions, or is it acceptable in moderation? In this comprehensive blog post, we will examine key examples of worldly possessions in the Bible and summarize the main takeaways for Christians today.
The Bible contains many stories and teachings that deal with worldly possessions and material wealth. On one hand, there are condemnations of loving money and warnings against greed. Jesus himself told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give to the poor (Luke 18:22). He also warned that it is very hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:24-25).
On the other hand, the Bible does not condemn possessions themselves. Certain men and women of God in the Old Testament were blessed with substantial wealth, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Solomon. Joseph of Arimathea, who provided the tomb for Jesus’ burial, was a rich man (Matthew 27:57). Lydia, the first European convert of Paul, was a successful businesswoman who sold expensive purple cloth (Acts 16:14). So the Scriptures do not portray all possessions as evil.
As we examine the biblical examples, here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:
- Our heart attitude toward possessions is more important than the amount we own
- Wealth can be a blessing from God, but also a dangerous temptation
- God calls us to use our resources to help those in need and advance His kingdom
- Any possession that hinders our relationship with God or leads us into sin becomes an idol
- We should hold earthly possessions loosely and remain spiritually ready to give them up
With this foundation, let us explore some of the main stories and teachings on worldly possessions in the Bible.
Old Testament Examples
Abraham provides an early example of wealth in the Old Testament. God blessed Abraham with great possessions and wealth:
“Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.” (Genesis 13:2 NKJV)
Yet when his nephew Lot was captured in battle, Abraham gathered 318 trained fighting men from among his servants to rescue him, showing his willingness to use his resources for righteous purposes (Genesis 14:14-16). Abraham’s wealth was not condemned, but he avoided the traps of greed and idolatry.
Isaac, Abraham’s son, also became extremely wealthy as a grazier with huge flocks and herds:
“Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants.” (Genesis 26:12-14 NKJV)
Yet Isaac resisted quarrels over limited wells and grazing land, choosing peaceful resolutions instead of selfish gain (Genesis 26:19-22). He avoided abusing his wealth and using it only for himself.
Isaac’s son Jacob had to flee his home with nothing but a staff. When he returned over 20 years later, he had large flocks, male and female servants, and “donkeys, camels, cattle, and donkeys” (Genesis 32:5 NKJV). God blessed Jacob with prosperity, even though he started with nothing.
Jacob’s favorite son Joseph went through cycles of wealth and poverty in his life. Yet during a severe famine, he wisely managed “all the food of the seven years” stored in Egypt to feed people from “all countries” (Genesis 41:57 NKJV). Joseph used his administrative position over great resources to save lives and gather wealth for Pharaoh.
After becoming king, Solomon asked God for wisdom to lead, and God blessed him with immense wealth as well:
“God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt…And the king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones.” (1 Kings 4:29-30, 10:27 NKJV)
The Queen of Sheba was breathless when she saw Solomon’s possessions and prosperity (1 Kings 10:4-5). Yet sadly, Solomon’s heart turned from God later in life, and he trusted in his wealth more than in the Lord.
Job was an extremely wealthy man in Uz who “was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1 NKJV). God allowed Satan to test Job by removing his possessions and health. After enduring terrible losses, Job remained faithful to God. In the end, “the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” and gave him twice as much wealth as before (Job 42:12 NKJV).
Takeaways from Old Testament
The Old Testament saints provide both positive and negative examples regarding wealth and possessions:
- God may bless faithful individuals like Abraham and Solomon with substantial wealth
- Possessing riches in itself is not condemned, as long as the heart remains faithful
- Riches present temptations to greed and pride that disciples must guard against
- Wealth obligates stewards to use resources wisely to bless others and honor God
- Loving wealth itself more than God or people leads to destruction
Overall, the Old Testament views wealth as a tool – one that can further God’s purposes on earth or derail spiritual vocations. The heart behind it makes all the difference.
New Testament Warnings and Examples
Jesus and the Apostles had more to say about wealth’s inherent dangers and proper Christian perspective toward earthly possessions.
The Rich Young Ruler
A wealthy young man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18 NKJV). Jesus told him to sell all his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Him. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Luke 18:22-23 NKJV). Jesus then warned His disciples of the difficulty for the rich to enter God’s kingdom (Luke 18:24-25). This story illustrates the seductive grip that wealth can gain over our hearts.
Rich Man and Lazarus
Jesus told a sobering story about a nameless rich man who “was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19 NKJV). A diseased beggar named Lazarus laid at his gate, longing for scraps. After both died, Lazarus rested comfortably in paradise while the rich man suffered in Hades. Jesus warned the arrogant and greedy against ignoring the poor at their doorstep. Riches can breed callousness and pride.
Parable of the Rich Fool
A rich farmer kept expanding his barns to store more grain, saying:
“‘I have no room to store my crops.’ …But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:17, 20-21 NKJV)
This parable warns against greed, hoarding, and trusting in earthly wealth for security instead of in God. Riches fade instantly at death.
Jesus upheld a poor widow who gave two small copper coins as more generous than the rich donors giving large amounts from their surplus wealth (Luke 21:1-4). Her small gift that cost her significantly meant more. Jesus measures generosity not by quantity but by sacrifice.
Parable of the Talents
In this parable, a rich man entrusted his servants with different amounts of money (“talents” of silver). Two invested and doubled the amount. A third buried his single talent. The rich man praised the investors but rebuked the servant who simply preserved the money, saying:
“‘You ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.'” (Matthew 25:27 NKJV)
God expects us to use money entrusted to us for His glory and purposes, not just maintain it.
Takeaways from Jesus and the Apostles
The New Testament contains solemn warnings about wealth and corrected perspectives:
- Riches can make it extremely difficult (but not impossible) to live wholly for God
- Loving money and possessions leads to sin and idolatry
- Wealth must not breed pride or disconnect us from the poor at our door
- Giving generously from what we have pleases God more than large gifts from excess
- God expects us to invest resources for growth of His kingdom
- Treasures in heaven matter more than temporary earthly possessions
Jesus and the Apostles preached caution about the spiritual dangers of wealth and corrected attitudes toward using it for eternal gains rather than selfish hoarding.
Possessions Must Be Held Loosely
One key theme throughout the Bible is that possessions and wealth must be held loosely as temporary resources, not gripped tightly as idols we trust in and cling to. 1 Timothy 6:7 reminds us, “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
Our human impulse is to accumulate more than we need – storing up for comfort, security, and pleasure. But as disciples, we are called to hold earthly resources loosely, ready to part with them, give generously, and find our true security in God alone.
“But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You.” (1 Chronicles 29:14 NKJV)
This spirit of openhanded stewardship and reliance on God over hoarded possessions allows disciples to use wealth as a tool that advances God’s kingdom – not a prison that distracts us from seeking God first (Matthew 6:33).
Push Back Against Consumer Culture
One constant temptation we face living amid affluence and consumer culture today is getting caught up in a mindset of accumulating more possessions, keeping up with fashions, and upgrading to newer/better stuff even when our current goods suffice. Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 warns:
“He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity… When goods increase, They increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners Except to see them with their eyes?”
When we buy into our culture’s lie that more possessions and upgrades equal greater happiness, our resources get siphoned away from eternal purposes. Be countercultural by living simply, generously, and focused on the right treasures (Matthew 6:19-21).
Key Takeaways for Christians
In summary, here are some key biblical takeaways for Christians regarding earthly possessions:
- Focus on cultivating a generous, unselfish heart more than the amount you own
- Seek contentment; avoid coveting more or what others have
- Tithe faithfully and give regularly to support God’s work
- Be willing to downsize possessions when needed to help others
- Regard wealth as a tool to serve God, not a source of security or status
- Invest generously in ministries advancing the Great Commission
- Hold earthly wealth loosely, ready to part with it
- Lay up imperishable treasures in heaven by using resources wisely
The body of Scripture makes it clear that disciples of Jesus cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13). We should steward the resources He entrusts to us in ways that honor Him and fulfill eternal priorities. Our heart motivation makes all the difference.
By developing biblical attitudes of generosity and guarding against materialism and greed, Christians can possess worldly goods like houses, cars, clothing, technology, and investments while still keeping God first in their lives. Wisely used, money becomes a means of worship rather than a hindrance – resources invested in the work of God’s kingdom here and in storing up true treasures in heaven.