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Issues: Money

What does the Bible have to say about wealth?

Free Black Payment Terminal Stock PhotoThe Bible has a lot to say about money and its use, a healthy attitude to wealth and about our duty towards people in poverty.

Passages from the Old Testament

A book in the Old Testament called Proverbs contains lots of wise sayings on all kinds of life issues, including the subject of wealth, for example:

"Don't make me either rich or poor, just give me enough food for each day. If I have too much, I might reject you (God) and say "I don't know the Lord". If I am poor, I might steal and disgrace the Name of my God. " (Proverbs 30:8 – 9)

Evidently, there are dangers of both wealth and poverty. Whatever people have, they have a responsibility to use their resources wisely. The Bible is clear that his people should use part of their wealth to provide for the poor, as this is God's work being carried out by his people.

"When you give to the poor, it is like lending to the Lord and the Lord will pay you back". (Proverbs 19:17)

One way the Bible shows how this could be done was by farmers allowing people to glean in their fields. This meant leaving grain, for example, at the edges of their fields to give poorer people the opportunity to take it for free. The Bible also sets out guidelines for cancelling people's debts every 50 years and allowing people to start afresh. This was known as the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10).

Passages from the New Testament

The teaching of the New Testament lays down other additional principles (ways of living) for followers of Christ and there are illustrations of how these were worked out in the Acts and Letters (epistles).

In Jesus' time, the Jewish people believed riches proved that a man or woman was pleasing to God. Poverty and the need to beg showed the reverse. Jesus often spoke about money. He warned that money had the power to take over people's hearts and become an idol - something that takes God's place in a person's life (Matthew 6: 24).

Jesus taught that true riches are found in the practice of pleasing God, for instance, by helping others in need and not being selfish. As Jesus said,

"Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. Life is not measured by how much one owns" (Luke 12:15).

He taught that people should remember the poor in the most practical way possible. Some key passages of Jesus' teaching include:

Further on in the New Testament, St Paul picks up this theme, warning that "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). The Bible shows that the first Christians were generous with their money and possessions. You can read about it in Acts 4: 32 – 37.

Reflect Look up some of the passages found in the New Testament. What do you think these suggest about Christians’ duty towards people less fortunate than themselves?