You might be wealthier then you realize. If you make $30,000 annually, you’re in the top 50% of all wage earners in the United States. If you make $50,000, you’re in the top 30%. If you make $100,000, you’re in the top 10%. With an annual salary of $135,000, you’re in the top 5% of all wage earners. For additional perspective, consider this: world-wide, the average household income is about $10,000.
Wealth is not a sin, but it is a problem. A serious problem. If you have more wealth than the average person, you also have:
More responsibilities than the average person.
More problems than the average person.
More temptation than the average person.
A lower chance of going to heaven compared to the average person.
What creates these issues?
Wealth can become an addiction. The story of the rich young ruler makes this clear. He seems to have been a good man, faithful to the law. But when challenged to let go of his earthly possessions, he found his weakness:“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22). Wealth can become an idol and addiction, even for people who are otherwise righteous. No amount of virtue or moral living can compensate for an addiction to wealth.
Being wealthy makes it harder to be saved! Jesus goes on in Mathew 19:23,
“Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
Why is wealth an obstacle to salvation? Wealth gives us a sense of comfort even when everything is all wrong.
Even poor people can be poisoned by wealth. Just the pursuit of wealth creates distractions and temptations. 1 Timothy 6:9:
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Greed and the desire for wealth manifests itself in many way, sometimes more subtle than just wanting to be more wealthy. Greed has many faces: wanting to look wealthy, wanting to fit in with wealthy people, wanting more things, and wanting more luxuries.
Paul says these selfish desires lead to temptations, snares, destruction, perdition, and sorrow. Wealth doesn’t add to happiness; it adds to sorrow. The desire for wealth or the appearance of wealth leads to bad decisions and the inevitable consequences. So says Solomon in Proverbs 28:20, “A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.”
How do these issues manifest themselves in our daily life? We spend too much time making money. We spend too much time spending our money. We spend too much time thinking about our money. The time we spend pursuing and using our wealth is inversely related to our spiritual productivity. Wealthy people tend to be unfruitful. Matthew 13:22: “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” Wealth will lie to you and choke you.
What’s the solution?
Learn to be content. Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” Let’s be honest… having some extra money is fun. But if you lost everything, could you still wake up in the morning content? My grandmother Nora Lee Ingle grew up during the depression. She always says, “We were poor but we were happy.” Their toys were sticks and rocks. Their playground was the yard. Contentment with or without wealth must be a defining characteristic of a Christian.
To protect yourself against greed and covetousness, share your wealth. 1 Timothy 6:17:
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share. storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
There is much to be gained by giving. In the context of the rich young ruler, Jesus said in Luke 18:29-30: “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Give money to the church, but also budget more money for people you find in need. Pick a dollar amount you can afford and find someone that needs it more than you. If you forget one month, that’s more money you have to give the next month. Whatever wealth God gives you, he gives with the expectation you will share.