There is an undeniable tension between faith and money. People hold a number of strong beliefs on how the two should interact. As with anything, it is important to identify the extremes. The truth of what it means to have a biblical view of wealth is usually somewhere in the middle.
On one side of the pendulum, there’s a poverty mindset that believes Christians should be poor. When people have a poverty mindset, they typically end up with too few resources to make a difference on a grand scale. They’re consumers, not producers. On the other end, you have a prosperity gospel. The main motivation behind this gospel is to advance an individual’s own will and wellbeing. It preaches that health and wealth are God-given rights—not blessings.
Any way you slice it, money and religion are delicate subjects on their own. So, it makes sense how touchy people can get when the two are combined. Reflecting on how we view money is so important for our spiritual well-being. Jesus encouraged people to do so often in His teachings. In particular, I want to focus on what Jesus mean when He said that it’s hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Rich Young Ruler
In Matthew 19:16-24, a young man comes up to Jesus with a simple question. He asks, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Jesus simply responds, “If you want to enter life keep the commandments.” The young man confirmed that he kept the commandments, but he felt like there was something that he lacked. So, Jesus elaborated.
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Notice that Jesus said if you want to be perfect. They were in more intricate territory than just eternal life here. The young ruler presumably had a ticket to heaven, but he knew there was more. Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to meet the requirement to receive more. He walked away sorrowful because he had great wealth and wasn’t willing to give away his possessions.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
We Have a Choice
The Kingdom of God isn’t just a place we go to after we die. It’s a culture we create while we’re living on the earth (Related: Kingdom Mindset: What it is and Why You Need One). I think that it is hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of heaven because there is a heightened temptation to value earthly treasure instead of heavenly treasure.
Like the young ruler, we are given a choice over which treasure we value. Money isn’t bad in and of itself—it’s just a tool. Being rich can get tricky when we value money more than our relationship with God. This scripture gives us two ways to ensure that we think rightly about money as we build wealth:
Someone with a biblical view of wealth must be generous. The Kingdom of Heaven is a place where greed and any self-centered gain do not exist. Therefore, if someone chooses to be selfish with their possessions, they are choosing to crowd their space with earthly treasure rather than heavenly treasure. Jesus adjures the young man to sell his possessions and follow him. Every person must discern with God how much they should give.
It is not just that it’s better to give than receive—generosity also serves as a spiritual safeguard. It protects our heart from the all-consuming power of greed. The pastor of Bethel Church, Kris Vallotton, was once asked how much money was too much money for a Christian to have. He wisely responded, “Any amount that keeps you from trusting God. For some, this is a few hundred dollars. For others, it’s billions.” I think that keeping this in mind is a great practice, and it leads right into the next point!
The crowd of people that approaches Jesus right before the rich young man is poignant–it’s an onslaught of kids. When the disciples try to rebuke them, Jesus kindly says, “let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven,” (Matthew 19:13-15). And then, as we just read, a rich guy comes up to them and unknowingly asks how he can get the same reward. The children had something the rich guy didn’t—dependency. They were still innocent and trusting.
One of my favorite verses in the whole Bible is Deuteronomy 8:17-18. In this chapter, the Lord has just led a new generation of Israelites into the Promised Land. After a grueling journey that took several decades, God says, “then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
Though the Israelites had been wandering through the wilderness, God knew that the moment they had provision they’d be prone to forget that He was the one who provided in the first place! It’s important to know that we can be prideful without outwardly boasting. The verse warns the Israelites not to “say in your heart.” We need to be mindful of our mindset and heart posture toward wealth.
I admittedly went through this process myself. I was born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, and knew the Word of God. However, the motives of my heart were not right when I started to build wealth. I got to a point in my life where I thought I reached my goals from my own strength and smarts. That is a dangerous place to be. When that kind of pride creeps in, it becomes exceedingly difficult to serve God. [Related: Renew Your Money Mindset]
Even though I have been renewed in my money mindset, I continually have to surrender my finances to the Lord. If you’re having difficulty determining where your heart is when it comes to wealth, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
6 Questions to Determine if You Have a Biblical View of Wealth
1. Do I feel entitled, or do I feel grateful?
2. How do I give with the resources I have now?
3. Why do I give? What’s my motivation?
4. Why do I want to build wealth? What are my reasons?
5. How many times a week do I get stressed about money?
6. What about my lifestyle do I value most? Why? Is a certain level of comfort keeping me from acting in God’s will for my life?
If you were less than thrilled with some of your honest answers to the questions above, that’s okay. We are all a work in progress, and in the presence of Jesus, there is no shame—only grace and continual growth! Having wealth is not a bad thing–especially when it is in the hands of someone with a Kingdom mindset and a generous heart. I hope this blog post helped you think more critically about what it means to have a biblical view of wealth!