By Femi Aribisala
Wealth for an unbeliever is not a blessing but a curse.
Paul warns that the love of money is dangerous: “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.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Moreover, the rich have great difficulty inheriting the kingdom of God. Jesus says: “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.” (Matthew 19:24).
Kingdom of the poor
On the contrary, the kingdom of God is specifically established for the poor. Thus James asks: “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5).
But if it is difficult, if not impossible, for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, why then would God give some of his chosen people the power to get wealth? Why does the same God who prefers the poor to the rich make some people rich?
The answer is simple: God does this so those he has enriched can take care of the poor. Here is the kingdom principle: “Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say, ‘Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.’” (2 Corinthians 8:14-15).
For this reason, Paul says to Timothy: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
School of discipleship
If you are a believer and are wealthy, it is imperative that you have little regard for wealth. Money must mean little to you. The mainspring of your life must not be the accumulation of wealth. Jesus warns: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
For this reason, the Lord takes those he makes rich through a rigorous socialization process, designed to ensure we are not money-minded. This conforms to a kingdom dynamic whereby the first become last and the last become first: “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.” (1 Samuel 2:7-8).
If the believer does not want to be poor, then the Lord might not be inclined to make him rich, otherwise, the wealth will destroy him. But if he was already wealthy when he came into the knowledge of God, and he says in his prosperity: “I shall never be moved.” (Psalm 30:6), then he is disqualified from being a disciple of Christ. Jesus says: “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33).
Accordingly, in order to take the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey, the Lord first impoverished them. The psalmist testifies that he brought them down in order to lift them up: “You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:12).
In this manner, we are socialized to accept the providence of God. Thus when God impoverished Job, he refused to listen to his wife who told him to curse God and die. Instead, he said to her: “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:9).
Paul went through the same rigorous process. As a result, he says: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13).
That is the counsel of the Lord. He wants us to be so confident about his love that we become men and women of all seasons. Thus Solomon says: “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
But we know that many of the wealthy people in the world today do not know the Lord. Why then does the Lord give the wicked and the unbelieving the power to get wealth?
Solomon says: The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22). Wealth for an unbeliever is not a blessing but a curse. Many of those we regard as rich men are actually mired in poverty, for there can be no real wealth without God.
It is not enough to be wealthy, we need to have the capacity to enjoy the wealth. However, that capacity can also only come from God. Solomon says: “It is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life- this is indeed a gift from God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19).
The mistake we make is in assuming that the wealth of a man consists in the abundance of his possessions. But Jesus says different, insisting the abundant life only inheres in the abundant God. Therefore, he tells us: “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34).
For this reason, God decrees that: “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Mary prophesies that God will send the rich away empty. (Luke 1:53). Jesus concurs: “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24).
Here is a definitive kingdom dynamic: “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.” (Proverbs 11:24).