Christians and Money

Money: perhaps no other topic causes so much misunderstanding for Christians. One reason for this is many people mistakenly think of Jesus as condemning all wealth, including its pursuit.Without a doubt, while riches can steal one's heart from God like nothing else, Jesus was never against money or material possessions per se.

He enjoyed eating and drinking to the point that some criticized Him as "a glutton and a winebibber" (Matthew 11:19). And in the story of the rich young man, Christ did not condemn this individual for his possessions, which apparently had not deterred him from being pious and keeping God's commandments (Matthew 19:16-30).Jesus' overall attitude toward wealth involved a straightforward principle: when people trust money rather than God and when they fail to give back to God, they miss the mark. From Jesus' perspective, money itself is not evil. Instead, as the Apostle Paul warned, "?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" (I Timothy 6:10).

Jesus never claimed that rich people do not enter into the Kingdom of God. Instead, He warned that men who trust in money - who believe money, not God, will save them ? are potentially jeopardizing their eternal salvation (Mark 10:24-25).As well, the Gospels contain various reports of wealthy Christians who were good stewards of their material blessings.

Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy enough to provide an excellent tomb in which to bury Jesus' body (Matthew 27:5760). Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, was saved with all of his family in spite of his wealth (Luke 19:110). And the Pharisee Nicodemus, one of the chiefs and leaders of the people of Israel, was able to bring expensive aromatic oils to anoint Jesus' body (John 19:39).

One of the best Biblical passages for understanding Jesus' views on money is the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:1931). As the story goes, a beggar named Lazarus fed on the crumbs that fell from a rich man's table. When the beggar died, he was carried by angels to heaven. When the rich man died, he ended up in hell and was tormented by its flames. Here the rich man was reminded that, in life, he had enjoyed goods and comfort, while Lazarus had not.

So why did the rich man in the story find himself in hell? There is no indication that this individual was evil, cruel, godless, or irreverent; he was simply rich. The moral of the story, then, is that many wealthy people are condemned, not because of their money, but because of their obsession with money. In Jesus' own words: "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 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" (Mark 10:24-25). Excessive satiety, overabundance, ease, and self-reliance are dangerous for any person. But these are not the actual problem.

It is out of the heart of humanity that evil comes (Matthew 15:19). Money and other externals are not evil; it is a person's attitude toward these things that makes the difference.The rich man's mistake was not showing compassion to Lazarus. He lived only to satisfy his own physical appetites, and he enjoyed earthly goods without measure or consideration of others. On the other hand, Lazarus' virtue was not his physical destitution.

He received a heavenly reward because of his repentant attitude and spiritual wealth (Luke 16:29-31). The Apostle Paul put it this way: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:78).

Thus, the rich man in this parable was punished for his lack of repentance and disinterest in spiritual matters. He trusted in his own wealth, as in an idol, and did not leave room in his life for God or for helping others.Jesus' attitude toward earthly riches is based on the principle of stewardship, or the joyful giving back to God from what He first gave.

This principle is beautifully illustrated in Mark's recounting of the poor widow (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus observed a poor widow donating "two mites" (i.e., the least valuable coinage of the day) into the Temple treasury. He then explained, "? this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury" (Mark 12:43). The point here is that it is not the amount one gives that matters to God, but the attitude of the giver and the degree of personal sacrifice.

In conclusion, Jesus taught financial responsibility. In no uncertain terms, Christians are expected to be effective managers of their every blessing from God. Jesus warned all to guard against greed and to acknowledge that true life is judged not by our material possessions, but by our love for God and His children.

.George D.

Zgourides, M.D., Psy.D is a physician, clinical psychologist, and healthcare chaplain. He and his wife Christie are the authors of several books dealing with various health-related and self-help topics.

By: George Zgourides

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