Author: Ron Graham
This lesson is about wealth, but it's not just for the wealthy. Everyone needs to know and understand Christ's attitude toward wealth.
Let's begin by noticing, from the Christian point of view, some problems associated with wealth...
Note —Mammon is a word used in some translations instead of money or wealth. The word mammon is pejorative, and expresses wealth tainted with evil.
Jesus speaks of "unrighteous mammon" (Luke 16:11). However this does not mean wealth is unrighteous in itself, but becomes unrighteous by association with misuse. If wealth were inherently evil, how could Jesus speak of being wise and faithful in its use? (Luke 16:8-12)
Paul said on one hand that we should not be greedy of "filthy lucre" (Titus 1:7). Yet on the other hand he said to give as we have been prospered (1Corinthians 16:2). Obviously the money or gain is not bad in itself. It is the way it is gotten and used that can be bad.
Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and wealth" (Luke 16:13) Here wealth is seen as a master to be served. It is certainly a problem to know whether your wealth is serving you and God, or whether you are serving it. People can lose their souls because they become "...choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life" (Luke 8:14-15). Wealth can present this problem even to those who are not rich but want to be. "Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare..." (1Timothy 6:9,).
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) and the story of the rich ruler (Luke 18:18-24) illustrate the added responsibility that the rich have to help the poor.
The principle and responsibility of stewardship (1Peter 4:10) can apply to wealth as to any other manifestation of God's grace. Good stewardship does not mean hoarding wealth, but using it wisely and well, making it bear fruit.
One cannot serve both God and mammon, but one can certainly serve God with mammon. In 1Thessalonians 4:9-12 Paul mentions three things that profit from business enables a Christian to do. Obviously the more wealth one gains, the grander the scale on which one can do these things...
So whilst wealth is not without serious problems to be dealt with, and dangers to avoid, wealth is not without advantage either. To some it may be given to be wealthy and to use that wealth to the kind of advantage that pleases God.
Let's finish our lesson by noting a couple of pitfalls in wealth, whuch we may have touched on already, but which need to be emphasised as points on their own.
Earthly wealth can turn our hearts away from "an inheritance imperishable and undefiled, which will not fade away, reserved in heaven" (1Peter 1:4). There is a danger that our minds will be set on earthly things, rather than "those things which are above" (Colossians 3:1-2).
Earthly wealth can become our object of trust instead of trusting in God. Wealth has an appearance of being solid and safe. That, however, is an illusion. We are "not to trust in uncertain riches" (1Tim 6:17). We guard against that danger by putting the right labels on wealth --uncertain, perishable, unable to buy salvation. (Mark 8:36 cf 1John 2:15-17).