Must Christians be poor?


Many times, we come across the concept that true Christians must be poor and live in poverty. But is this correct? Does the Bible require of true Christians to sell all they have and give it to the poor, so that they themselves become poor and dependent on others for their sustenance? Asking it this way, we should readily say how preposterous such a concept would be.

We find many Scriptures in the Bible about righteous people who were rich because God blessed them. God would not have blessed them with riches and wealth if having and possessing those would be wrong.

We read in Genesis 13:2: “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold,” and Genesis 24:34-35 adds that he became rich because God had blessed him greatly. The same can be said about Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 26:12-14).

We all know of course about the incredible riches of Solomon, surpassing all kings of the earth in riches (1 Kings 10:23), because God blessed him greatly in that regard, as 1 Kings 3:13 tells us. Later, Solomon departed from God to an extent, but not because of his wealth, but because of his inability to control himself regarding women.

Job was very rich, and even though God took his wealth temporarily away, when Job repented of his sin of self-righteousness, God restored Job’s riches and blessed him even more than He had done before (Job 42:12-13).

The Bible is very clear that God blesses His people, at times, with riches and wealth. This fact completely rules out the concept that being rich is wrong, a curse, and ungodly. David even said that he was young and grew old, and he never saw the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread (Psalm 37:25).

We read in Deuteronomy 8:18: “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

Proverbs 10:22 says: “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.”

The New Testament confirms that it is God’s wish for us to prosper and lead good Iives. We read in John 10:10 that Christ came “that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” 3 John 2 adds: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things…”

On the other hand, God does not bless someone who is unrighteous. It is true, of course, that unrighteous people may be rich, but this would not be because of God’s blessings. We will address this later. God warns us that if we refuse to tithe diligently, for example, we cannot expect to be blessed by God.

Proverbs 3:9-10 states: “Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

And Malachi 3:8-11 says: “‘Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, “In what way have we robbed You?” In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ Says the LORD of hosts…”

There are of course many warnings in the Bible regarding an unhealthy desire to become rich. As it is true for every aspect of life, we must submit to and wait for the will of God to be revealed in our lives. And God might have decided that He may not bless us with riches, at least not for now, and if that is the case, we should not try to preempt God and desperately seek riches and wealth—apart from God’s blessing. Desiring to become rich, even though God might not have backed up or honored such desire, would be wrong.

Proverbs 28:20 says: “A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished…”

Proverbs 23:4-5 adds: “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.”…

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6:9-11:

“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. But you, O man of God, flee these things…”

This passage does not condemn riches and wealth per se, but it includes a warning for those who “desire” to be rich because of their “love of money” and “greediness.” Rather, Paul says, let us be content with what God has given us (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Paul continues his warning in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor 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.”

Trusting in riches and wealth would be a terrible mistake. We read in Proverbs 11:4: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death.” And Zephaniah 1:18 states: “Neither their silver nor their gold Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the LORD’S wrath…”

There are also warnings regarding wrong conduct when one is rich; that is, one who has become prosperous must be careful not to forget that GOD has blessed him.

We read in Deuteronomy 8:18 that we must remember God, “for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…”  Hosea 13:6 states: “When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me….”

Hosea 2:8-9 explains what will happen when we DO forget God and the source of our prosperity: “For she did not know That I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, And multiplied her silver and gold–Which they prepared for Baal. Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time And My new wine in its season, And will take back My wool and My linen, Given to cover her nakedness.”

Another reason why someone who had been prosperous might become poor is explained in Proverbs 10:3-4: “The LORD will not allow the righteous soul to famish, But He casts away the desire of the wicked. He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Proverbs 27:23-24 adds: “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds; For riches are not forever…”

Diligence is important. We are told that “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). And we must be diligent in preserving what God has blessed us with.

Proverbs 21:17 says: “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be [or stay] rich.” Even though God may bless us with riches, we have to do our part. We must not waste what God gave us. And, we must in no way act dishonestly in our pursuits. Proverbs 13:11 says: “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, But he who gathers by labor will increase.”

We have to be diligent in our pursuits, without allowing wrong priorities to take over our lives. Paul says that when someone does not want to work, he should not even eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). He cannot expect to be blessed by God with riches if he refuses to work for it.

We need to remember that we can leave God’s way if we desire to be rich. Christ warns of the deceitfulness of riches (Matthew 13:22). He told us that it will be difficult for a rich man who trusts in his riches and does not want to give up his wealth to enter the Kingdom of God (compare Mark 10:17-24).

God also warns us to not become envious of unrighteous people who might have become rich—but not as a result of God’s blessing. It could be easy to become unsatisfied with God, asking Him, how come they are blessed, and I am not?

Psalm 37:7, 16 says: “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass… A little that a righteous man has Is better than the riches of many wicked.”

Otherwise, we might easily charge God with wrong. That is why Agur said the following in Proverbs 30:7-9:

“Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches— Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.”

But again, this does not make property, wealth and riches wrong per se. Some however claim that a Christian must be poor because, so they say, Christ was poor, referring to 2 Corinthians 8:9 to prove this assertion, which states: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” But Paul is using a comparison between the richness of the immortal God who owns everything, and, in contrast, the poverty of man whose insignificant riches might be here today and gone tomorrow.

There are numerous passages indicating that Jesus owned His own house—or perhaps even more than one. At times, though, when He was on a journey, He might not have been given shelter (Matthew 8:20; compare the context of His words in Luke 9:51-58), but this does not mean that Jesus was a homeless vagabond. The soldiers did not want to cut Jesus’ garments and clothing, when He was hanging on the cross (or better, stake), but they cast lots to determine who should receive them (Matthew 27:35; John 19:23-24). His garments and clothing were apparently not “cheap,” but of such a quality and value that the soldiers were willing to cast lots for them.

On the other hand, we all must be willing to give up everything to be able to inherit the Kingdom of God. This includes physical wealth and well-being, our health and security, and even our relatives and friends if a choice must be made between Christ and them. Christ tells us that when we love anything and anyone more than Him, we are not worthy of Him (Luke 14:26; Matthew 10:37). Otherwise, He tells us that He will bless us even in this life when we have our priorities correct (Mark 10:29-30).

Sometimes, we may be required to make tough decisions. Moses chose Christ and rejected the “passing pleasures of sin” and the “treasures of Egypt,” esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than those worldly treasures (Hebrews 11:25-26). Rather than laying up for himself “treasures on earth,” he laid up for himself treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19), “for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26).

We must be rich toward God (Luke 12:21). We must first seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all the things which we need (compare Philippians 4:19)—and many things which we might not even need—WILL be given to us by God (Matthew 6:33). God knows what we need, and He will look after us (Matthew 6:30, 32). Even though we might be considered “poor” by the worldly standards of the rich and ultra-rich, we possess the greatest riches that could be imagined.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:10 that we are to commend ourselves “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Note also Revelation 2:9. The world might look at us as relatively poor people, but we have been promised the inheritance of the Kingdom of God! What greater riches could there be?

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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