Bible Reflections - Wealth & Possessions
You can find a lot of verses in the Bible that talk about wealth and possessions, in one form or another. So let's try and boil it down a bit. The first thing to think about is this - there is no promise in the Bible that says that believing in God and living a God-fearing life will guarantee you wealth, freedom from debt, or even the perfect job!
It is true that the Bible says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future". (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
But it is also true that this was spoken to the exiled Israelites in captivity in Babylon, and that the plans to prosper them were about God offering His people things like peace, health, safety, satisfaction and hope for the future - not necessarily lots of money or possessions.
Now, in the Bible book of Proverbs for example, you can find verses that say that foolish actions can result in poverty - it talks about "sluggards" and "gluttons" in this context. So does that then imply that wealth is a sign of God's favour, and poverty is God's punishment for sin?
Well, Jesus did not endorse these ideas in his teachings, and neither does the rest of the Bible when you look at the message it has for us. For example in Proverbs 15:16-17 the Bible says "Better a little with the fear of the Lord, than great wealth with turmoil. Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred." (NIV)
The fact is that the Bible gives examples of faithful believers who were rich, and faithful believers who were poor. So perhaps we still need a little more clarity on this subject.
In the New Testament (second half) of the Bible, we find these words from the apostle Paul, in 1Timothy 6:17-19 “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” (NIV). If you read these verses carefully, there is a clear implication that "true life" is not about material wealth.
What about Jesus? Did he have anything to say in this regard? The following quote is the words of Jesus found in Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV). There is an implication here that there is something much more important than "treasures on earth".
Another Bible verse gives some more insight into what that might be. In Hebrews 13:5, we read
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (NIV)
That's a very interesting thought to explore!
So, pretty quickly you can see that the Bible actually has a lot to say about wealth and possessions. And I think that Jesus summed it up very simply, in Luke 12:15, when he said
“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (NLT).