Is Wealth Evil?
Updated: Feb 28, 2019
As a Financial Peace University coordinator and now as a financial coach, I run into situations that uncover people’s beliefs and misconceptions around money and religion that I find fascinating and sometime very challenging.
I was having a conversation with a couple that had just completed Financial Peace University a couple of years ago.
They were telling me about their journey...
They had paid off their debt and how relieved they were not to have the burden and stress of their prior debt.
They have completed saving their emergency fund (3-6 months of living expenses),
but they had not taken any steps towards saving for retirement.
I was confused by this.
They had done such a great job thus far with such intensity and focus and yet they hit a roadblock or at least a speed bump that caused them to pause. Why?
they felt guilty going forward because they were worried what their families would think if they started saving major wealth.
They were even still driving the same beat up cars with over 100K plus miles because they were concerned what their friends, neighbors and families would think if they saw them driving nicer newer cars.
It hit me then; they felt guilt for doing well as if wealth was somehow evil.
This is an interesting problem and one that we see in our culture and the media especially here in the United States. Why? Moreover, where does this idea that “wealth is evil” come from and what can we do to reconcile this toxic believe?
I believe the idea that material wealth is evil originated from the Gnostics. The Gnostics or Gnosticism originated on the 1st and 2nd century with the basic idea that the only spiritual goods are pleasing to God and material goods are pleasing to the devil, therefore material goods are evil and should be avoided at all cost.
Also, the Bible seems to provide this same believe since we have all heard the parable of the Rich Young Ruler, Luke 18:22 and the story of the Widow’s Mite, Luke 21:3-4.
I often get these stories mentioned to me from people on social media and the news channels, as the story of the rich young ruler goes
“…For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” Luke 18:25.
See Juan! Only poor people can enter heaven, rich people go to hell.
This is an example of the religious immaturity we see in our culture when we hear something on TV and since it came from The Bible, it must be true.
The truth is that we need to read just a few more verses to get the real meaning of the story Luke describes. In Chapter 19 we have the story of Zacchaeus, the short guy that needed to climb the sycamore tree to see Jesus. He is described as being wealthy since he was the chief tax collector, also hated by many, but because he joyfully received Jesus into his home Zacchaeus and his family are saved.
He also gave some of his wealth to the poor and the people he defrauded, but it was his willingness to seek Jesus (by climbing the tree) and by joyfully receiving (by welcoming Him into his home), that he received salvation not just for him, but for his entire family.
He continued to be a wealthy man after giving some of his wealth to the poor and yet salvation was granted to him by Jesus.
It had little to do with his wealth and more to do with his willingness to receive Jesus.
The next story that Luke describes is the story of the ten gold coins, Luke 19:11-27.
Jesus wants to continue with this theme of money by telling his disciples this parable; you can tell this issue of money and salvation was a problem for 1st century Christians just as much as it is for us today.
The parable goes of a nobleman (a wealthy dude) and how he calls ten of his servants before departing for a long journey and gives them 10 gold coins and tells them
“…engage in trade with these until I return.”
Upon his return he has the servants give an account of the money they had gained, two of the servants were good servants because they gained more (money) on top of what they were given and were rewarded with entire cities to manage because they were diligent.
However, the last servant had no gain from the original investment and he is considered to be the wicked servant, the coins then were taken from him and given to the other servants that were good stewards of the nobleman blessings.
Again the richer get richer not because they cheated someone, but because they were diligent managing the blessings that they were given by God.
Now, there are unscrupulous rich people that do take advantage of the poor and have ill-gotten gains, but they are not the majority.
I would venture to say that the majority of the wealthy in America are some of the most hardworking, industrious and honest people you would ever encounter that happen to be good stewards of God’s blessings.
The last story Luke describes is the story of the poor widow and her contribution in the temple. Jesus has just denounced the scribes
“…they devour the houses of widows and, as pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” Luke 20:47.
The next chapter is the description of a widow putting in her modest temple contribution
“…I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have made offering from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” Luke 21:3-4.
Jesus here is not criticizing the wealthy for their contributions to the temple, but instead denouncing the hypocrisy of the Scribes for “devouring the houses of the widows”, some of the weakest members of that society that needed protection.
Often this story is used to hit people over the head for building wealth and making money, but this couldn't be further from the truth. The reality is that wealth is another of the blessing from God that we need to manage and enjoy.
You can read this in scripture:
“Any man to whom God gives riches and property...has a gift from God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19.
If you want a great book to read about this topic of wealth I would suggest reading Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin where he describes that wealth building is a holy activity and is another form of worship in the Jewish faith.
This is the reason why so many of the Forbes 400, the top 400 wealthiest people in world, are Jewish and they are the largest block of people represented in the list.
Margaret Thatcher even used to say “no one would remembers the good Samaritan if he only had good intentions.”
Very true, the good Samaritan had wealth to go with his good intentions, as others walked by and ignored the man in need.
The good Samaritan took care and paid for his care.
He used his wealth to do good and give.
So the next time someone makes you feel guilty for having something nice or buying something expensive, rest easy in the knowledge that these are blessings God has put in your life and be grateful.
I would love to get you started on the road to building wealth through serving the Lord. If you'd like an entirely free consultation call me.