5 Misconceptions about Wealth

5 Misconceptions about Wealth

Some people have no wealth because they’ve devoured it for selfish ends (Prov 21:20). But when a person wisely sees their wealth as not “mine” but the Lord’s, there is a strong motivation to collect more of it and put it to good use in service of others. The Bible does not lay a guilt trip on such people, and neither should we. When a believer is faithful with a little responsibility, the Lord’s reward is to give them even more such responsibility (Matt 25:2123).

The book of Proverbs covers many topics and gets intensely practical. One of the topics on which Proverbs has quite a lot to say is wealth.

The struggle for many Christians is that our thinking about wealth is often shaped by influences outside the Bible. Sometimes we’re shaped by materialism. Sometimes we react against materialism in a way that seems spiritual but demonstrates the sort of asceticism labeled by New Testament authors as “irreverent, silly myths” (1 Tim 4:7) and the “teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1). And at other times, we simply allow rank fear and unbelief to lead us away from our hope in God and reception of his wisdom.

Here are five misconceptions about wealth that must go if we are to believe and receive the wisdom of God.

1. It will make all my problems go away.

This is frankly the lie I am most tempted to believe. Am I earning enough? Am I saving enough? How will I cover the costs of a growing family with all this inflation? How will we pay for college or medical needs? What we really need is a generous benefactor or a sudden windfall. Because if we had more wealth, all our problems would disappear, right?

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death

Proverbs 11:4

According to the Bible, there is a problem we all have that is far greater than we imagine: our impending death. And God’s wrath against sin is real. My kids’ college tuition and my retirement package just can’t pay for such things. Only one thing can deliver us from death, or profit us in the day of wrath. Righteousness. And the entire Bible shows us how to get it (e.g. 2 Cor 5:21Phil 3:8-11).

So wealth will never make your problems go away (see also Prov 11:28). But the amazing thing is that it just might help make other people’s problems go away. Wealth and people are both realities in this fallen world. But which one will serve, and which will be served? Use people to serve your wealth, and you’re in grave danger (James 5:1-61 Tim 6:17). But use wealth to serve people, and the Lord himself says he is now in your debt (Prov 19:17Matt 25:40).

2. I can tell who has it and who doesn’t.

We tend to think we can tell the rich from the poor by looking. And this is great, because then we know whom to ask for favors (Prov 19:6). But appearances are deceiving.

One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

Proverbs 13:7

Those who appear to be rich often appear that way for a reason: They’re good at holding onto their stuff for themselves. And it would knock your socks off to find out which of your acquaintances are the most generous with their wealth. Because they are so generous, they tend to keep very little for themselves to flaunt.

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

Proverbs 11:24

I have been a support-raising missionary for nearly a quarter of a century, and I don’t know why I’m still surprised, but I am. Those whom I think could give generously to support the mission often do not. Sometimes, they look like they can because they have lots of stuff. Yet often, those whom I am afraid to ask—because they don’t look like they can afford it—are those who write checks in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

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