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Bible verses about Wealth
(From Forerunner Commentary)

First-century Laodicea sat astride two major trade routes. The first road ran from Rome eastward into Asia Minor, then beyond to Cilicia where Paul was born. At Derbe it split: One leg went to the south through Damascus and on into Egypt; the other leg struck across the east to Mesopotamia, the ancient home of Babylon. Connecting the city to southern Europe through Byzantium, the second route entered Laodicea from the north and continued to the Mediterranean.

The founders built the city in the Lycus Valley where these routes crossed. This provided Laodicea with unlimited opportunities for trade but caused other significant problems. Ideally, prosperous cities are built close to abundant natural resources, especially water. Great cities are usually founded on deep natural harbors or on the banks of navigable rivers where water is abundant. Unfortunately, Laodicea was not established near an adequate water supply. More driven by trade, its builders located it where the roads crossed.

However, the city had much in its favor, and of special note were its three main industries. The Laodiceans produced a glossy, black wool that was prized by the wealthy all over the world. No one knows whether its rich color came from a particular strain of sheep that they bred in the area, or whether they dyed it, but the quality of the wool is indisputable. In fact, they cornered the market in this commodity, producing tremendous wealth.

Their second business was medicine. Laodicea boasted of one of the most renowned medical schools in the world, and with it came all of its associated industries like pharmaceuticals. They produced a world-famous salve, reputed to cure certain kinds of eye diseases. Another salve supposedly healed ear problems. People came from all over the Roman world in search of remedies for their ailments.

These two industries produced a third that multiplied their already vast wealth—banking. Laodicea became a center of currency exchange and money lending. Cicero, it is said, cashed huge bank drafts there. So huge were its assets that, when it was demolished by a first-century earthquake, the city refused Rome's offer of help, rebuilding with its own funds.

So Laodicea had a monopoly in textiles, a world-renowned medical industry, and a prosperous financial center. Writers of the ancient world speak openly of their envy of Laodicean wealth. Record after record attests to their status.

Their one weakness was the water supply. Water had to be piped in to Laodicea. Cold water could come from the abundant supply at Colossae, but by the time it traveled the ten or so miles from the cold springs, it was lukewarm. About six miles away in Hierapolis were hot springs, but that water, too, was lukewarm when it reached Laodicea. Whether they piped in the cold or the hot water, it arrived at Laodicea lukewarm.

What does Christ mean by this metaphor? Cold water stimulates and invigorates. Nothing refreshes more than drinking a glass of cold water on a hot day. And hot water? It is useful for health. Not only do we mix it with teas, herbs, broths, and the like, but it also works as a solvent, good for cleaning just about anything.

What does lukewarm water do? Christ's complaint against the Laodiceans is revealed here: It is good for nothing! The Laodicean is useless to Him. Lukewarm water is an emetic: It makes one vomit. In terms of God's work, a lukewarm Christian is useless. The other traits of Laodiceanism spring from this characteristic of uselessness. As Head of the church, Christ cannot use them in the spiritual state in which He finds them. We should think of this in terms of biblical symbolism: Water represents God's Holy Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

The Laodicean is not indifferent to making money or making his way in the world. He is not indifferent to improving himself through education or experience. Spending huge amounts of his time and energy pursuing his own interests, his problem is that he chooses the wrong priorities in life. He spends most of his time and energy achieving the wrong goals.

This pursuit of wrong goals restates the actual sin the Laodicean commits: idolatry, placing something above God in one's life. How? He serves himself within the church as if he did it for God. Perhaps he is involved in the work of God but only halfheartedly. Though probably attending Sabbath services faithfully, he is not personally involved with God on a day-to-day basis. He may serve within the church to be recognized, respected, maybe even ordained, forgetting that God called him to be a faithful and true witness of Him. Because he pays attention to the wrong things, his witness suffers terribly. Expending so much energy and enthusiasm in pursuing his own interests, he shows little or no interest in God or His goals. He is indifferent and lukewarm toward his relationship with God.

Because he has had such great success in amassing wealth, the Laodicean judges himself to be self-sufficient, which reveals that his faith is in what he can see, whether his own abilities or his wealth. He is not living by faith, but by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). To put more money in his pocket, he can become energetic, hard-working, and fervent, but he cannot seem to arouse himself about the things of God, which he cannot see. Such an attitude will incur the wrath of God every time!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

End-time Laodiceans live in the most affluent time ever on earth, a time of ever-increasing knowledge, rapid transportation, swift communication, building, buying and selling, and exciting entertainment. Laodiceans consider themselves rich and wealthy, carelessly assuming their financial status indicates God's blessing on their lifestyle (Revelation 3:17). However, God judges them as "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." Living in this age, in such a wealthy nation, we need to take this warning personally.

God is not against material wealth per se. By any standard, the patriarchs were very wealthy. Abraham had 318 trained servants capable of war, plus other men, women and children who were servants (Genesis 14:14). These servants handled the huge amounts of livestock, silver, and gold that Abraham possessed (Genesis 13:2).

God destroyed Job's fabulous wealth, then restored it after his repentance (Job 42:10-12). David and Solomon had more riches than they knew what to do with (II Chronicles 9:13-28). Barnabas had lands he could sell for the needs of the church (Acts 4:36-37), and Joseph of Arimathea was "a rich man" (Matthew 27:57). Obviously, wealth in itself is not evil.

However, the Bible shouts numerous warnings against setting our minds on material wealth. Money can become a snare and a root of evil (I Timothy 6:8-10). We can become discontented with having "enough." Enough is not enough for many, so we strive to gain more and more. We often become envious of the "blessings" others receive, like Asaph, who envied the prosperity of the wicked until he mused on their end (Psalm 73:3, 16-17).

Jesus tells us that we cannot serve God and money (Luke 16:13-14), and He tried repeatedly to convince us that life is not about money. Certainly, God does not measure our worth by the things we possess (Luke 12:15). If we become caught up in the temporary values of this age, we will find "the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things" choking the word of God and making it—and us—unfruitful (Mark 4:19).

No wonder Jesus advises us not to lay up treasures for ourselves on earth, but to seek after true riches (Matthew 6:19-20). The rich young ruler—who could have been a disciple—rejected his calling because he could not give up his wealth (Mark 10:17-23). We should not condemn him, for we could be making the same mistake! We may be chasing after false riches without really being aware of it!

Christ warns the Laodiceans that if they do not change their ways, they will have "to buy gold from Me refined in the fire [tribulation], that you may be rich" (Revelation 3:18)! This seems to show that God wants us to be rich—but not necessarily in the way the world counts riches!

Staff
Does God Want You to be Rich?


 

Numbers 27:9-11

God set up a table of progression or priority. If there were no sons, the inheritance automatically went to the daughters. If there were no daughters, then the next step, then the third and fourth steps.

Why was God so concerned about land? There is a logical reason for it, as well as why He wanted the land to remain in the family. The principle, a very simple one, is shown in other parts of the Bible: Land is the source of wealth. If a person (male or female) has land, and he is able to work it, he will be able to produce a measure of income.

What a blessing that would be today, if every family owned land. This would solve one of our country's major problems! There would be almost no welfare because nobody would need to receive welfare from the State except in small amounts, since every family would be able to produce at least their own food (or some product by which they could buy food).

This principle within Israel kept a major welfare system from developing. In addition, there were the psychological benefits of owning land—because then a person has something tangible, something to which he can give himself, maintain, develop, use to create wealth and a sense of self-worth. Land gives a person a stake in the community, and with that comes a sense of responsibility to the entire community.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 17)


 

Deuteronomy 8:11-20

Every Christian needs to be aware of this principle. God does not condemn wealth. He wants us to prosper, but He also wants us to be aware that wealth can powerfully distract us from Him. In one sense, it is dangerous for Him to give His people wealth because it can turn us away from Him without our being aware of it happening. The Laodicean looks at his wealth and thinks, maybe in all sincerity, "God has blessed me with this, and therefore, God is pleased with the way I am." But God is not pleased in the least! He is incensed by his self-satisfaction, not the fact that he has wealth.

When God says that Israel's "heart is lifted up," its sense is the same as the Laodicean saying, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). He could just as well have said, "I don't need you, God!" When he looks at his wealth, he judges that God loves him. Does not his prosperity prove that God is with him? Christ judges just the opposite!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Deuteronomy 17:17

After his prodigious wisdom, Solomon is best known for his colossal—seemingly astronomical—personal wealth. While riches are not evil in themselves, God admonishes the Israelite king not to "greatly multiply silver and gold" for himself (Deuteronomy 17:17). Beyond the greed factor, God gave this warning, not because He wants His rulers to be poor, but because of the effect amassing wealth has on the general populace. When a king gathers all of a nation's wealth to himself, the citizenry experiences acute financial oppression.

I Kings 10:14-25, 27 describes Solomon's nearly unbelievable wealth in detail. He was so wealthy that he "surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches" (verse 23). He generated an income of 666 talents of gold per year (verse 14), and "silver [was] as common in Jerusalem as stones, and . . . cedars as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland" (verse 27). He even charged a hefty, yearly set fee for anyone who desired to hear his wisdom (verse 25)! Money just seemed to pour into his coffers.

Obviously, much of this wealth came to him from trade and as gifts like that from the Queen of Sheba (verses 1-2, 10). However, he took advantage of his people to garner a great deal of wealth in the form of high taxes and using resident aliens as forced labor on public works projects (II Chronicles 2:17-18; 8:7-10). After he died, the people sent emissaries to his son Rehoboam to request a lightening of their work and tax burdens, but he rebuffed them, causing Israel's rebellion under Jeroboam (I Kings 12:1-20; II Chronicles 10). From the biblical perspective, amassing wealth like this is a terrible abuse of power.

Martin G. Collins
The Enduring Results of Compromise


 

Deuteronomy 32:15

This prophecy regarding Israel confirms the power and influence of wealth. For a Christian today, living in a society whose wealth far exceeds the wildest dreams of most people on earth, this power of wealth cannot be ignored. We need to thank God for the opportunity to live in a nation receiving the blessings of Abraham, but we cannot allow its influence to change our attitudes toward God.

Does wealth or poverty have any intrinsic spiritual value? Physically, it is better to be wealthy, but riches can turn one's head spiritually. Incidentally, poverty has that same power because a poor person can become so busy with the cares of his daily existence, that he forgets God. That is why Solomon advises in Proverbs 30:8-9, "[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food You prescribe for 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."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Deuteronomy 32:15

Jeshurun is a code name for Israel. It literally means "the upright one." The word may have been written with a certain measure of sarcasm. Or, it may have been written as a warning to this "upright one"—Jeshurun or Israel—about when he was most likely to fall to the enemy.

This is an interesting warning from God of the power of affluence to turn a person away. It is such a subtle form of persecution that we bask in it. It does not have to be a form of persecution or trial; it depends on our mindset. However, we must realize the power that it has. God is prophesying that the affluent's lack of character to handle the wealth is really what destroys them.

According to John Wesley—the founder of Methodism—wealth has destroyed the godliness of more people than any other thing. One might think, "I am not wealthy," but Wesley defined a wealthy person as anyone who had food, clothing, a place to sleep, and just a little bit left over each day. According to this definition, nearly every one of us qualifies as being wealthy. The problem with wealth is that it demands that we manage it and that we take care of what it provides. If we are not careful, it can be a consuming distraction. This is what John Wesley means.

It does not have to be that way. This is obvious from the fact that the Bible reports to us that Abraham was very wealthy. He was not just rich—he was very rich. David, too, was very rich. These were two great men in the eyes of God. The problem is that hardly anybody can use wealth in the right way, that is, manage it without it becoming a consuming occupation in itself. Yet, of and by itself, wealth is a neutral.

Most of us do not have the mindset of wealth's neutrality, which is a defense, because we have been reared in a culture that is wealthy, and it keeps prodding us to become wealthier and wealthier. It promotes the idea that we are nobody unless we possess wealth. This tends to work against us, making wealth difficult for us to control.

The Bible and the church are not against wealth, but we have to be aware of what the Bible says about it—that it can be one of the greatest deterrents to spirituality that we could possibly be given. Maybe God is blessing us when he does not prosper us so much. . . .

John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier


 

Job 41:11

Everything that exists belongs to God, He has the right to keep everything for Himself, but He chooses to share with human beings. He does not need to pay or repay anyone, or ask us for anything. Silver and gold are symbolic of everything of value.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Tithing


 

Psalm 62:11-12

When David says in Psalm 62:11, "God has spoken once, twice . . .," He is using a Hebrew idiom that means, "I have heard this repeatedly." Practically, it means God's will always decides the outcome of whatever is in dispute, whatever hangs in the balance. Who can resist Him?

We need to look more closely at the word "power," or as some translations read, "strength." Power is defined in The Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Word Finder as "having the ability to act, influence" and "a particular faculty of body or mind, capability." This usage opens another exciting avenue, taking the meaning of power from mere brute, overwhelming force into such qualities as the powers of love, intellect, wisdom, understanding, vision, logic, energy, eloquence, wealth, authority, privilege, prerogative, control, mastery, persuasion, forgiveness, and so on into every area of activity.

Is there any kind of need in which God is not superior to any alternate source we could seek out to provide help? In Psalm 62, David suggests that, when we need help in time of trouble, why not just go right to the top? Is not our Father willing to provide these things for us?

Then in verse 12, David adds yet another quality of our powerful God that we need to consider. God not only renders to every one according to his deeds, implying punishment, but He is also merciful - in fact, the very pinnacle of love! Even His sometimes-painful correction is an act of love.

The entire psalm briefly and generally explains why we should trust God: To those who believe, no one is more qualified and trustworthy. Broadly, David is saying that God's power and willingness to act according to His purpose is the very foundation of a believer's practical application of his faith in Him.

There is far more to God being the Source of the powers that we need to serve Him and become prepared for His Kingdom. He has made available many powers, ones that we may take for granted yet have nevertheless been provided for our benefit.

Recall that the Israelites sang in Exodus 15:2, "The Lord is my strength." In a poetic way, they meant that we do not have strength, but God does, and He uses it for our benefit. God has not called the wise of this world (I Corinthians 1:26), but on the other hand, Jesus Christ lives in us, and He is the power of God and the wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:24). He is our High Priest, who has the responsibility before God to lead us prepared into the Kingdom.

The concept of strength or power has many facets that we have not yet explored. Deuteronomy 8:11, 14, 16-18 says:

Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today . . . when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; . . . who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end - then you say in your heart, "My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth." 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.

That wealth is power is an easily recognized concept. "Wealth" is used in this context to represent all evidences of prosperity and well-being. We tend to think of wealth in terms of material things like the size and location of our home, the cost of our automobile, or the fashionableness of our clothing. However, there is more to prosperity than material goods.

The concept developed in this passage also includes qualities like good health, sound-mindedness, and the level and breadth of our education - elements common to prosperous cultures. It includes things such as understanding and having the opportunity to perceive what is happening in this world from a godly point of view. All of these and many more are powers available to us. In other words, "wealth" is not limited to material things. It includes our health, the disposition in which we live our lives, the liberties we enjoy, and the opportunities available to have those things whether or not we have actually taken advantage of them.

For example, Solomon said, "Of making many books there is no end" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). The tremendous volume of information available in books is beyond our comprehension. Of course, not all the power contained in this information is good, but God has made it available.

In addition, God can prosper us by giving us favor in the eyes of others. He opens doors to bring us goodwill because power belongs to Him, and He uses it as it pleases Him. No potential help is beyond His power!

In many cases, these things come to us as byproducts of His fulfillment of promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Are we using them, and if not, why not? God's fulfilling of His promises provides us with potentially valuable experiences, which are lavished on us simply because we live in an Israelitish nation. Each nation of modern Israel has its own peculiar wealth of beauty. Most of us have noticed and compared the barrenness of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq on television with the fruitfulness of our nations. This beauty, along with its productivity and liberties, are included in the concept of "wealth."

He provides these things and uses them to benefit us at all times because it pleases Him to do so. Powers are not always given because we please Him. Deuteronomy 8 is a warning against pride. We must humble ourselves, never forgetting that we are created and that we live by the gifts He provides. Remember, Jesus says, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). This awesome statement is made by the One described by Paul as "upholding all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus means, in reference to God's purpose, that we could do nothing spiritually without what He adds to our labors. Yet, these verses also tell us where to go to receive the help that we perceive we need.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part One)


 

Proverbs 28:20-22

An important lesson of life to learn is that wealth is a means, not an end in itself. Get-rich-quick schemes, cutting corners to get more for the self, and taking unfair advantage of another's ignorance will in the end destroy the perpetrator. Those who do these things to get rich are in reality seeking death because they are breaking the spirit of the eighth commandment.

God admonishes those who resort to violence in order to steal that they will be caught in the net of their own evil schemes. Their deliberate choice of evil means to achieve wealth saps their willpower to live honestly. A person who sets his will to work patiently and steadily will find his prosperity steadily increasing because God oversees the well-being of those who keep His commandments. This proverb is not a deprecation of the value of wealth but an exhortation to appreciate its proper value and to share it as God instructs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Eighth Commandment


 

Isaiah 2:6-12

The same principle appears everywhere in the Bible: Pride has its roots in a feeling of wealth or accomplishment. "Wealth" does not necessarily mean money, although that is included. Remember Hillil and his intelligence, beauty, and power. But there are other things like position, skill, natural ability, social status, knowledge, strength - even hair, clothing, a house, or an automobile. The list of things that can motivate this elevated feeling is virtually endless.

In the New Testament, pride is in the Greek, huperephanos, which means "to show oneself above." It does not imply one that others look up to, but one who stands on his own self-created pedestal. Psychologists tell us that pride is actually a mark of inner inferiority and uncertainty, and such people compensate by over-emphasizing and flaunting the qualities they think they possess that will cause others to think well of them.

This feeling of wealth or strength in a given area is highly relative because each person can set his own standard of comparison, regardless of his real accomplishments. Like the sluggard who in his conceit is wiser than seven men to render a reason (Proverbs 26:16), we are able to promote ourselves in areas that we think we are good in.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Amos 2:6-8

The conduct of the average Israelite becomes glaringly apparent. In ancient Israel the social conditions during the reign of Jeroboam II had reached the proportions of what is extant in the United States today. A tremendous disparity between the rich and the poor existed just as in modern America, where most of the wealth is concentrated in only about two percent of the population. Soon, if the elimination of the middle class continues on course, only two classes of people will live in the U.S., the rich and the poor. A similar situation was developing in Israel during Amos' day.

Amos shows that those who had the money and power treated the weak, called "the poor," very harshly. Though they were not destitute, the poor had no strength in society. They had no power to change their situation for the better, while the rich and powerful manipulated the government and the courts to their advantage. The rich squeezed every penny out of the poor, even requiring them to relinquish overnight their outer garments, often used as a cover when sleeping. To top off the list, they were also guilty of sexual perversions and idolatry.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Amos 3:15

Some of these people owned two or more houses, at least one for the summer and one for the winter. These homes must have been luxurious! Certainly, they were not completely made of ivory, but the woodwork must have been inlaid with ivory, a symbol of costly items affordable only by the wealthy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Amos 6:1

Zion is often used as a symbol of God's church. Is the Laodicean at ease within the church? He is surely not at ease when he has an opportunity to make money! He will work all day and all night to fatten his purse. He loves to pursue his distracting hobbies and interests. But God spits him out in disgust! He is distasteful to God like lukewarm water, unable to be used for any real, spiritual, eternal purpose! The Laodicean, according to Amos, puts his trust in his own wealth and power, his nation and its leaders. Where is his trust in God?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Zephaniah 1:12

Pictured as holding aloft a lamp as He walks, God searches through the city—Jerusalem, Zion—shining a light to reveal everyone to His judgment. No one escapes the judgment of God. Who is He looking for in particular? He looks for complacent men, like the Laodicean. Just as Hosea uses wine to illustrate the principle (Hosea 4:6, 11-12), Zephaniah also mentions wine though it is obscured in the translation: the words "settled in complacency" are literally "settled on their lees" like the dregs of wine (cf. the footnote on this verse, NKJV)!

Again, the prophet speaks of a prosperous people who had deluded themselves into believing that their physical wealth meant that they were equally rich spiritually. As the years passed, their relationship with God had diminished into lip service and complacency. When God describes them saying things "in their heart," He means a reasoning process that happens internally. A person could not see it with his eyes, but the attitude cannot be hidden from the Judge walking the city with the lamp of truth.

In today's parlance we call their problem "sins of omission." Like the Laodicean, the religious Jew of that day was not on the streets committing horrible crimes like murder or rape or armed robbery. These verses speak about the thousands and thousands of ordinary people who were stagnant and indifferent toward their relationship with God. Their problem was not what they did, but what they did not do.

Nor does God accuse the Laodicean of the more apparent sins in Revelation 3. He is angry with him because of what he is not doing! He is not a true and faithful witness, and indeed cannot be, because of his poor judgment in prioritizing his life. In focusing on his selfish pursuits and self-centeredness, he leaves God almost completely out of his life. Still, he bears the name of God, attends Sabbath services, and at least in a superficial way, worships God on the Sabbath. Yet the relationship is growing cold as he fails to seek Him earnestly as in courtship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 6:19-20

To us, wealth is money, land, houses, and cars, but in biblical times, clothing was a key part of a man's wealth. For example, Joseph gave his brothers "changes of garments" (Genesis 45:22), and Achan coveted "a beautiful Babylonian garment" (Joshua 7:21). Part of clothing's appeal to them was its ability to make a "display," so the garments of the rich were impressively colorful and opulent. Moths were the most destructive force against such treasures. Although a moth is small, its power to destroy clothing is great (Job 13:28, Isaiah 50:9; 51:8; James 5:1-2).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Treasure


 

Matthew 6:20-21

Laying up—saving or storing—is not in itself sinful; Paul enjoins honest industry and wise enterprise (II Corinthians 12:14). If wealth comes our way, we should use it, not only for our ease and profit, but also for the good of others. Treasures on earth, if distributed for God's glory, become tools for laying up treasures in heaven.

It is natural for the human heart, mind, affection, and interest to be fixed on treasure. To regulate this fixation, it is important that the treasure be proper (Isaiah 55:2). We must be seeking the right goal—not physical riches but spiritually sound treasures in the form of deeds of kindness: good works (Luke 12:33) and the character formed by them (Revelation 14:13). Paul urges us to "be rich in good works" (I Timothy 6:18), partakers of "the unsearchable riches of Christ" and "the riches of His glory" (Ephesians 3:8, 16), and James advises us to be "rich in faith" (James 2:5).

The treasure of the converted is to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, to attain an incorruptible, undefiled inheritance that does not fade away. In the Kingdom of God, nothing corrupts, nothing dies away, and no enemies plunder or destroy (I Peter 1:4).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Treasure


 

Matthew 13:7

The thorny ground represents those who are consumed by the cares and anxieties of this physical life and the deceitful enticements of wealth. The constant pressures of ordinary life—providing for our needs, education, employment, social duties, etc.—can be distracting, causing us to ignore God and Christian growth.

The desire for wealth magnifies this distraction (I Timothy 6:7-11). Wealth is enticing but never yields the expected rewards; it promises to make us happy but, when gained, does not. Further, in pursuing wealth, we are tempted to be dishonest, cheat, oppress, and take advantage of others.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Sower


 

Matthew 13:7-8

The thorny ground symbolizes those who become consumed by the anxieties of this physical life and the deceitful enticement of wealth. The constant pressures of everyday life?providing sustenance, maintaining employment, seeking education, performing social duties, etc.?can be distracting, causing Christians to ignore God and spiritual growth.

The desire for wealth magnifies this distraction. It is enticing but yields the expected rewards: It promises to make us happy, but when gained, leaves us spiritually empty (I Timothy 6:7-10). The temptation and pursuit of wealth produces bad fruit: dishonesty, stealing, oppression of the poor, and taking advantage of others.

The good ground corresponds to those whose hearts and minds are softened by God's calling and receive it genuinely. They are a rich and fine soil?a mind that submits itself to the full influence of God's truth (Acts 22:14; Ephesians 4:1-6). The called of God not only accept His Word?the message of Jesus Christ?as rich soil accepts a seed for growth, they also bear much fruit (John 15:5, 8).

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Two): The Parable of the Sower


 

Matthew 19:16-26

We see a very polite, respectful, and eager young man who leaves Christ and goes away sorrowful. Why? The story makes it clear that he is young, and Luke tells us he is a ruler (Luke 18:18), possibly a magistrate or a kind of Justice of the Peace.

In the parallel account in Mark, we are told that the young man came "running" up to Christ and "knelt" before him (Mark 10:17), indicating a sense of urgency and respect. He then shows submissiveness and a willingness to be taught when he addresses Jesus as "Good Teacher." This was not a typical form of address for the Jews at this time. A more respectful greeting may not be found in the entire Bible.

This young man came, not to tempt Christ, but to learn from him. We know that he was not a Sadducee because it is clear that he believed in eternal life and wanted to attain it—an unusual goal in someone of his position and age. A man of wealth will often trust his riches and not be interested in what God has to offer. The young do not often look beyond today, much less to the far reaches of eternity.

This rich young ruler was a very sensible fellow. He knew something must be done to attain this happiness; eternal life is not a game of chance or blind fate. Romans 2:6-7 tells us that we are rewarded for our works, good and bad, and that "eternal life [goes] to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality."

Christ's response to all this is interesting. He first establishes that none are truly good except God, and to Him goes all glory. Then Jesus tells him to "keep the commandments," specifically listing the last six of the Ten Commandments, the ones dealing with human-to-human relationships. The Jews of the time were well-versed in the mechanics of the first four commandments, in terms of the letter of the law, so Christ lists the ones in which they were weakest.

It seems so simple, right? In order to have eternal life, "keep the commandments." How do today's professing Christians, who claim the law has been done away, get around this simple instruction? Other verses, such as John 14:15, "If you love Me, keep My commandments," reinforce this straightforward directive.

The young ruler tells Christ that he has kept the commandments since he was a child. What else should he do? Jesus does not contradict him. In Mark's account, it says He looked at him and "loved him." Possibly, this man was adept at keeping the letter of the law, but he was coming up short in abiding by the spirit of the law. Perhaps Jesus saw that he was absolutely sincere in his efforts to abide by those commandments.

Whatever the case, Christ does not attempt to sermonize on this point. The way the young man phrased his question, "What do I still lack?" smacks a bit of pride or self-righteousness. In effect, he says, "I'm keeping the commandments and have done well in that regard all my life. Show me where I'm coming up short."

Unlike what many of us would do, Christ avoids becoming mired in a dispute about this claim, but gets right to the bottom line: The young man's love of the world. He tells him to sell his possessions, give the money away, and follow Him as a disciple. Yet, the young ruler was unwilling to do this. His treasure was here on earth. His money exerted a stronger tug on his heart than Christ did. Matthew Henry says in his commentary, "When we embrace Christ, we must let go of the world, for we cannot serve God and money."

To the young man's credit, he was not hypocritical. He did not pretend he could do this when he could not. He knew what this meant: Christ's high standards and his own ambitions and desires were incompatible. Being both thoughtful and well-intentioned, he went away "sorrowful."

What did he possess that had such a hold on him as to make him willing to walk away from eternal life? To put it into terms we can relate to: Did he have a fully equipped game room with pinball, billiards, jukebox, and wet bar? Maybe he had the latest and hottest SUV? Perhaps his living room sported a plasma television, where he could kick back and watch all the sports he could handle?

What was holding him back? What did he really trust in? There is nothing spiritually wrong with wealth itself. The Bible is full of examples of godly men who were very wealthy—for instance, great men of God like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, and David. The problem is in the love of money.

Because we live in a consumer-driven society, the love of money can hold us back too. Advertisements call to us constantly, informing us of "needs" we did not even know we had. It is difficult to maintain a proper balance while under such an assault. We may not think of it this way, but it could be considered a blessing not to have great wealth because of the additional stress it can put on our spiritual lives.

It is instructive to study what Christ had to say to His disciples after the rich young ruler sadly walked away. Twice Jesus tells us how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. The Christian walk is not easy for anyone, but it is particularly hard for the wealthy. In fact, Jesus goes on to say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

Mike Ford
The Rich Young Ruler and the Needle's Eye


 

Matthew 19:23-26

This proverb has always been intriguing. Years ago, a friend related a story of a gate in the wall around ancient Jerusalem called the "Eye of the Needle," or the "Needle's Eye." This gate was designed in such a way that it could be used by pedestrians but not by marauding bandits on their camels. The only way a camel could get through this "Eye of the Needle" was to be unloaded and crawl through on its knees. This great story—and several variations of it—have made the rounds over the years.

The spiritual analogies were clear. The camel could go through the "Eye of the Needle," but only after being stripped of its baggage—its wealth!

The only problem with this story is that it is not true! There is absolutely no archaeological or historical evidence for the existence of such a gate. The story was first told several centuries ago and has been repeated ever since. It is yet another example of people trying to make Christ's words fit their own concepts of what He meant.

Jesus clearly says that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Can this be done? Of course not! That is the point! Yet, people have tried in vain to make it happen. Some have suggested that there is a misprint in the Greek. The Greek word kamelos, meaning "camel" should really be kamilos, meaning "cable" or "rope." Still, passing a rope through a needle's eye is nevertheless impossible. Ah, but what if one uses a six-inch carpet needle, and the rope is actually made of camel's hair? Others have suggested that this was an Aramaic pun on the word for a camel and that of a gnat or louse, from the Aramaic kalma meaning "vermin" or "louse." It can become quite ridiculous.

All this maneuvering is unnecessary. Christ was using hyperbole, just as He did when He spoke of a plank being in one's eye while attempting to remove the splinter in a brother's eye (Matthew 7:3-4). Everyone seems to understand that this is exaggeration for effect; commentators do not claim, "Well, He really meant a toothpick, not a 2 x 4." In our own speech, we use hyperbole all the time, such as, "This book weighs a ton," or "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse."

Jesus' hyperbole in Matthew 19:24 is easily explained. The camel was the largest animal regularly seen in Israel, and its contrast with the small size of a needle's eye shows the utter impossibility of the effort to squeeze the former through the latter. In Babylon, where portions of the Jewish Talmud were written, since the elephant was the largest animal, it was substituted for "camel" in this common aphorism.

Why do so many want to act as apologists for what Christ "really" meant in Matthew 19? Is it because we secretly—or even openly—desire wealth and do not want any biblical negativity slowing us down? Just in case we inherit big bucks from the uncle we forgot we had, we would not want any spiritual stigma attached to the money! To reiterate, the wealth itself is not the problem, but our attachment to it or what it can buy.

Jesus' disciples were horrified at His words. "Who then can be saved?" they wondered. It is very simple. Christ is instructing them that, through his own efforts, no one can be saved. He does not mean just the wealthy cannot be saved, but no one can be saved through his money, his skills, his talents, his intellect, or his good looks!

During the time of Christ, the Jews believed that wealth and prosperity were a sign of God's blessing, so the reaction of His disciples is sheer incredulity. Later, professing Christians fell into the opposite ditch by portraying riches as a hindrance to salvation—which they can be—but so can many other things.

What if we are considered to be poor by this world? Are we somehow better than those with more physical goods? It would be just as dangerous for an underprivileged person to think that he had it made—that his poverty gave him some sort of piety—as it would for a rich man to trust in his wealth. We can be tempted from the path of righteousness by just about anything. Our downfall might be drink, food, television, or any number of things available to us in this world.

It is easy for us to look at the wealthy and judge them to be unfit for God's Kingdom, congratulating ourselves in the process for not having that particular distraction in our lives. While the rich young ruler walked away from Christ, extremely sad that he could not make that leap of faith, what in our own lives has the same hold on us? What is the anchor that keeps our spiritual ship from sailing?

In II Timothy 4:10, Paul writes, "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world." What caused Demas to leave Paul and Christ? Demas loved the world; the particulars are not divulged. Whatever it was is of less import than the simple, spiritual fact that a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle. Someone who loves the world, whether rich or poor, will not be in God's Kingdom (James 4:4; I John 2:15-17).

The point is that we do not achieve salvation through our own efforts; it is from God alone, by His grace. "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible," Jesus assures us. We have our part to play and are rewarded for our efforts, as Romans 2 explains, but when God takes us from this world, works with us, blesses us, and brings us into His Family, it is truly a miracle.

Mike Ford
The Rich Young Ruler and the Needle's Eye


 

Mark 4:19

Wealth is deceitful because it can impart a false sense of security to its possessors. When a certain amount of anxiety and desire is added to money's power, the three together can keep up a constant drumming on the mind to do something with it. This, in turn, distracts one from giving himself in true service to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast


 

Luke 12:13-31

In Luke 12:13-21, a listener in the crowd surrounding Jesus asks Him to instruct his brother to divide the inheritance due to him equitably. Jesus declines, saying that life should not be based on having many possessions. He uses this occasion to teach His disciples that a godly life is more important than material things. To explain this, He tells a parable about a rich man who builds larger and larger barns to store all his crops and goods.

Since he had everything he could possibly want or need, the rich man's focus was on living an easy life. God's response is that the man was foolish because, when he died later that night, his goods would do nothing for him. Someone else would inherit and enjoy them. A person whose life is caught up in what he owns is not rich toward God. The Parable of the Rich Fool illustrates Jesus' teaching to guard against every kind of covetousness.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Rich Fool


 

Luke 14:18

This excuse raises some questions: Would a Jew buy land sight-unseen? If he had, how could he see what it was like in the dark? Could he not wait until morning to inspect it? Most likely, the man had seen it before buying it, but he was more concerned about his investment than in an invitation to supper. He represents those whose possessions require all their attention. He allows his physical wealth to rob him of spiritual wealth (James 5:1-3; Matthew 6:19-21). People sometimes plead that they must neglect obedience to God, justifying themselves as so pressed by the affairs of the world that they cannot find time to pray, read the Scriptures, or worship God (Matthew 13:22). This kind of thinking reveals spiritual blindness. God does not allow any excuse for neglecting His way of life, commanding us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Great Supper


 

John 10:10

What does He mean by "life . . . more abundantly"? A problem arises when discussing this concept due to the apparent subjectivity of the term "abundant." What is abundant living for one person may be absolutely unsatisfying for another. A hard-charging, A-type businessman - into exotic vacations, sports cars, and rock climbing - would not consider a rocking chair on the porch, a vegetable garden out back, and a weekly round of golf at the local course to be fulfilling, yet they would probably suit a retired senior citizen just fine. One person's bowl of cherries is another's bowl of cherry pits.

The Greek word Jesus uses in John 10:10 to describe the kind of life He came to teach His disciples is perissón, meaning "superabundant," "superfluous," "overflowing," "over and above a certain quantity," "a quantity so abundant as to be considerably more than what one would expect or anticipate." In short, He promises us a life far better than we could ever envision, reminiscent of I Corinthians 2:9, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (see Isaiah 64:4). Paul informs us that God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).

However, before we begin to have visions of palatial homes, classic automobiles, around-the-world trips, and wads of pocket money, we need to step back and consider what God says comprises "life." Once we determine His view of living, we will have a better grasp of what kind of blessings we can expect as Christ's disciples. All we need to do is glance around at our and our brethren's situations to know that wealth, prestige, position, and power in this world are not high-priority items on God's list of blessings (I Corinthians 1:26-29). In terms of economic, academic, and social strata, most of us come from the lower and middle classes, and we tend to remain in a situation similar to the one in which we were called (compare I Corinthians 7:20-24).

Perhaps the most telling biblical definition of life - particularly eternal life - is uttered by Jesus Himself in John 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Note that this definition makes no mention of length of days, health, prosperity, family, occupation - in fact, the only thing it does mention is knowing God!

What can we take from this?

» God is not overly concerned with the physical circumstances of our lives. It is enough that He assures us that we need not worry about what we will eat or wear (Matthew 6:25-32; Philippians 4:19).

» Eternal life, the kind of life in which a Christian is truly interested, is not determined by duration but by a relationship with God. This is why, once we are converted and impregnated with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are said to have eternal life already (I John 5:11-13), though not, of course, in its fullness.

» Eternal life - the life God offers us through Jesus Christ and His teaching - is thus about quality, not quantity. Put another way, the abundant life is life as God lives it (Ezekiel 33:10-11; I Peter 2:21; I John 2:6), for once we truly come to know God, we will desire to emulate Him.

» Physical blessings, then, may or may not be byproducts of God's way of life; neither our wealth nor our poverty is a sure indication of our standing with God. Certainly, God desires that we "prosper in all things and be in health" (III John 2), but the bottom line is "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (verse 4), not that we live like royalty.

» Finally, a Christian's life revolves around, as Peter puts it, "grow[ing] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). This suggests that the abundant life is a process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming because, in our present state, "we see in a mirror, dimly" (I Corinthians 13:12).

As humans, we are naturally oriented toward material things, but as Christians, our perspective must change. Paul admonishes, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died [in baptism], and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2-3). To us, life - and our perception of abundant life - is a whole new ballgame!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are You Living the Abundant Life?


 

Romans 11:33

Most successful televangelists preach what is called "the Prosperity Gospel." Using select Scriptures, they teach that if one gives his life to Jesus, and if he follows certain biblical principles, God is obligated to fulfill His promises of wealth, health, and well-being. In the end, God becomes little more than a genie-in-a-bottle, granting wishes out of sheer compulsion. To these preachers, this is the abundant life God promises, and hundreds of thousands of people agree with them.

It is true that the Bible is full of promises. It is also true that Jesus tells us several times in John 14-16, "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:14; see also 14:13; 15:7, 16; 16:23-24, 26). Psalm 37:4 pledges, "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." These sound like absolute promises, and if God is to be true to His Word, He must fulfill them, right?

This is what the televangelists have concluded, but in the end, it is a facile conclusion. Very few of God's promises in the Bible are absolute in nature; they are, instead, conditional promises, governed not only by our responses to God, fulfilling certain requirements, but also by the perfect judgment of God. As James 1:17 says, He gives only good and perfect gifts; He will never give one of His children a "blessing" that would ultimately derail His purpose for him or that would be too much for him to handle.

It works similarly among mere mortals. A human parent would not send his son to vocational school if he really wanted him to be a doctor, even though tuition to the vocational school would be a "good thing." Likewise, the same parent would not entrust his child with thousands of dollars in cash at Toys 'R Us, despite the fact that such sums of money would be considered a wonderful gift. If human parents have enough wisdom to give goal- and maturity-dependent gifts to their children, how much more does God (Romans 11:33)?

The faithful Abraham and Sarah are good examples of this aspect of God's promises. In Genesis 12:2, God tells Abraham, age 75 at the time (verse 4), that He would make of him "a great nation," implying that he would have children. God makes this promise again in verse 7: "The LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.'" Yet, He does not give Abraham the promised child when he is 76 or 78 or 80!

After his rescue of Lot from the confederation of kings, Abraham pleads with God in Genesis 15:2-3—he is now 80 years old—for an heir. God repeats the promise, and Abraham believes Him (verses 4-6), yet Sarah does not become pregnant any time soon. Later, after Ishmael is born of Hagar when Abraham is 86 years old (Genesis 16:16), the patriarch wonders if this is the promised seed, but when the boy is thirteen—Abraham is now 99!—God reiterates, "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son" (Genesis 17:19).

Finally,

. . . the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. . . . Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. (Genesis 21:1-2, 5)

Evidently, a great deal had to happen in the lives of Abraham and Sarah—predominantly in terms of spiritual maturity—before God felt the right time had come to give them their promised baby boy. Twenty-five years passed before God fulfilled His promise. Notice that Scripture itself informs us that God performed the miracle to allow Sarah to conceive "at the set time." There was one perfect time for this promise to be fulfilled, and God fulfilled it when all the conditions were right.

And we can thank Him profusely for doing the same for us (II Corinthians 4:15).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are You Living the Abundant Life?


 

1 Corinthians 13:3

One could be the wealthiest person in the world and die poor because of giving it all away to various charities and the needy throughout the world, but if there is not that bit of agape love behind it, there is no profit in it. It is like money down a rat-hole.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"


 

Revelation 3:17

The Laodicean may not necessarily say these things consciously, but he broadcasts it for all to see by his works and way of life! He thinks he lives in his "golden years." Being blind to his own spiritual poverty, however, is the real tragedy of his situation. He thinks he is in good standing with God. Christ judges differently, very concerned that the Laodicean cannot see his spiritual condition. He is spiritually bereft.

Christ describes the Laodicean as "poor." Biblically, "poor" does not mean the same as our normal English usage of the word. It indicates someone who is weak, with no consideration of how wealthy he may be. To God, the Laodicean is spiritually weak, when he thinks he is strong.

Next, he is "blind." Of course, this is not physical blindness but a lack of spiritual comprehension or judgment. Just as a blind person cannot use his eyes to judge a circumstance, the Laodicean is unaware, unknowing, unobservant, uncomprehending, and heedless.

Christ also judges him as "naked." Clothing—or its lack—illustrates a person's state of righteousness, and here it shows converted people who are still carnal, as Paul called the Corinthians (I Corinthians 3:3). The Laodicean is dominated by his fleshly attitudes. Physically oriented, he is governed by human nature, rather than by God.

"Wretched and miserable" together provide further descriptions of "poor, blind, and naked." Because they are poor, blind, and naked, they are wretched and miserable, even though they have not realized it. Miserable has been translated elsewhere as "pitiful" or "pitiable." Wretched is especially interesting. In other places in the New Testament, it indicates destitution because of war. God means that while they may be wealthy, they are losing the spiritual war against Satan and their carnal nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17

A Laodicean deals with wealth on a scale few people have seen in the history of the world. Wealth has a power that produces an intriguing result. In a section of scripture Moses wrote in the last month before Israel crossed into the Promised Land, God warns us of it: "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you" (Deuteronomy 8:10). God is definitely not against His people prospering or even getting rich. Many of his servants, like Abraham and David, were wealthy beyond imagination (Genesis 13:2; I Chronicles 29:1-5).

Instead, He describes a general principle, a natural trend, which happens to most when they begin to accumulate wealth. Most people cannot handle prosperity, and though God wants us to have good things, He desires us to have them in a way that will not damage us spiritually. His concern for the Laodicean is that, as the world reaches a pinnacle of luxury and wealth, he will be distracted by the magnetic appeal of all those beautiful things. He says in effect, "Don't forget your first priority!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17-19

The wealth of the Laodicean is not the problem. His problem derives from allowing his wealth to lead him into self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency, and complacency. His heart is lifted up. These attitudes lead him to avoid self-sacrifice by which he could grow spiritually. People normally use wealth to avoid the hardships of life, and although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, a person not spiritually astute will allow the comforts of wealth to erode his relationship with God. In his physical wealth, the Laodicean is poor in the things that really count and blind to his need. He no longer overcomes and grows. His witness is no good - and useless to Christ.

God reveals His love for the Laodicean when, rather than giving up on him, He gives him a punishing trial. He allows him to go through the fire, the Great Tribulation, to chasten him for his idolatry, to remind him of his true priorities, and to give him the opportunity to repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:19

"Zealous" means "earnest, enthusiastic, to seek or desire earnestly, to have an ardent love," in contrast to their spiritual indifference. God desires them to have a burning desire for Him and His way of life. Instead, Revelation 3:14-21 paints a clear picture of people who are successful by the world's standards, yet spiritually deficient. They are devoid of spiritual judgment while rich with material substance. Their problem is an internal attitude: The mechanism that drives them is neither godly nor ardent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Find more Bible verses about Wealth:
Wealth {Nave's}
 




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