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What the Bible says about Wealth, Attitude Toward
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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

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

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

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


 




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