Worldview of Money and Wealth
For some money is ‘good’ and some miss one ‘o’ and is ‘god’; for some money is equal to god but not god yet. There are many who see money as evil or devil or equal to devil. But, all said and done, money is enigma for most of humanity. However, Lord Jesus Christ was clear in his teaching: “You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew6.24)
II What is money and wealth?
Money and wealth are considered as a security ring by many. Having enough money now and surplus in deposits will provide secure future. In case of emergency, like sickness, this kind of savings would help. (Some may have medical insurance). Or a business loss could be offset if there is enough money to bear the loss.
Wealth is money in different forms: shares or assets or real estate or gold. The values for these are expected to go up, so when converted to cash, the money is larger than the amount invested. In a way, surplus money is channeled into creating wealth. Some time, people try to create future wealth by savings and investing.
Few have surplus money to invest. Others like to use all the money for themselves. That is utilizing all beyond their need, which could be termed as multiplying the comfort and taken to extreme level termed as luxury. Wise people save for future while foolish people spend all and face insecure and unknown future.
III Paradox of money
The paradox of money and wealth is difficult to fathom. Here are some of the ideas about money and wealth.
- In Vs. out
Human beings do not bring anything – material thing into the world. So, they do not bring money or wealth with them when they are born. Similarly, they cannot take anything with them. Naked you come into the world and naked you go away from the world. Job declares that he came naked from mother’s womb and would return naked i.e. without any wealth from the earth. (Job 1:21) That means the money and wealth could be used only while living on earth.
- Temporal Vs. Eternal
Is money temporal? Money or currency in one country may not be valid in another country. In that situation, how it could be valid in eternal sense? Both Job 1:21 and Ecclesiastes 5:15 expound the principle that material things belong only to this world. These things do not have lasting value so irrelevant in the eternal perspective. So, contentment cannot spring from the material things.
Money could be used in such a way that the rewards are eternal. Using the wealth in such a way, that makes difference in the lives of people. Earn with temporal things the eternal rewards. This is not reward points offered by airlines or retail chains. May be money given to print a tract, and through that tract one person comes to the Lord. That means the money has earned eternal rewards. This is the meaning of storing treasure in heaven. (Luke 12:34)
3.3 Save and spend
Money should be saved or spent? Some economies are based on savings. The saved money is invested to create wealth or business. But in some economies, people spend their future income. That means they borrow and spend the money and pay back later. Which economy is healthy is matter of debate and speculation.
Ant is shown as an example in Proverbs that saves for winter in summer. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer.” (Proverbs 6:6-8) It is wise to save or invest for future.
- Creating wealth Vs. Creating consumerism
The Parable of Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) teaches about creating wealth. The five talented person was expected to earn and he earned five more talents; so did the person with two talents. That means they invested and created wealth. Another extreme was the one talented man did not use it up or invest but buried it. It did not do well either for him or others.
Another option was to eat up the one talent – use it for selfish purposes. In a way that is the methodology of mindless consumerism. God expectation is that the talents are to be invested and multiplied.
- Earn or extort
Earning profit is not sin. The parable of talents is a good example of Lord Jesus teachings that attests the business of profit making. The profit should be reasonable, sustainable to continue to the business but not extorting the people for luxurious living. Extortion by unlawful means like corruption and bribery is also sin.
- Content or discontent
Money inherently is not evil, but the attitude towards money. The Christian goal is a genuine relationship with God, our source of contentment, and a healthy detachment from material things. This gives a bonus of Great Gain. (1 Timothy 6:6) Contentment is true spirituality and is obtained when a person is not all attracted by money or covetousness or greed. In fact, such person is grateful always to God and does not murmur or grumble.
- Need or greed
There is a vast difference between need and greed. God has promised to meet our needs and not greed. Greed is insatiable desire to have more. It drove Judas one of the disciples of Lord Jesus to sell Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. He loved the illegitimate, murderous and easy money and betrayed the Lord. Then he hates the very same money and throws it in the temple (Matt 27:3). The wealth earned by greed could become bitterness to the soul.
- Legitimate and illegitimate
Wealth earned should be legitimate, according to the law of the country. Using corrupt means, to usurp other’s wealth or inheritance is prohibited. King Ahab used unlawful means to obtain the vineyard from Naboth (I Kings 21). In the Parable of Talents the Master commended and rewarded the five talented and two talented servants as they multiplied wealth by legitimate means. (Matthew 25:14-30)
- Wealth Vs. Worth
There are some people who believe a worth of a person is determined by the wealth he or she possesses. Life does not consist of abundance of riches. (Luke 12: 15)
IV Attitude towards Poverty
Lord Jesus Christ said that the poor will always be among you. (John 12:8) Poverty will be part and parcel of the Fallen humanity and imperfect world. The systems and structures are taken advantage of by smart and intelligent people and it is also manipulated by the criminal minded, vile and wicked people to amass wealth. Hence, the riches mostly is lopsided which deprives a chunk of population. Poverty is created by human selfishness.
God has allowed poverty in the world to test the non-poor. Their compassion, concern, generosity and mercy is hard tested by the presence of poverty in the society. Instead of asking why God is allowing poor to suffer, we have to think how I can help poor to come out of their poverty. It is also test of disciples whether they demonstrate brotherly love to other fellow believers. (II Peter 1:7)
V Attitude of rich towards poor: Three aspects
There was no attitude of caring, sharing and providing dignity to others. The Parable of Richman and Lazarus brings out the attitude towards the poor. (Luke 16: 19-31)
The pavement dwellers from the rich man’s balcony were clearly visible. This beggar was annoyance. Even today, the rich want the slums to be out of sight, poor to be invisible in the city. In an honour and shame culture, India has to be displayed as city with malls, skyscrapers, space power, nuclear power and quest for water from moon. For these, getting pizza in fifteen minutes is progress. Police or ambulance arriving few hours later in rural areas is not newsworthy and such news should be banned from media. The media that gives such news is irresponsible and is tarnishing the image of the country, hence anti-natiional.
This man was overfed and was not willing to share. However, this man wanted to dictate the other person eats. The menu would be dictated by this man. Eggs were withdrawn from mid-day meals provided in the schools in one State of India. Only 25 percent are vegetarians. Most of these vegetarians do not send their children to schools where mid-day meals is served. However, they want to dictate what others eat.
The rich man was unconcerned, did not have sympathy or mercy on that beggar named Lazarus. It was easy, simple and possible for the rich man to provide one good meal for the beggar. It would have hardly made any difference in this home budget. Graciousness and generosity is not a natural human virtue. This rich man thought he was fortunate, lucky and even divinely blessed that he need not be concerned about less fortunate, marginalized and deprived. He did not understand, God has placed this man right there to test his character. The rich man failed miserably in the character evaluation. A wise poor man saves a city from peril. However, his contribution is not recognized or rewarded or remembered. (Ecclesiastes 9:15) This is the general attitude of people towards poor.
VI Attitude towards Possession
The attitude of the Rich Young Man towards possession kept him away from following Lord Jesus Christ. (Matthew 19: 16-30 and Mark 10:17-27)
- Victim of discontent
This man who came to Jesus was a rich man. He had more than enough. It is said that Socrates once exclaimed, looking at the sea port’s vast merchandise: “How many things are here that I do not need at all.” Today’s malls also pile up a variety of things, which may not be even be used once in a lifetime. Wealth is good but not good enough for a meaningful life.
Riches have an inherent quality of deceitfulness to numb a person from spiritual things. The Word of God, which is like a seed, cannot fully grow when the deceitfulness of riches chokes it. (Matthew 13:22) Riches also can make a person arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. (Ezekiel 16:49) as were the citizens of Sodom. When Lord Jesus Christ said that we have to choose between God and money (mammon), it is obvious Satan has personified himself as money and wealth. No human being would deliberately choose Satan. Hence deceiver Satan has made money as idol to trap innocent people.
Riches lead to consumerism and materialism. There is a futile attempt by people to substitute all aspects of life by material things. Instead of love for children, parents offer gadgets. Instead of time for children, parents offer tour to Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. In the same vein, they try to offer God huge sums of money in lieu of worship, love and obedience.
- Mind-set of commercialization
Riches give the mind-set of commercialization. With market forces dominating the thinking of our post-modern world, time, service, water and other things become commodity for trade. If riches have so much power in the world, then why not forgiveness and even citizenship in heaven purchased?
- Root cause of all evil
Money is not the root of all evil, but love of money is the root cause of all evil in the world. (I Timothy 6:10) Young people in the cities have so many opportunities to earn money, and yet that has led them into all kinds of evil habits such as drug abuse, sex abuse, alcoholism, and hedonism. Young people working in BPOs and children of rich studying in educational institutions are trapped in a variety of sins.
- Possessed by possession
An eagle had a big fish clutched in its claws. It was quite a good meal for the eagle. It has got a prime catch which all eagles cherish. As the eagle began to fly up the weight of the fish was little heavy. As it tried to fly higher it became too heavy. It tried to shake off the fish from its claws, but could not as the claws have dug deep. In the struggle, the eagle was pulled down into the water and it died by drowning. This is same as for the rich people who love to become richer and richer. Like the eagle they are possessed by the possession. There is no relief or release, it leads to ultimate death.
VII Mirage of money
As a deer becomes thirsty, searches for water. It can see water little further away and run towards it. However, deer runs but the water body seems to be out of reach. This optical illusion phenomenon is known as mirage. The deer is chasing a mirage to quench the thirst. If it pursues little more vigorously it would die. It is same with money, wealth and assets. In the world, people pursue possessions to quench their inner quest. Even if they inherit possessions, their quest for truth, life and purpose is not quenched. Many people perish in this pursuit. Lord Jesus Christ is the Truth, Reality, Absolute, when we have Him, we have all we need in this world and in eternity.
Today, there are many young people are pursuing dreams of easy money, unlimited entertainment and riches for generation. Like deer pursuing a mirage, they run and run and at the end perish without hope. They could think themselves as smart in the world, however, they do not understand the Word of Christ: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 9:36,37)
Money or assets or wealth are neutral things in the world. They could be used for the glory of God. If not, these possessions could become our only focus in the world. That results in the slavery to the riches. That means life without purpose or meaning. As disciples of Lord Jesus Christ, our attitude towards money, possession, assets and wealth should be according to biblical principles. We ought to be stewards of riches rather than be slave of riches.