“There are two ways to get enough: one is to accumulate more. The other is to desire less.” – G.K. Chesterton
Wealthy Christians. This subject is one not always well received within the church, but I still think it needs to be addressed. You may not come to the same conclusions, but I believe that the matter of greed within modern Christianity has been overlooked for far too long.
I began really evaluating what I believed about Christians and wealth a couple years back when a prominent pastor I followed began living a very extravagant lifestyle, surrounding himself with powerful people and the wealthy community in his city. The way he handled his finances didn’t bother me at first, but as the continued accumulation and a massive house upgrade continued, the more my conscience was troubled. Once the house he purchased was reportedly one of the 5 largest homes in a large metropolitan area, I began asking a question we all should be asking:
How much is too much, especially for a follower of Jesus?
Leaders within the church who may live excessively may still have a heart for the Gospel, so I’m not condemning them, nor am I encouraging members of those churches to abandon the community. What I’m asking is this: do we even care about the matter of greed within the church?
These questions don’t just apply to mega-church pastors, celebrities, or wealthy business men and women; this question applies to all of us.
I could go on all day about my own opinions, but since we’re addressing the matter of wealth within the Christian community, I figured the Scriptures would be better suited for this discussion. So, let’s examine some of the words of Paul in the book of 1 Timothy.
“A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-8
This doesn’t seem to point to a life of excess, in my personal understanding of the passage. Rather, Paul seems to be pointing to a life of contentment, even in the presence of great monetary abundance. Let’s continue:
“But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.” – 1 Timothy 6:11-12
The pursuit of the heart of a follower of Jesus should be a life of righteousness, not a life that is consuming excessive possessions and excessive comfort.
Before we go any further, please understand that I am not advocating the gospel of poverty or the support of vagabond living. When we go to such an extreme, we become of no use in generously giving towards those in need.
What I’m discussing is something much different: being content with a modest life and being rich in generosity.
“Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” – 1 Timothy 6:17-19
If I make $10 million dollars a year and give away $8 million, I am still a millionaire…Is that really a sacrifice of generosity?
Maybe I’m wrong…Maybe I’m simply looking at this from the view of a skeptical Christian. But what if Paul is pointing to a life of radical generosity? What if God desires us to give sacrificially where it becomes about others, not about ourselves?
I may give 90% of my money to others, but if I am still living to the point where I am excessively living in luxury, maybe I should check my heart…
A few years ago, a friend of mine who is not a follower of Christ told me about his skepticism of modern church leaders who live in luxury, not in sacrifice. The lavish lifestyle of this pastor was distracting from the message of the Gospel of Jesus. The world knows that Jesus is about radical generosity and sacrifice, which often confuses those outside of the American church. How can that pastor live such a lavish life, at the same time as he preaches about a God who lived a life of complete sacrifice? Does that even add up?
That’s just my opinion; maybe it will change as time goes by.
What do you believe? I’m willing to be wrong about this one, but shouldn’t we always be checking ourselves in matters of the heart?