Is Being Rich a Sin?

   The Israelite’s were warned by Moses to beware lest they forget the LORD their God after reaching the Promised Land. They were commanded to destroy everything, howsoever valuable or good it may be to look at and not crave for the same. The aim was to save them from the temptation of riches that would shift their focus from God towards the wealth or other things including idols of their gods made of gold. God desires the same from believers also lest we get blinded by the riches of this world. It is important to maintain a balance between wealth that enable us to fulfill all worldly responsibilities while remaining fully committed to the Lord and His kingdom.

          How could Solomon fail the Lord? – Solomon’s background is exceptional – his father David was declared by God as ‘a man of My heart’ and the way he organized the worship of God in the Tabernacle is followed even today. He started off as the youngest son of Jesse, made responsible for the family sheep but ended up as the most loved king of Israel. Stories of his love for God are legendary. Even after being chased by Saul for many years, he mourned his death from the heart. David had the Amalekite man, who came to inform about Saul’s death, executed on learning that he had killed the late king by declaring, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” (2 Samuel 1:14). King Saul was afflicted by an evil spirit and one of his advisers suggested to call a musician to help him find relief from the spirit. David’s name was suggested and his qualities of being brave, a warrior and one who could play the lyre were surpassed by the statement, :And the LORD is with him” (1 Samuel 16:18). He donated 3,000 talents (1, 50,000 kg) of gold and 7,000 talents (3, 50,000 kg) of silver besides various other precious things (1 Chronicles 29:3-5).

         Solomon had to fulfill great expectations of people and the pressures of the job were evident in his prayer to the LORD, who visited him in a dream, ‘give me a discerning heart and ability to distinguish between right and wrong’. God was pleased with this request and granted his request fully making him the wisest person on the earth and added ‘honor and great wealth’ with that (1 Kings 3:7-9 & 12-13). He followed exactly all statutes of the Scripture initially but later faltered and married many women of other nations. He revealed his life style, “I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives….. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;     I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil (Ecclesiastes 2:3; 10).

         Solomon did the same what Adam and Eve had done in the Garden of Eden – eating of the fruit to acquire worldly knowledge while being unsatisfied with what knowledge God had given. The women from different nations that were brought into his harem through marriage brought idols of their own gods and urged Solomon to join them in worship. He disobeyed the LORD’s command not to marry women of other nations, “because they will turn your hearts after their gods”. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines and ‘his heart was not was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of his father David had been’ and Solomon followed Ashtoreth and other gods (1 Kings 11:1-6).

         Is it a sin to be wealthy? – No, the command of the Lord Jesus to the rich young man to ‘sell everything and follow Him’ was to test his dependence on his wealth. Even the subsequent statement that ‘the rich cannot enter God’s kingdom’ is illustrated by, “with man it is impossible but all things are possible with God” (Matthew 19:23-24 & 26). What the Savior Lord declared is in line with what Moses had cautioned the Israelites about, “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD, your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11). Why do we forget God and His commands is a question that has haunted all of mankind from the Garden of Eden itself, where God had provided everything – fruit trees, animals and birds, gold and precious stones (Genesis 2:12-13). And God would meet them every day in the evening to guide and bless them.

         To stay connected and committed to God the Muslims pray 5 times and the Jews pray 3 times daily. Apostle Paul has commanded all believers to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But this does not mean that we should sit down and do nothing else but it should be as effortless as breathing – we are aware but not focused on it. The atmosphere around us exerts pressure on our body and lungs forcing us to breathe. In like manner evil and the forces of darkness surrounding us put pressure on us as the ‘roaring lion seeking whom to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8) and resistance is the only response that is required of us. Apostle Paul describes this as a spiritual battle that is fought through prayer while watching out for each other lest we succumb to the pressure of evil.

         We are born into a family that God decides for us and follow its values and customs till attaining maturity by which time we become capable of forming our own beliefs adding on to what we inherit. At baptism we join God’s family and we enter into a spiritual atmosphere of God’s presence and grace and this environment creates its own pressure on us. In this divine atmosphere we breath in blessings from God through prayer while remaining connected to this new environment till we finally enter it on leaving the earth.

           That is why the Savior Lord warned, “If your vision is poor the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness. No one can ser4ve two masters, either he will hate the one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:23-24). If focus of our vision itself is money, how can we pray without ceasing? The economic principle of depreciation requires certain amount of growth to beat value loss. Right after creating everything God established the priorities of life for Adam and Eve – after giving God the first place the command is, “Be fruitful and multiply (family life), fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over (business or work)” (Genesis 1:28). Any change in this God decided priorities will always lead to sin and sickness with broken relationships with God or within family. 

         Managing the fine balance between work and relationships is given by Lord Jesus through the Parable of Talents, where the master proceeds on a journey while entrusting his property to his servants. On return the servants were asked to settle accounts when two were found to have doubled what was given, thus getting promoted to greater responsibilities and entry into “the joy of the master” (Matthew 25:14-30). He employed hard working and loyal staff, evaluated their performances and rewarded them accordingly without himself getting fully enmeshed with his work at the cost of relationships.

          Warren Buffett is one of the richest men on earth yet he lives in the same small house that he lived earlier, travels by a normal flight and donates much of his wealth to charity. Bill Gates and many others are actively involved in caring for others through donating their wealth thus proving that wealth is a means to help others and it is not their God. Apostle Paul has strengthened this further, “I know  what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength(Philippians 4:12-13).

         Prophet Elijah whose name means, “Jehovah is my strength”, introduced himself to King Ahab – “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand” and then prophesied about no rain for the next three years. When we stand in His Divine presence always only then do we become instruments fit for His use. Elijah was sent by God to the brook Cherith with the promise that the ravens will bring him food and then placed in the house of a widow in Zarephath who had flour for just one meal (1 Kings 17:1-7). King David declares “The Lord is my strength and my shield, in Him my heart trusts” (Psalm 28:7) and then wealth creation also becomes worship of God and is used for His glory and His kingdom.

          Agur meaning ‘collector’ first admits his ignorance about God and his own lack of much wisdom while elaborating the greatness of God and purity of His Word. Then he makes two requests to God that must form the basis of life of any God loving person while adding a warning ‘do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you’. Apostle John also has issued the same warning in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 22:18-19). Agur’s two requests are – First, give me just enough and not too much lest I forget You and secondly, do not give me so little that I may steal and profane Your name (Proverbs 30:1-9). Agur declares God’s wisdom and ways are different and greater than man’s and are difficult to understand requiring us to act in faith as mentioned elsewhere also in Scripture (Isaiah 55:8-9).

         The temptation of riches will be there and gets couched in different colors, ‘I am doing all for God’s work’ to make a bigger church for more souls to be saved. And then with thousands pouring in comes exclusiveness, luxury and ego satisfaction with sin of self idolatry in abundance. In poverty also one would curse God, steal or follow evil practices and in both cases focus gets shifted away from God. King Solomon, after trying everything came to the conclusion, “So I loathed all the fruit of my effort for which I worked so hard on earth, because I must leave it behind in the hands of my successor. Who knows he will be a wise man or a fool?” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19).

         Final charge by Apostle Paul – Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and makes believers wander from the faith causing various types of grief for the lovers of it. Timothy is cautioned to be a real man of God, “flee from the love of money and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith”. Apostle Paul then warns about the ill effect of riches, which are – first, pride which comes from the arrogance of superiority for status is measured by a person’s wealth. God desires us to enjoy life and we are to put our hope in Him ‘who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’. Second, self righteousness(1 Timothy 6:10-19), and Moses warned the Israelites that “After the LORD has removed the previous residents, do not claim that God did this due to my righteousness” (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).

           What should be our attitude towards wealth – Job lost all his children, wealth and reputation of righteous living in one day. Yet he declared, “Naked I came and naked I will go. God gives and He has taken away” (Job 1:21). The Garden of Eden and all of creation is His and we are only custodians tasked to care for it and use it for His glory. Apostle Paul advises us to “do good and be rich in good deeds, be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18-19). Above all set the priorities of life right with God first, then family and then work or wealth creation. When seriously ill no one wants to see his gold, bank pass-books or property papers, we want to be our loved ones.

         Lord’s Prayer has first four very important aspects about our life and work. First, Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Through my work and life and all that God has given me, how am I trying to achieve these three aspects of my relationship with God. It is only then that I can ask for my daily bread which cannot be accumulated and ensures my dependence on Him. Invariably I do not want any part in the first three but desire abundance of the fourth.

How much am I asking from Him?

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