Bill Press

Godliness and material possessions

Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.”


Craig Blomberg in his book Neither Poverty Nor Riches provides some devastating statistics on western attitudes to wealth. Admittedly these are from the USA but I imagine the UK’s are not much different.

For example, Americans spend annually twice as much on cut flowers as on overseas Protestant missions; almost five times as much on pets; one and a half times as much on skin care; approximately seven times as much on sweets; seventeen times as much on diets and diet-related products; twenty six times as much on soft drinks; and an appalling 140 times as much on legalised gambling activities.

With these shocking figures in mind, what does the Bible say about possessions and wealth?

First, it teaches that God has provided material possessions for us to enjoy (1 Timothy 6.17).   Christians are not to be ascetics because that would imply that all the good, material gifts of God are second rate.   Indeed there are many rich people to be found in the Bible: Job, Abraham, David, Solomon etc.. God gave them all they had and he has given us everything we have too.

Secondly, however, material possessions can easily turn a heart away from God. By way of warning, Jesus described mammon as God’s rival.   We must choose whom to serve – but not both (Luke 16.13). In Luke’s gospel especially, many parables warn us of the dangers of money (Luke 12.13-21). The apostle Paul famously wrote how ‘the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil’ (1 Timothy 6.10).   The danger is that riches may choke the seed of the gospel so we must never set our hearts on them.

Thirdly, good stewardship is an important aspect of a Christian’s life.   Paul described how the Jerusalem elders supported his Gentile mission adding, ‘Only they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do’ (Galatians 2.10). And Paul ended his emotional farewell to the Ephesian elders by saying, ‘… help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus how He Himself said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20.35). The Bible warns us about the hoarding of resources (Luke 12.13-20; 19.19-31).

Finally, the Bible intertwines its teaching on material possessions with more spiritual matters. Christians, whether rich or poor, must think carefully about their material possessions and how they are used to promote the name of Jesus. Poverty for its own sake is never idealised. Likewise godly rich people who are big-hearted and compassionate are never condemned. It is generosity, whether we are wealthy or poor, which God commends (Luke 21.2).

Sincerely in Christ


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