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Is it a sin to be rich?

It is not a sin to be rich, but the Bible does give many warnings concerning riches. Money is a tool to be used; therefore it is not inherently good or bad. But money is not worth our trust. It is fleeting and unsecure (Proverbs 23:5), and those who trust in it will fall (Proverbs 11:28). We are much better off trusting God for our needs and more likely to do so if we do not have mass wealth.

The Bible warns against the desire for riches. Paul writes to Timothy, "those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into a ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (1 Timothy 6:9–10). Notice this verse does not say that money is the root of evil, as it is sometimes misquoted. Rather, the love of money is a root of different kinds of evil. The love of money is idolatry, which is sin. And this idolatry can lead to many other evils. These evils might seem inconsequential at first, but they often have a way of growing as people keep seeking more and more riches. For those who love money over all else, more never becomes enough (Ecclesiastes 4:7–8; 5:10–12). What evils can the love of money lead to? For some the love of money could lead to neglecting to invest in relationships. For others the pursuit of wealth leads to dishonesty or taking advantage of others to varying degrees. Others might seek riches through clearly illicit means.

To those who have taken advantage of others to gain wealth and live indulgently, James writes "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you" (James 5:1–6). Being rich is not a sin, but abusing others in order to gain riches or oppressing others because you are rich is.

In Luke 12 Jesus warned against covetousness saying, "one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15). He then told a parable of a rich fool who put all his trust in his wealth only to die that very night with no one to inherit it. "So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:21). It is not a sin to be rich, but when our life's pursuit is to be rich, we will be left sorely lacking.

Ecclesiastes 5:8–20 shares a similar truth about the fleeting nature of wealth. That section concludes with, "Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart" (Ecclesiastes 5:18–20). We can enjoy our work and the good gifts God gives us, including the material ones. Notice that the ability to enjoy the gifts comes from God, not from the pursuit of wealth or the supposed security of being rich.

Abundant life isn't found in riches, it is found in putting your hope in Christ and creating a good foundation for your eternal life (John 10:10–11). God has gifted some people with riches, including prominent biblical figures such as Abraham, Jacob, and Solomon (Genesis 13:2; 30:43; 1 Kings 10:23). In fact, these riches were seen as a blessing from God. Jesus' ministry was supported by people of means (Luke 8:1–3). In the book of Acts we see rich believers voluntarily selling their possessions in order to help others in need (Acts 4:32–37). Second Corinthians 9 talks about believers giving to advance the work of ministry. Nowhere are these people condemned for being rich or for having money to contribute. Nowhere are they told to be ashamed of their wealth or to give all they had to the church or others (Acts 5:4; 2 Corinthians 9:6–7). Rather, the money is at their disposal to be used for the glory of God.

Neither does wealth give any inherent advantage to finding joy in this life or eternity. Solomon is presumed to be the "Preacher" in Ecclesiastes, and he decries the fleeting nature of wealth and its inability to provide meaning to life. Jesus warned that riches could be a stumbling block to coming to Him, as in the case of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17–31). When Jesus saw the rich giving their offerings and a poor widow giving her offering, He commented "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on" (Luke 21:3–4). God is interested in the state of our hearts, not the amount of our wealth.

It is not a sin to be rich, but how one views money, the actions one takes to gain money, and how one uses money can be sinful. However riches can be used to the glory of God. Paul gives special instructions for Christians who are rich, saying, "charge them not to be haughty, nor set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life" (1 Timothy 6:17–19). The Bible tells us to flee the craving for wealth, and instead "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness" (1 Timothy 6:11).

The concept of stewardship is helpful to discuss here. Our resources, whether financial or in abilities or time, no matter how large or small they seem in comparison to those of others, belong to God. He has entrusted them to us to use wisely for His glory. Jesus tells a parable where a master gives three of his servants a number of talents. By the time the master came back home, two of his servants have used the talents to increase the master's wealth, but the one whom the master only gave one talent buried it until the master's return. The master says to the last servant, "You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has ten talents" (Matthew 25:26–28). Our money, whether we have a great or small amount, is a gift from God that He has given us to use. If we are good stewards of our money, we use it wisely like the first two servants to increase our Master's kingdom.

Most importantly we are supposed to put our trust in God, not our money. Whether you are rich or poor, trusting money for security is a temptation that everyone faces. The world works in such a way that money is what puts a roof over our head, food on the table, and clothes on our backs, so when we have money we feel safe and when we don't (or don't have "enough") we are scared. But our God is greater and more powerful than this world, and all its resources belong to Him. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we become children of God. We can trust God to meet our every need (Matthew 6:33; Luke 11:1–13). Whatever riches you have, whether financial or in relationships or ability, thank God for the gift, enjoy it, and use it to His glory. We can gain understanding in how to best use those things to His glory by looking to God's Word. The Bible is filled with wisdom in how to best manage our finances and how to love others well.


Related Truth:

Does the Bible give advice on managing your finances?

What does the Bible say about generosity?

What is a biblical definition of success? What does the Bible say about success?

What does the Bible say about being poor?

What is a Christian view of materialism?


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