The Bible talks a lot about the poor and makes it clear that we should not ignore their plight (Proverbs 22:22; Deuteronomy 15:7; James 2:5–6). When God sent His Son into the world, He did not place Him in a palace or mansion. Jesus was born into a family of humble means (Mark 6:3; John 1:46). The Bible has examples of rich people being blessed by God, including Abraham (Genesis 13:2), Jacob (Genesis 30:43), and Solomon (1 Kings 10:23). But, in the overwhelming majority of cases, when Scripture speaks of material wealth, it warns us of the dangers of having riches. It is not a sin to be rich, but riches certainly invite temptation. The sin is not in possessing wealth but in our attitudes about that wealth and in the ways we use it.
First Timothy 6:9 says, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Verse 10 goes on to say, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” Many have misquoted this verse to say that money is the root of all evil, but that is incorrect. The verse says that the love of money is what ensnares us. Our idols define us. When we focus on earthly success, wealth, relationships, or fame, we become idolaters. When our earthly goals become the most important things in our lives, we cannot also please the Lord (Romans 8:8).
God may grant earthly riches to His people who will distribute those riches the way He wants. Rich Christians who do not treat money as an idol are a blessing to many. They start charities, contribute to help orphans and widows (James 1:27), and keep their local churches financially stable (Malachi 3:10). Without wealthy Christians, many missionaries could not serve on the field.
Zacchaeus was a rich man, but his gains were ill-gotten and his life was characterized by greed. But then he met Jesus, and the Lord changed his life. Zacchaeus’s transformation affected every part of his life, including the way he handled money: “Look, Lord,” he said, “I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8, NKJV). In finding salvation in Christ, Zacchaeus also found a new purpose for his wealth. It was not a sin for him to be rich, but it would have been a sin for him to continue cheating people or to use his riches for selfish purposes. God gives wealth to the wealthy for them to benefit others.
God wants us to enjoy all He has given us, as long as we don’t allow the gift to become the god. We are to consider everything we have as a loan from the Lord and ask Him how He wants us to use it (Psalm 50:9–12). When our hearts are not drawn away by the desire for riches, we can prove ourselves faithful stewards of that which God has entrusted to us.