21 October 2002

Wealth

My wife and I once left a church because they were teaching that we should pray for wealth, as commanded by a self-styled modern-day Prophet. I wrote this letter to the elders in an attempt to explain my position. We were unable to agree, but parted on friendly terms.

I am concerned that we have released a deceiving spirit into the church.

Scripture is quite clear about what our attitude toward wealth should be:

  • "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1Tim 6:9-10, NIV)
  • Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Mt 6:19-21,24-25)
  • "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God…
    But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort." (Lk 6:20,24)
  • "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mt 19:23-24)

I don't know how many times someone has told me that it's no sin to be rich. That is literally true, of course. But wealth is portrayed everywhere in Scripture as a burden and a stumbling block, a common snare to seduce the faithful.

One such warning is in Deuteronomy 8:

  • "When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed." (Dt 8:10-14,17-19)

The passage is an exhortation to thankfulness, humility, and faithful obedience for the children of Israel. But Mr. Pierce wants us to memorize one verse out of context, and use it as license to pursue wealth.

He cites another verse without a reference, which I suspect is intended to be:

  • Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. (Mt 12:29)

The context is the Pharisees accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. The passage is certainly not talking about monetary wealth.

At another point, Mr. Pierce says, "Jesus also admonished us to multiply whatever we have (Luke 19)." This refers to the parable of the ten minas. Two servants invested the money they were given and were rewarded, while another servant hid the money and was punished. This is not teaching about money. It is about using the gifts we have been given for the good of the kingdom.

I find it appalling that people would quote Jesus as telling Christians to plunder the wealth of their enemies. That is so contrary to everything Jesus or the Scriptures ever taught.

  • "And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well." (Mt 5:40)
  • "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Mt 22:21)

Mr. Pierce rightly warns from Scripture that the Christian must not allow himself to be mastered by money. But he misses the point when he says that Christians can devote themselves to the pursuit of wealth without being mastered by it. That's like saying I can read Playboy all I want as long as I don't lust.

God does choose to bless some of his people with great wealth.

  • "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Lk 12:48)

We should learn from the widow's example (Mk 12:41-44). Instead of praying for more money, let's concentrate on being good stewards of what we have.

Just because a man claims to have a direct revelation from God does not make it so. Mr. Pierce's 31-day prayer focus is a perversion of Scripture worthy of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. As the elders and leaders of our church, I urge you to test this spirit against the Scriptures, and not allow it to deceive our body any further.

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