Biblical economics have gone through a rollercoaster ride. 100 years ago, it was almost fashionable to be poor if you were a believer. Hardly anyone spoke on this subject. Pastors were kept poor, churches were kept poor, and wrong teachings kept God’s people in poverty.
Today, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. Everybody is speaking on biblical economics. Being rich and wealthy has become a lifestyle and a goal. If you’re rich, it’s because God’s blessing you, and this has become known as the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ which has infected and corrupted a whole generation.
Now, while there’s truth to this teaching, the goal of the Christian in Scripture has never been to become wealthy. Wealth and prosperity are a result and outflow of walking in covenant with God. The common and popular teaching today is: If I give, then God is obliged to give back to me many times over. I give only to get. So, the whole motivation in giving has been driven by greed. The Prosperity Gospel has corrupted many saints, and never before in history has the Church seen so much prosperity and wealth.
There are two extreme attitudes towards money – both are wrong.
The first attitude is to think that money is evil. There was a pop song many years ago entitled ‘Money is the root of all evil. Take it away, take it away’. That’s a misquotation of the Bible which doesn’t say that. Then there are those who feel that, if we can get rid of money, sin and selfishness would go too.
There were people like Karl Marx and Aristotle who felt that the abolition of private property and wealth would put all our problems right. But it didn’t. At the other extreme, there are those who feel that money is a completely good thing, and that it’s a good thing to get as much as you can.
In the famous movie ‘Wall Street’, the villain, played by Michael Douglas, says these infamous words: “Greed is good”, and it became a creed for many on Wall Street that has destroyed the lives of countless numbers of people. The problem is, people often identify success with making lots of money. But money itself is neither good nor evil! It is amoral – morally neutral. But money talks.
Someone has said that, if you knew exactly how a person got all his money and exactly what he did with it when he got it, you wouldn’t need to know anything more to describe his character and spiritual quality. I think that there’s some truth in that!
I was with a well-known preacher once and he told me this fascinating story. He said he had spoken to a group of businessmen and, after the meeting, someone came up and ask him how he got to the meeting. “Well”, the preacher said, “I took the train.” The businessman was a little horrified. He asked, “How are you returning home?” “By train”, the man said. “No, I’ll send you back and I insist!” Well, that man happened to be a wealthy man who owned a successful car dealership. So he asked the speaker what car he drove and again he was shocked when he discovered the preacher’s car. So he told the preacher to drop by the dealership and choose any car he desired and it was his.
The preacher was very reluctant but eventually made his way with his wife to the showroom and the owner suggested he choose the BMW X5. The man of God said, “No, it’s just too flashy.” But after some coercion, he finally agreed on the X3. He drove it home. The very next day, someone knocked on his door and said to him, “You’re not going to get a single cent for your ministry from me.” Every day, for about six weeks, people were pulling their support from his ministry because they heard of the car. He finally returned it after six weeks because there was too much criticism and fallout.
Those donors wouldn’t even listen when they were told it was a gift and the ministry had to resort to renting a car, which was an extra expense and burden – it was just a waste of resources. When I heard this, I felt sick in my gut. Why do people treat their pastors and ministers this way? Why can’t they rejoice when they see a man of God being blessed? Often, they forget that they’re where they are because of the association to the blessings that’s upon the pastor. It’s true.
May the Lord deliver us from a poverty mentality, and may He also deliver us from greed. Both are wrong – and both are bad.