The Bible’s Viewpoint
Must Christians Be Poor?
JESUS once told a rich young ruler that he needed to go and sell all his belongings and give to the poor. The account says that the man grew sad at Jesus’ saying and went off grieved, “for he was holding many possessions.” Then Jesus said to his disciples: “How difficult a thing it will be for those with money to enter into the kingdom of God!” Jesus added: “It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.”—Mark 10:21-23; Matthew 19:24.
What did Jesus mean? Are wealth and true worship incompatible? Should Christians feel guilty if they have money? Does God require that they lead a materially austere life?
God Welcomes “All Sorts of Men”
In ancient times God did not demand that the Israelites live in poverty. Consider: After taking up the land that was apportioned to them, the people engaged in farming and business to provide for themselves and their loved ones. Such factors as economic conditions, weather, health, or business acumen would affect the success of their efforts. The Law of Moses directed Israelites to be compassionate if any suffered economically and became poor. (Leviticus 25:35-40) On the other hand, some became rich. Boaz, a man of faith and integrity who became an ancestor of Jesus Christ, is described as “a man mighty in wealth.”—Ruth 2:1.
The situation remained the same during Jesus’ lifetime. In speaking to the rich man mentioned at the outset, it was not Jesus’ intention to promote asceticism. Rather, he was teaching an important lesson. From a human standpoint, it might appear impossible for rich individuals to display humility and accept God’s means of salvation. Yet, Jesus said: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”—Matthew 19:26.
The first-century Christian congregation welcomed “all sorts of men.” (1 Timothy 2:4) This included some who were rich, others who had a comfortable means of living, and many who were poor. Some individuals may have accumulated riches before becoming Christians. In other cases favorable circumstances and wise business decisions might have brought wealth afterward.
Likewise, the Christian brotherhood today includes people in a variety of economic circumstances. They all strive to follow the Bible’s guidance on money matters, as materialism can affect anyone. The lesson Jesus taught involving the rich young ruler alerts every Christian to the powerful hold money and possessions can have on a person.—Mark 4:19.
A Warning for the Rich
While wealth in itself is not condemned in the Bible, the love of money is. The Bible writer Paul said: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” He noted that by forfeiting spiritual interests out of a desire to be rich, “some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Timothy 6:10.
Interestingly, Paul gave specific instructions for the rich. He said: “Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17) Evidently there is a danger that rich people might become proud and feel superior to others. Also, they may be tempted to think that riches can offer true security—something that only God can fully provide.
Affluent Christians can guard against these dangers by being “rich in fine works.” These works include being “liberal, ready to share,” giving generous assistance to those in need. (1 Timothy 6:18) Christians—rich and poor—can also use some of their resources to spread the good news of God’s Kingdom, a chief concern of true Christians today. This openhearted spirit reveals a proper attitude toward material assets and endears a person to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, who love cheerful givers.—Matthew 24:14; Luke 16:9; 2 Corinthians 9:7.
The More Important Things
Clearly, Christians are not required to be poor. Neither should they be “determined to be rich.” (1 Timothy 6:9) They simply work hard to earn a reasonable means of living. Depending on various factors and the economic system under which they live, their efforts will meet with different levels of success.—Ecclesiastes 11:6.
Whatever their financial circumstances are, Christians should endeavor to “make sure of the more important things.” (Philippians 1:10) By putting spiritual values first, they are “safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.”—1 Timothy 6:19.