That was the question on the cover of TIME this past week.
I admit I had a number of reactions. My first was to ask myself what sort of coverage a “secular” newsmagazine would give to a question that has caused much disagreement among Christians.
Another reaction was to recollect a routine by Eddie Murphy on some old TV show. He came on, dressed in gaudy clothes, sort of a hybrid between a televangelist and a pitchman on an infomercial. He pointed his finger at the screen and shouted, “You can make me rich!” This was followed by a satirical pitch. I have often suspected that this was the real, but hidden message, of many “health and wealth” preachers.
Another reaction was simply to answer the question, “Apparently God doesn’t want me rich, because I’m not rich.” Of course, further thinking forced me to admit that I am rich – materially – in comparison to most people in the world.
When I opened up to the article, I did find a fairly balanced coverage of the question. It presented opinions and even gave lists of proof texts for both sides.
So where do I start when writing about a question which has been addressed by so many? I believe the first place we should start is with the Bible. But we can’t, as so many do (and as the TIME article does), just pull out proof texts that support our opinions and throw them at each other.
1. We need to distinguish which promises stated in the Bible are addressed to us – Christians, New Covenant believers. Contrary to popular opinion and an old gospel chorus, every promise In the Book AIN’T mine. Many of the promises quoted are given to God’s Old Covenant people – ethnic and national Israel. They were promised land and material wealth for obedience, and suffering for disobedience. We weren’t! Though many preachers love to quote Malachi 3:10, (“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”), this passage was not directed toward God’s New Covenant people.
2. New Testament promises, such as Luke 6:38 and John 10:10, concerning the abundant life should not be interpreted as referring to material blessings and abundance. They need to be compared to Jesus’ other teachings on wealth.
3. Jesus Himself was poor, not just by our 21st century standards, but by those of His own day. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). And this was a poverty that He chose.
4. Jesus taught over and over about the dangers of wealth. Even the TIME article quotes Matthew 6:19-21; Mark 10:24-26 and Luke 12:33. Jesus warns us that, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). He doesn’t say “may not,” He says “cannot.” He is not denying us permission, He is denying that we have the ability. If we make the acquisition of material wealth our master, then God isn’t our master. It’s that simple!
5. The apostle Paul warns of the dangers, not of wealth in itself but of the desire for it. “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). A little further down in the same passage, (1 Timothy 6:17-19) he instructs the rich that riches are not to be an object of their hope, but are to be a tool to be used to serve God and others.
So to get back to the question above, I’d have to answer “possibly.” That’s up to Him. But if God does want me rich, it is so that I may use it for His glory and if He doesn’t want me rich, that’s for His glory as well.