Is Christianity a Means to Gain Wealth?

It is often said, quite unfortunately, that if you want to make quick money from people, start a church. That is the common narrative today. This thought has intensified, especially in the wake of increased prosperity teaching and preaching, robbing the gospel of its value and power as expressed in Romans 1:16-17. We must interrogate these things to set a clear basis for calling people to the faith. 

Humanity and Wealth

Since the beginning of time (Genesis 1), man has lived under God’s providence. Throughout human history, man has had the opportunity to own significant amounts of wealth. All the ancient civilizations are filled with stories of emperors who owned vast acres of land, gold, silver and other precious stones. history.com cites some of the earliest and wealthiest civilizations in Africa:

  • The Kingdom of Kush, though often overshadowed by Egyptian neighbours to the north, was a regional power in Africa for over a thousand years. It was an economic centre that operated a lucrative ivory, incense, iron and gold market. 
  • The Land of Punt, which dates back around 2500 B.C., was a “Land of the gods” known for its gold, myrrh, and other precious stones. 
  • Carthage was a North African city that thrived for over 500 years. They traded in textiles, gold, silver and copper. 
  • The Kingdom of Aksum ruled parts of what is now Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. It was also prominent in the ivory trade, and they exported gold to Europe.

These are just a few African civilizations that owned vast wealth—and we have not even looked at Asia and Europe’s old civilizations. Humanity is filled with stories of wealthy people who were not necessarily godly. To conclude, therefore, that there is a definite correlation between wealth and Christianity is a significant oversight because most of these rulers were undoubtedly not Christians. 

The Bible and Wealth

Be that as it may, the Bible is not all about messages of wealthy people who walked this land and served the living God. It is easy to miss the point of worship when one looks at the lives of Old Testament patriarchs God used, inferring that wealth is and should be a definite outcome of trusting in the Lord. Now, unless we have a very biblically saturated understanding of the story of God in the Bible, it is not hard to hit off-road tangents in our teachings and theology. That is the menace of prosperity preaching and word of faith movements. However, we need not go too far to see how this teaching falls short in a world rife with extreme lifestyle disparities. Let us consider some Biblical figures.

  • Adam and Eve, the first people on earth, were truly rich (Genesis 1-2). God blessed them (Genesis 1:28) and gave them everything for enjoyment. The land had great resources that God supplied: gold, onyx, bdellium cornelian stones, topaz, aromatic resin and topaz (we do not even know what some of these things are). Ezekiel 28:13 describes the wealth that was in the Garden of Eden. They were indeed rich!
  • Job also had great wealth in those first centuries. He was righteous (Job 1:1) and the most illustrious in the East (Job 1:3)due to his great material possessions. After a stretch of tough times and suffering, the Bible tells us that God restored to him double what he had lost (Job 42:10). In modern-day currency, such as the USD, Job’s worth in animal possession alone would be an estimated 84 million or over. We have yet to count other things. The remarkable thing about Job was that his wealth did not consume him. 
  • Abraham, Israel’s patriarch and God’s friend (James 2:23, Genesis 13:2), was equally rich in silver, gold, cattle, and other material possessions. Though he had such great wealth—which God kept increasing (Genesis 13:6, 24:1)—his faith grew stronger despite these great possessions.  
  • Ishmael, Abraham’s son through Hagar (Genesis 16:1-4) was also blessed of God. He made Ishmael a great nation from whom kings would come (Genesis 25:12-17). 
  • Isaac, the son of promise, is also known for his wealth (Genesis 26:12)–crops, among other things. So much was his wealth that the Philistines had to force him out of their land when he dwelt there (Genesis 26:17-32). However, wherever he went, he only became wealthier. 
  • Jacob was wealthy like his grandfather and father (Genesis 25-50). He started at his uncle Laban’s farm (Genesis 31:3). Later, he owned many heads of cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep, goats, and servants.

We can cite many others known to have owned much wealth as they walked with the LORD. In the New Testament, we have wealthy people too, such as Joseph called Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37)), Dorcas (Acts 9:36), Cornelius (Acts 10:1), Lydia (Acts 16:14-15), Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2-3) and even Philemon (Philemon 1). These were all faithful Christians who were wealthy, too. We must take note of the examples they set forth for us by realizing that the Lord places great responsibility upon the wealthy. 

Biblical Christianity

With these examples of wealthy unbelievers and believers, we must respond to the question: Is Christianity a means to gain wealth? And the straight answer is no. Christianity finds its identity not in something, some notion, but in someone–Jesus Christ (Acts 11:19-30). Why were Christians called so? Because their lives represented the person, character and works of their Master–Christ the risen Lord. Unlike many others, Paul and Barnabas lived spirit-filled and spirit-led lives, drawing a sharp contrast between them and the Judaizers. This evidence of transformed living didn’t rub many the right way, as it were.

What fundamentals define this Christian call that supersedes physical possessions? If we can note the eternal aspects of our faith, it will help us keep the message simple and the call clear—whether we gain wealth along the way or not. To set off this thought, we hear Christ’s words in Matthew 6:33, urging us to seek ‘first his kingdom and his righteousness’, and then everything else comes later. His charge was for the hearers to note that there is something more than food, clothing, and wealth that they need to pursue, and that is the Kingdom of God. Why? Because it is an eternal Kingdom (Psalm 145:13, Exodus 15:8, Daniel 4:3). Hence, he called his hearers to store their treasures, not on earth where moths and rust and thieves could destroy, but in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). 

In matters gospel ministry, we know that Christ was clear about his agenda when he came to earth–to seek and save the lost and to set captives free (John 3:16, Romans 1:16, Luke 19:10). He called out to the weary and heavy ladened to come to him for rest (Matthew 11:28-30). Whether they were wealthy or not is not a big deal. That is what Christianity is all about–coming to God, who alone can save us from our sins. It is a means of eternal redemption and transformation (Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:16-17), which no amount of wealth or riches can give. When we make Christianity to be a means of gaining wealth, we become deceivers, peddlers of the gospel, depraved in mind and of truth (1 Timothy 6:5-7). We become robbers of men and enemies of God. 

What should be said to those in war-torn countries and dilapidated conditions? What of those who live in slums and refugee camps? If Christianity is a means of gaining wealth, then God must be very unfair to them. It is enough to state–without fear of contradiction–that anyone who uses the gospel to gain wealth is a thief and a liar and is nowhere close to being a faithful minister of the gospel. With much fear and trembling, let us always have the following words by Paul in our minds, “If anyone preaches another gospel than the one we preached, let him be accursed!” (Galatians 1:6-12). 

References

http://genderi.org/evan-andrews.html

7 Influential African Empires | HISTORY. https://www.history.com/news/7-influential-african-empires

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