Now one of the mistakes we humans make is ‘falling in love with riches’.
I would have treated this point alongside pride, but knowing that at times it takes time for a Christian to be enriched by God, I thought it wise to treat this point as a single topic in this sermon. But before we go further, let us first and foremost get a understanding of what the word “riches” really means.
What is riches.
Riches has its origin or etymology from a German word “richesse”, from riche, rich, which is rightly defined in the following terms:
- The state of being rich, or of having large possessions in land, goods, money, or other valuable property; wealth; opulence; affluence: originally a singular noun, but from its form now regarded as plural.
- That which makes wealthy; any valuable article or property; hence, collectively, wealth; abundant possessions; material treasures.
- That which has a high moral value; any object of high regard or esteem; an intellectual or spiritual treasure: as, the riches of knowledge.
- The choicest product or representative of anything; the pearl; the flower; the cream.
- An abundance; a wealth: used as a hunting term, in the form richess or richesse. Strutt.
Its synonyms are Wealth, Affluence, etc. (see opulence), wealthiness, plenty, abundance.
Controversies about riches in Christendom.
Having understood what riches means, let me start here by reminding you that this word has brought so much controversies in Christendom because on one side you will find certain parties preaching against riches, telling believers that it is a sin for a child of God to have, save or rather store up large amounts of money and material possessions; these kinds go as far as criticizing and or condemning the modern day men of God who have amassed so much wealth for themselves such as: fleet of cars and airplanes, mansions and bungalows in diverse places; etc.
And on the other side however, there is yet another party who teach that it is very necessary for God to bless His children with worldly riches citing the case of Job as an example, and so I am going to use this very example to draw a conclusion on this issue.
It is true that God did bless Job with abundant riches, in fact the scripture takes time to outline them in Job 1:3: 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 1000 head of cattle, 500 donkeys.
Now if we take time to figure out and analyze it properly, we might be forced to conclude that Job kept all these things as possessions, or in other words stored them up for himself. And in linking the case of Job to most of our modern day men of God, we might substitute their own sheep, camels, cattle and donkeys for the the mansions, airplanes, cars etc. that they have, scattered everywhere. And in so doing we might go on to add that it is not wrong for the children of God to gather or pile up riches.
But before we can justify such claim, let us first and foremost do a case study of the book of Job to find out how he lived his life and most especially whether he kept or considered those things mentioned above as riches.
Job’s example of how to live in riches.
This case study will be taken from Job chapter 31, and please permit me to take time out to outline them in a descending order:
1. In verses 5 and 6 Job says that he has never deceived anybody i.e. converted the wealth that he had.
2. In verses 13-15 he says that he always listens to and treat those that work for him fairly i.e. paid them their wages and never cheats any one of them.
3. In verses 16-18 he says that he has never refused to help the poor, neither has he let the widows live in despair nor let orphans stay hungry while he eats. He concludes by saying that all his life he has taken care of the less privileged.
4. In verses 19-20 he says that whenever he finds anybody who lacks clothing he will quickly gather the clothing’s made from the flocks of his sheep, and give unto that person.
5.In verses 21-23 he swears that he has never cheated an orphan i.e. by collecting any of his rightful property; example by taking him to court and unjustly win a case against him, or using his influence to collect it from him as King Ahab did to Mordecai.
6. Now the most important part of Jobs statement is in verses 24-25 where he clearly states that he has never trusted in his riches or become proud because he is rich.
Three things riches will do to us.
This sixth point clearly sums up all the scriptures in the bible that teaches against riches because the three things that wealth will do to you are.
- Cause you to put your trust in riches i.e. believe that your money can help you solve every life’s problem. (Psalm 49:6-14)
- The second thing that riches will do is make you become prideful and start thinking you are the owner of the world, or probably just sitting on top of the world, as evidenced in most of our acclaimed superstars lyrics. (Hosea 13:6) And let’s not forget in a hurry that this was the same reason that Lucifer, now called Satan, fell from his exalted position (Ezekiel 28:2-5). These two things will definitely blind you to the fact that, on the day you will die one day and that no amount of money you acquired will ever be able to bring the life back into your body of dust. And for this very reason the rich man, in his encounter with Jesus and zest for salvation, was unable to give up his wealth and follow Jesus. And that incidence made our Lord Jesus to reveal to us in Mathew 19:24 that “it is easy for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. Thus if you find any wealthy person ,who like Job, does not trust in his riches nor be overcome with pride, you have seen the one who will always be willing to give out, even all that he has, to anybody he finds in need and suffering. So we can boldly establish herein that these two things: trusting in riches and pride, are the root of all the problems of riches.
- The third thing that riches will do is keep a human being so engaged at all times and in so doing rob him of the chance to serve God the way he should. That was why our Lord Jesus said in Mathew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
What I am trying to say here is that if you have businesses here and there, it will keep you so engaged and busy that you will lack time to do the work of God; plus the fact that you will always be thinking about your assets scattered everywhere and in so doing lack the chance to think about God.
Remember the story of Martha; who because of caring about the things of life, left her sister Mary to sit alone at the feet of Jesus and listen to His words as we can see in (Luke 10:38-42)
And in the parable of the sower, we see how the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches will make a person lost the word of God as Martha was trying to do. (Verse 22)
And for this reason Jesus also gave us a clue on how to live in order to escape being left behind in the rapture of the last days.
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. (Luke 21:34)
7. Finally in verses 38-39 Job says that he has never stolen the lands that he farms and took it from their rightful owners, neither has he eaten the food that he grows there without giving it freely to those that planted them i.e. his workers.
Thus we can at this point discover that Job was businessman, who gathered his wealth from animal and land farming which was the dominant occupation of that time.
And this is where we finally come to the understanding that Job did not keep his sheep’s, camels, cattle’s and donkeys as possessions, rather he used them for business purposes: either to be sold out or for production, as we can perfectly see in verses 19-20 how his sheep was used to produce wool which was and is still used as clothing today.
And with this knowledge we further discover that Job was a man who worked with his own hands to earn whatever he possessed, which means he did not wait for people to be bringing gifts to him; or seeing him as a man of God, bring their offerings and tithes, which as we all know today are the source of our so called big ministers riches.
It is even sad to know that these our ministers do not even understand that anybody who agrees to serve God must walk under the priestly and levitical covenant which makes him entitled to offerings and tithes and thereby forbids him to own landed properties or houses. (Numbers 18:8-24)
This is why it is so important to note, in Jobs case, that the scripture does not mention how many houses or hectares of land that Job had, even though Job was in a position to acquire all these things because he was earning all he had from his own sweat.
Therefore our wealthy Christians, most especially our so-called men of God, must use Jobs example to examine themselves in order to discover whether they are justified with the riches they have.
And if God has blessed them that much, let them like Job, turn their income and assets into companies or Business Empires that will serve to provide job opportunities for the many unemployed and poor people in the world.
How Jesus was made poor to enrich us.
Now, there is one scripture that so many ignorant and unstable people misquote to back up their covetousness and greed, as well as mislead so many:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
However to precisely understand what Paul was trying to say let us survey that scriptural passage in its whole context (2 Corinthians 8:1-15)
As we can understand through the context of that passage, Paul was urging the people of Corinth to contribute towards sending aid or relief to the people of Judea who were suffering hardship at that time due to the famine in the whole wide world that God had earlier revealed or predicted through the mouth of His prophet Agabus, and it was the same Paul and Barnabas who were selected or chosen to deliver that contribution. (Acts 11:27-30).
From here we understand that the children of God did not experience this famine because as the as the scripture would uncover to us in (Acts 4:32-35) they were never in need due to the fact that they were in the doctrine of sharing equally whatever they each had among themselves.
In (Acts 5:1-11) we see how Ananias and his wife Sapphira, were killed because they kept back some money from the land they sold and brought the remaining part to the church to be shared among fellow Christians.
And with this knowledge we also discover that Paul was talking about the necessity of equality amongst the church members. And you can go to (Exodus 16:16-18) and see how God foretold or fore played this equality, let us go to where we find the scripture Paul quoted above:
The miracle that occurred with the manna was; some people who were greedy went out and gathered more than what they needed, and some who had other people in mind gathered what will be enough for them; but when the manna was measured with an omer (a container used for measurement) and given back to each person they all had equal share.
And so we finally come to the knowledge that in Christendom riches is only manifested through equality among Christians; that is to say, there should never be a single poor person among the believers, since the rich Christians must always bring their riches to be shared among the poor Christians who will become rich and also be able to bring their own share to be given to (the always will be available) poor Christians as we evidence from the early church.
Example of rich people in the bible.
Let us not forget in a hurry that, Abraham and his descendants were so rich, but there was always equality among them. In fact, in (Genesis 13:2-13) Abraham had to part ways with his cousin Lot because where they were living could not contain their riches
The same thing also happened between Esau and Jacob as we can see in (Genesis 36:6-7) that after both of them reconciled and lived together but after they buried Isaac-their father, they had to separate because of the same thing that happened to their grandfather and his cousin, Esau moved to another place.
So when God is actually blessing his chosen ones in any generation, it must be reflected in all of them having all things equal.
Therefore, when you see a situation where some believers have and some don’t know that something is wrong somewhere, i.e. there is no love among them. For instance, why should a believer have more than one car? Or if he has a family more than three (one for himself, one for his wife and the other for his children.)
If he however is a minister of God, the other cars should not be for personal use but for the missionary work i.e.to help the other ministers under him and the church in general to go about doing the work of God.
Now even if it is hard for the rich Christians to bring their properties to be shared with others whom they might consider idle and as the scripture says “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” can’t they provide job opportunities for those poor brethren who will then labor for their own riches?
Some will say they are safe-guarding the wealth for their descendants; but what if they end up mismanaging and loosing that wealth?
Because the only wealth you can give to your descendant is making them follow the way of righteousness which will attract God’s blessing on them from generation to generation.
Remember Solomon spent billions to build a temple which was destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar during the reign of one of his descendants ‘Zedekiah’, because they didn’t walk in the ways God wanted them to. (2 Chronicles 36:13-21).
Have you ever sat down to ponder on the fact that, this could happen to your own descendants too? If you spend time gathering wealth they will inherit instead of building a righteous legacy that will help them gather their own riches?
Solomon himself foresaw this that was why he wrote about it in (Ecclesiastes 5:13-14) and (Proverbs 27:22).
The two lessons we can draw from this sermon.
1. From Jobs example that we surveyed; we learn that a rich Christian should turn his income and assets into a business firm or industry that will help to provide employment opportunities for the less privileged. As well as be in the habit of helping those in need. as the scripture says in (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
It is therefore wrong for a Christian to be storing up his riches here on earth, rather he should store his riches in the kingdom of God which the scripture shows us in Luke 12:33 as giving to those in need.
2. From the early Christians gathering example, we understand that since there was no one in need among them, it is therefore wrong for a Christian live in abject poverty or be lacking at all times because the devil will definitely use this as a means of making the Christian mind heavy and in so doing cause him to deny God through complaining or trying to find unholy means of making money.
Thus the next scripture finally summarizes these two points for us:
Two things I request of you (deprive me not before I die): remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of My God. (Proverbs 30:7-9)
And so we finally come to the understanding that a Christian should neither be rich nor poor but have enough to satisfy him at any given point in time.
In other words, he must not have material possesins scattered everywhere that will occupy his thoughts and takes his mind far away from God, and at the same time must not be wanting or lacking the things he need when he needs them, so that he will not put God to shame through begging or stealing.
That was why our Lord Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer that He should give us our daily bread everyday. (Mathew 6:11)
So therefore, what the rich Christians should always have in mind is that one day they are going to leave all those things they have behind as Solomon himself observed in (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16).
And Paul also reminded his godson Timothy about this inescapable fact: For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (1 Timothy 6:7).
What the scripture says about riches.
Besides, several scriptures show us that our lives and the world we live in will all vanish one day:
Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)
Because “all flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away. (1 Peter 1:24)
But the heavens and earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)
Lift your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; (Isaiah 51:6)
And; ‘you LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; and they will grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. (Hebrews 1:10-12)
“Heaven and earth will pass away…(Mathew 24:35
And that whoever loves the world makes himself an enemy of God: (James 4:4)
And Solomon himself knowing about this wrote: “Vanity of vanities,” says the preacher; “vanity of vanities, all is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
Thus, a rich Christian must never pay attention to riches because he has no citizenship here on earth but in heaven (Philippians 3:20-21).
And in order to truly serve God, he must always keep these two scriptures in mind:
- (Hebrews 13:5) says that we should let your conduct be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have. For God himself has said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
- (1 John 2:15-17) says that we should not love the world or the things in the world. Necause iff anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it.
And for those who will become ministers my advice is: when God starts using you to perform miracles for people, interpret their dreams, pray for them and their lives have a turnaround etc. be careful when they start appreciating you with unexpected riches.
I would rather you reject them but if you have a need for it you can accept them but be Very! Very! Careful! Because that is the biggest trap the devil will be setting for you.
Remember when Paul wrote to Timothy in (1 Timothy 5:17-18) that the elders who work hard in preaching and teaching are worthy to receive double pay:
He afterwards revealed to them in (1 Timothy 6:6-10) that godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. So if we have food and clothing, let’s be contented with that.
Because those who desire to be rich will fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drawn men into destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with so many sorrows.
May God help us all to overcome in Jesus mighty Name. Amen.