It is said that ‘money makes the world go round’. It is certainly a central part of people’s lives. Jesus was not against money or wealth; he taught his followers that money has its place but people’s attitudes towards it could be dangerous. The Bible books Matthew and Luke quote him saying, ‘No-one can serve two masters…you cannot serve both God and money...’ Christianity teaches that having a relationship with God, and following the teachings of Jesus, must take priority over money. For Christians, it is a question of trust: they believe that God loves them and will supply what they need. The Bible book 1 Timothy, written in the early days of the Christian Church around 2,000 years ago, has a stark warning about getting priorities wrong: ‘the love of money is the root of all evil…’ Another book, Hebrews, says, ‘keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have…’. The key is not to make an idol out of cash – use it wisely, don’t let it use you.
'Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist of an abundance of possessions.’
Handling money and financial pressures can feel like negotiating a minefield. Christians find that the Bible book, Proverbs, has lots of useful advice. For example, it suggests that people plan ahead in good times, setting money aside for a ‘rainy day’; it warns people to be careful when they do deals to borrow or lend money; it calls on people to be generous and share what they have with those who are poorer. In his teaching, Jesus talked about day-to-day issues that matter to people and he had a lot to say about money. Speaking to the rich, he condemned the greed which leads to corruption, damaged family relationships and injustice. He illustrated his teachings with stories, such as one about an entrepreneur who built bigger and bigger barns to store all his extra goods, only to die suddenly and lose everything. Wealth can distort a person’s perspective and give false hopes of security. Money can create the illusion that it is all anyone needs. But as Jesus told his followers, ‘What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, if he loses his soul?’ There is no point in immense wealth in life at the expense of spiritual poverty forever. As Jesus says in the Bible book, Luke, ‘Watch out. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist of an abundance of possessions.’
Jesus taught that what most improves the quality of a rich person’s life is to give away their possessions to the poor and follow him. The themes of generosity and giving to the poor run through Christian teaching. In the Old Testament part of the Bible, there is teaching about how the ancient Hebrew people were to set aside a tenth of their income, known as a tithe. This was to honour God and support the poor. This practice continued in the early Church and still occurs in many churches around the world today. Christians are encouraged to be generous with their money because they believe that all that they have comes from God. It is natural to be concerned that you have a roof over your head, clothes to wear and food to eat but Jesus encouraged his followers to live God’s way first and be confident he would give them what they needed.
But Jesus spoke of poor people having real blessings – in other words, they have the deepest sense of joy.
Over the centuries, the generosity of Christians has brought dramatic improvements to the lives of millions of people. For example, in 18th and 19th century Britain, Christian philanthropists funded schools, hospitals and improved housing. In the 20th century Christians founded and supported charities which provide support to poorer people all over the world.
But Jesus spoke of poor people having real blessings – in other words, they have the deepest sense of joy. He said the Kingdom of God was theirs because God is in unrivalled control of their lives. Unsurprisingly, poor people flocked to hear Jesus’ message of hope.