Jesus taught that money has its proper use, but that peoples’ attitudetoward it can be dangerous. You either believe that money rules or that God does: ‘No one can be a slave to two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot be a slave to both God and Money.’
Addressing the wealthy, Jesus condemned the greed which leads to corruption, damaged family relationships and injustice. He told a story of an entrepreneur who built bigger and bigger barns to store his extra goods, only to die suddenly and lose everything. ‘This is how it will be,’ Jesus said, ‘with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.’ Wealth increases the risk of mistaking ownership of goods for quality of life, wealth for security, body for soul, time for eternity. ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’
Jesus spent a lot of time talking about money because he knew that it creates the illusion that it is all anyone needs. The thing that would most improve the quality of a rich person’s life was to give away his or her possessions to the poor and follow the way of Jesus. It was natural to be concerned about having a roof over one’s head, food on the table and clothes to wear, but Jesus encouraged his followers to give priority to living God’s way. Essential material things would follow because, ‘Your Father knows that you need them.’
In contrast, said Jesus, it is the poor who have real blessings. The Kingdom of God is theirs, because God is in unrivalled control of their lives. It is not a change of behaviour that is needed, but a total change of heart. Unsurprisingly, poor people gathered around Jesus in large numbers.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
Where to find it:
1 Timothy 6:17-18
About these words:
Written by Paul in a letter of instruction to a young church leader, showing that what Jesus taught was being put into practice in the years after his resurrection.
And they said…
Dorothy Parker, North American writer, 1893-1967:
If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
Jeremy Marshall, chief executive of the bank C Hoare & Co, and founder of Generous Giving UK:
The Bible teaches, ‘To those whom much is given, much is required. If Christians make money, then as Christians we believe that we will meet God and he will say, ‘What did you do with it?’
He Guanghu, Professor of Religion, Renmin University, China:
The worship of Money … has become many people’s life purpose. I think it is very natural that people will not be satisfied and will seek some meaning for their lives. When Christianity falls into their lives they will seize it very tightly.
Jim Elliot, missionary martyred in Ecuador, 1927-1956:
He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
Henry Fielding, novelist, 1797-1754:
If you make money your god, it will plague you like the devil.
Sir Paul McCartney, musician:
Money can’t buy me love.
J Paul Getty, industrialist and billionaire, 1892-1975:
I hate and regret the failure of my marriages. I would gladly give all my millions for just one lasting marital success.