Consider how the economic status of Jesus of Nazareth might have shaped his view of wealth. Born in a borrowed stable, he spent some early years as a refugee in a neighboring country and then grew up in a downscale Galilean village. Jesus then left his trade to become an itinerant teacher to his people. He died with no material possessions whatsoever.
You might think that his views of wealth would tend toward the negative end of the spectrum.
But Jesus was anything but predictable. He seemed to shock and scandalize friend and foe alike by the things he said. So what did Jesus actually teach about wealth?
Jesus and Wealth: 4 Points
1. He didn’t condemn wealth or condone it.
We see this in his actions. One great thing about Jesus is that he hung out with rich and poor alike. He had dinner with the wealthy, the elite, the poor and the social outcasts.
2. He warned about the deceitfulness of wealth.
Remember the rich young ruler? He told him to sell everything that he had, and the man went away sorrowful. His riches impeded his pursuit of God and provided false hope. Is it any wonder that Jesus said it would be hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom (Matt. 19.23)?
3. He cared about how wealth was used. Do you remember Mary? She anointed his feet with perfumed oil, which was worth an entire year of wages. Some challenged Jesus and said it could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. However, Jesus saw through this false religiosity; the object of her affection was right and true.
Do we use wealth to bring honor to the King of Kings, or is it for our benefit and comfort?
4. He commended wealth used for eternal impact. Many puzzle over the meaning of the story of the shrewd steward in Luke 16. Jesus commends the shrewd steward for using earthly wealth, but with a proviso: so that he would be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Put differently, if we use earthly wealth for eternal purposes, such as people coming to know the love and grace of Jesus, that’s considered shrewd.
Jesus possessed little earthly wealth. On the other hand, who will be the wealthiest person in all the world in heaven?
It’s Jesus. The book of Hebrews tells us there will be a great cloud of witnesses who will testify to the saving power of Jesus, who gave everything for our sake.
Bill High is CEO of The Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with donors, ministries and financial advisors, with a focus on business owners who are looking to sell and/or transition their business to the next generation. Recognized as one of America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers, Bill's recent books include Charity Shock: Ten Critical Trends Revolutionizing Fundraising, co-authored with Ray Gary, and Giving It All Away…And Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously, co-authored with David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby.