More than a third of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day according to research done by the United Nations. You might not consider yourself rich if you compare yourself to others in the United States (and many other countries), but most or all of you are probably quite rich when looking at the whole world. Is it ok to be rich?
Let’s first consider Solomon, the richest king that ever was. God gave him wealth, possessions, and honor such as no king before or after him (2 Chronicles 1:12). God made Solomon rich, so the good news is that we have an example of someone who was very rich and it was ok in God’s eyes.
Being rich may be ok, but the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-24 received advice from Jesus that made him sad. Jesus told him if he wanted to be perfect, he should sell his possessions and give to the poor. He then told his disciples that it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom. Jesus had more to say about the matter in Luke 6:20-26. He said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” He went on to say, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” Jesus was warning us that being rich could interfere with your salvation.
Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 says that whoever loves money never has enough, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income, and this is meaningless. It also says that the abundance of the rich permits them no sleep. However, it also says that it is appropriate for a person to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in their labor during the few days God has given them. It explains that it is a gift from God when He gives someone wealth, possessions, and the ability to enjoy them.
This may be a bit confusing to hear that wealth can be good or bad. I think it all boils down to your attitude and how you spend your money. If money is your master, you are always wanting and trying to get more, and you spend it all on yourself; that is bad. If you realize that your money comes from God, is actually owned by God, and is not the focus of your life, it is fine to enjoy that gift from God from time to time.
I now want to change gears a bit here and talk about yesterday’s devotion on tithing a bit more. I said it was not mentioned in the New Testament that we should tithe. However, there are two verses in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42) that talk about the Pharisees giving a tenth of their spices and Jesus scolding them for neglecting justice, mercy, faithfulness, and the love of God, and saying they should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former. I do not consider these two verses a mandate for us today to tithe ten percent of our earnings, although I can see how it can be interpreted that way. These individuals were giving a tenth of their spices and Jesus said they should continue to do that. If they had said they were fasting, I think Jesus might have told them to continue to do that, but I don’t think that necessarily means we all must fast today.
I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think the ten percent tithe is a specific rule we must follow today like the many rules they were required to follow in the Old Testament. However, I definitely believe we should be giving money to the church, and I think it would be fine to look at what they were instructed to do and model that by giving ten percent of your earnings to the church. I also believe it is possible that God wants some people to give more than ten percent.
Paul never discussed tithing ten percent, but he did talk about giving. In 2 Corinthians 8:3, he said the Macedonians gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 he says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he told them that they should set aside a sum of money in keeping with their income on the first day of every week (1 Corinthians 16:2). I think if it was still a rule to tithe ten percent, Paul would have mentioned it, but instead he talked about giving with the proper attitude and according to your income.