Should Christians be poor? Should Christians be rich? I hope to show over the next couple of weeks that, as followers of Christ, we shouldn’t seek poverty and we shouldn’t seek exorbitant wealth. We should instead be content with what God gives us. This week, let’s focus on the question of poverty.
There is something that seems pious about “forsaking all to follow Jesus.” There are pastors and teachers that declare we are not truly disciples if we live “normal” lives. If we live in a house or drive a car, we must, in our hearts, be serving these things and Jesus told us we couldn’t serve both God and money.
For centuries, monks and priests have taken vows of poverty to show their devotion. Modern-day priests and monks, however, are seen driving nice cars and living in comfortable homes. Their vow of poverty does not forbid their access to these material blessings, only their ownership of them.
Jesus once told a wealthy man who pushed for Jesus’ assurance of his worthiness that he should, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” – Luke 18:22 NKJV. When the man rejected Jesus’ invitation, Jesus exclaimed that it was harder for a rich man to the enter the kingdom than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. So is Jesus telling us we must all be poor instead?
Following Jesus’ encounter with the rich man, his disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” They understood that “rich” was pretty subjective. We are all rich compared with those that have less and there is always someone who has less.
Here are some things the bible says about the poor and poverty:
- The poor can be exploited by the rich. Both the rich and the poor are creations of God. He views them as equals and judges them according to their character not according to the amount in their bank account. However, this is not so with men. We tend to judge people according to what they could do for us. Thus, the rich are esteemed in our eyes, but the poor are ignored, or worse, abused. See Psalm 22: 2; Proverbs 14:20-21, 31: James 2: 2-3
- Lack of industriousness may cause poverty. Some cultic teachers out there claim that having a job is the same as serving money. But the bible teaches that idleness leads to poverty. We are to be diligent that we may provide for ourselves and have something to share with those in need. See Prov. 10:4, 13: 4; Eph. 4: 28, 1 Thes. 4: 11, 2 Thes. 3:10.
- A lavish lifestyle may cause poverty. Spending our money on fancy cars and flashy outfits is a quick path to the poorhouse. Learn to live a simple life and avoid reckless spending that you may have more to share with those in need. See Prov. 21: 17, 23: 21, 28: 19; Ezek. 16:49.
- God answers the prayers of the poor. It’s true thatGod hears all our prayers, but he is especially attentive to the prayers of the poor. Just as God provided manna in the wilderness and food from the ravens for Elijah, he provides for his people. See Psalm 68: 10; 102: 17;Isa 41:17.
- There will always be poor people. In spite ofwhat the politicians may promise, there will always be poor people. There will always be someone less fortunate for you to bless. See Deut. 15: 11; John 12: 8
- Whether we are rich or poor, we should always be content. We tendto be discontent with current status, always wanting more. But as Christians we are to be content with our lot in life as long as we have food and clothing. See Luke 3: 14; Phil. 4: 11; 1 Tim. 6: 6-8; Heb. 13: 5.
My conclusion is that given a choice between being a “have” or a “have not,” it is better to be a have adequate finances. Otherwise, we are positioned to be exploited. Wealth means freedom from financial oppression and this is not a bad thing. If we find ourselves financially burdened, we should consider if we have contributed to that by our lack of diligence. We also want to consider if we have foolishly spent our money on the trappings of wealth to impress others. God wants us to live simply.
If we find ourselves in need, God longs to provide. We should ask for our provision. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV. However, we will never be able have anything we want, not should we greedily seek more than we can use. Instead, we should be content with the little or the abundance that God provides.