For most professionals, money is a motivator. But what does the Bible say about wealth? Can you really be rich and follow Jesus at the same time? In this episode, we’ll explore the story of King Solomon to find out.
[00:04] - Intro
[00:41] - Most businesses want to make profits as much as they want to serve, which can create an ethical conflict for a lot of Christian professionals.
[01:31] - Multiple scriptures warn about the danger of financial idolatry, including the story of the rich man in Matthew 19.
[03:06] - Scripture shows that God often rewarded His followers with material wealth. King Solomon is the best example of this. Because He asked for wisdom to rule with, God gave him not only wisdom, but wealth, too.
[05:58] - Solomon’s wealth was a consequence of his faith. It made other people, such as the Queen of Sheeba, recognize how powerful God was.
[08:50] Solomon and the rich man were different when it comes to attitude of heart. It’s difficult to stop coveting if, like the rich man, you sought money first. But if you love God first, then it’s OK to take whatever reward He offers to you and reinvest it for His glory.
[10:39] I do not believe in the prosperity gospel. God will give what He gives, and there are no guarantees about what His rewards to us will be, even though we can have the confidence to ask for anything. Invest because it’s the right thing, not because you’re expecting some ROI.
What’s coming up next:
In any job or company, people are the biggest asset, which means that empathy is your sharpest sword. The next episode of Faithful on the Clock looks at why empathy is so critical in great leadership and offers 3 ways to cultivate empathy in yourself for great results.
Greetings and salutations, everyone! I’m your host, Wanda Thibodeaux, and you’re listening to Faithful on the Clock, the podcast all about getting your faith and work aligned. For this final week of September 2021, I’m talking about one of the most confusing--or at least, I think it’s one of the most confusing--topics for Christian professionals: Can you really be rich or wealthy and follow God at the same time? I’ve got an answer based on one famous believer, comin’ right up.[:
If you’re a company worth you’re salt, then what do you try do? You offer something that serves people, right? You bring some value to their lives. But at the end of the day, I ain’t heard any employer, CEO, nobody, who doesn’t also talk about profits. Businesses want to make money, that’s kinda their thing, and for a lot of Christians, that’s really become this ethical conflict, and you might really be struggling and wondering if all those dollars that in your bank account--or at least, I hope you got a couple of dollars in your bank account--you might be wondering if all of those are actually dangerous to you. You might even be shying away from opportunities and promotions and things like that because you’re just not sure if it’s OK to have a lot of cash or other assets for your work.[:
Now, why is this such a big problem? Well, on the one hand, in 1 Timothy 6:10, the Bible presents money as the root of all evil. Then, you’ve got Exodus 34:14, which cautions that focusing on money can be a form of false worship. That’s emphasized even more in Ephesians 5:5, which says “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Matthew 6:24 also notes that nobody can serve both God and money. Lastly, of course, you have the parable of the rich man, you can find in Matthew 19:16-30. In that story, this wealthy guy comes to Jesus and he basically says, “Hey, I’ve been awesome, I’ve been keeping your laws, so what else do I need to do to have this eternal life that you keep on talking about?” And when Jesus says, “You gotta go and give up everything you’ve got,” and so then, the wealthy guy is really sad, and he ends up leaving rather than following Jesus.[:
So when you take all of these verses together, people have gotten the idea that it’s way better to just keep it simple, live as close to poverty as you can. And there have been famous believers like St. Francis of Assisi, for example, who really advocated for that.[:
But just for a second, if you’ve got a Bible handy, I want you to turn to a couple more verses. I’m gonna throw them out fast, but just bear with me and you can always jot them down for later. The first one is Genesis 13:5-7. That tells about how the possessions God gave Lot and Abram “were so great that they could not dwell together”. I mean, these guys had so much stuff, so much livestock and tents and everything else they couldn’t even be in the same space anymore. They had to live their own areas. Job 1:3 shows the exact same kind of deal, where Job had plenty of material goods and animals. And then in Philippians 4:19, Paul reassured the early believers that God would supply all their needs--quote-- “according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus”. And the last verse--it really is the last, I promise--is 1 Chronicles 29:12. That verse stresses that wealth and honor both come from God, Who is the ruler of all things.[:
So when you look at these verses, you kind of do have to say to yourself, “OK, but wait a minute. If money and assets and all that are so bad, what are all these believers doing with all this stuff?” And I think the answer is that, in all of these instances, all of these goodies, all the schtuff, wasn’t something that the believers had as their main goal in life. Their main goal was to follow God, and the schtuff was a reward for doing that, it was a reward for faith.
And that said, there’s probably no better example in the Bible of God rewarding faith with material things than King Solomon. This guy, he made Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos--all those kinds of guys, just peanuts compared to Solomon, OK? 2 Chronicles 9:13-29 talks about how over the top Solomon’s wealth was--he got 25 tons of gold every year, he had ships that brought home ivory and monkeys and more gold, he ate from gold utensils. It was absolutely ridiculous. There’s a MarketWatch article I’ll link to that estimates his fortune was at something like $2.2 trillion dollars-- that’s trillion, OK? With a T. And another article from Bookshop.org says that’s equal to the COMBINED net worth of the 400 richest Americans on the Forbes list. So to say Solomon was well off, that’s a bit of an understatement.[:
But here’s the deal. God was watching Solomon. And in 2:Chronicles 1, God appears to Solomon and says, “What would you like me to give you?” And so Solomon had this moment where he could have had anything. And I don’t know about you, but I got a couple of things in the back of my mind that I would probably ask for. But what he asked for was wisdom to rule the people. So God comes back like the host of Family Feud, you know, “Good answer! Good answer!”, and he says “You made the right choice”, and, you know, because Solomon answered that way, God says, not only am I gonna give you that wisdom you wanted, but--quote--“In addition, I will give you more wealth, treasure, and fame than any king has ever had before or will ever have again.”[:
So the difference, the key component here, is what’s in your heart. If you are following and seeking God first and He’s everything to you, then wealth can be a positive consequence of that faith, and there’s nothing wrong with having it. In fact, just like Solomon used his wealth to glorify God even more and build the temple, you can use all of that wealth God gives you to spread the word and testify and make things happen. Solomon didn’t invest that reward in himself, you know, he wasn’t egocentric, He invested it right back in the Giver.[:
Now something else pretty amazing happens because God gives Solomon all this stuff. People start to look around. They say, “Hey, that Solomon guy, he’s over there eatin’ off the gold plates, maybe we oughtta pay attention to him.” And he has people visitin’ him all the time. And what that does is, it gives him a platform to talk to other people about God. And one of the people who comes to visit is the Queen of Sheeba. And she comes to Solomon and she’s so overwhelmed, she’s so struck by everything God’s given him, that you know what she does? 1 Kings 10:1-9 says she praised the Lord. Just stop and think about how absolutely amazing that is. Solomon’s wealth, the gifts He’d been given by God, became a testimony about how mighty and powerful God was. It let the Queen of Sheeba see that Solomon’s God was the God. So I believe that, here we have a case where, far from being a stumbling block, money and assets actually did good, and God knew that people would be asking where it all came from. But Solomon’s heart made a difference. Because his heart was in the right place, because he was clear that everything was a gift, that’s what made that kind of testimony possible.[:
So to circle back to the story of the rich man just for a second, the rich guy, he wasn’t like King Solomon. He was seeking God, you know, he came to Jesus, but God wasn’t his priority. He wasn’t seeking God first. He already had a bunch of money and He’d learned to love that above everything. And it’s so hard to relearn that and to stop coveting something that you’ve believed for years is precious and really matters, and that is not easy. And I think that’s why Jesus was clear about that and compared it to going through the eye of the needle in Matthew 19:23-24.[:
But it really is, you know, how did you acquire what you’ve got? Is it something that you obsess over and try to acquire on your own or never give God any credit for? How does it influence what you do, and are you really willing to set it all aside if God asks? If you’d happily give away every penny that you’re making or that you’ve already made, then you very well might find that you need some deeper pockets as God gives you more than you know what to do with, not just to take care of you, but also so that other people are clear who you serve. And I think if God wants to give that gift to you, I don’t know, I think it’s kind of rude not to let him, don’t you think? You know, like a spoiled kid, if you give them a cookie, and then they throw it back in your face or let it sit there and mold because they wanted potato chips instead. And I think that’s true for any gift God wants to give, not just money and stuff. Just be grateful for what you’re given, no matter what that might happen to be.[:
One last thought that I want to touch on--and I know I’m probably opening a can of worms here--is this concept of the prosperity gospel, which is basically this idea that financial security or blessing is always God’s intent for you, or that, if you just donate money, all of that’s going to come back to you in spades. And I will be clear, I do not believe that. I believe that concept comes from this bias we have that rewards typically are material and tangible. You know, the widow who gave her two mites in Mark 12:41-44, there’s no story about her getting rich. There’s no story of the woman who put the expensive bottle of perfume on Jesus, she didn’t get a replacement. Because they didn’t expect that. They just wanted to honor God. And so I think it comes back to you, but not necessarily with the material things, and so I’d, you know, you have your treasure in heaven, not on this earth. And so I’d really just encourage you to give just because it’s the right thing, not because you’re looking for some material ROI.[:
And too, I think it’s important to remember that, yes, we can come to God and ask Him for anything. It’s OK to tell God that you’re anxious about your money situation or to ask Him to help you make something work. But sometimes, because He knows better than we do, His answer is honestly no. So don’t think that just because you asked for a deal to go well and it bombed, or because you didn’t get that promotion that you prayed for, that He’s not hearing you. He is. He’s just doing His job and giving you what you need when you need it, not necessarily what you want.[:
So let me pray to close everything out.[:
God, like technology or anything else we use, money is just a tool. And it’s how we use it, the heart we have behind it, that matters. So help us to seek you above everything else, and to prize the Giver rather than the gift. And if You choose to give us wealth as a reward and so we can better serve you, then keep our spirits filled with Your generosity, and help us to see how You want us to apply everything that You’ve given. Make sure that we stay ready to come when You call, and help us to be clear to others exactly where our rewards come from, so that the attention is always on You, exactly as it should be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.[:
Well! What do ya say? Is it time? Should we get on with our day? I think so. But before you go, I just want to tell you that in the next episode, I’m going to be talking about loving leadership. That’s going to cover why empathy is so important for great leaders to cultivate, and I’ll give you three easy ways to do just that. Thanks for sharing your day with me, and until next time, be blessed.