There are many Christians who like to teach what is known as “prosperity theory”. That is the idea that God is our abundant father who loves to bless us and give us many material things.
There are others who have the idea that a Christian should live in poverty and destitution (in fact I think this is the worlds view on how a Christian should live).
My understanding of the bible is somewhere in between – here’s why.
A favorite verse many people quote is;
My God will meet all your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4 v19)
They often interpret this as God supplying everything they want, but to me this verse clearly says “needs”. It can be very difficult sometimes to work out the difference between our wants and our needs, but I would say that our “needs” are food, warmth (a roof over our heads) and clothing as well as rest, love and health. We don’t “need” our large flat screen TV’s, Xboxes etc. The note in my bible say that the context of this verse was that the Philippians had been giving sacrificially to God’s work and Paul was commending them and reminding them that God would honour and bless them for this.
The Bible has an awful lot to say about money and our attitude to it, in fact it is one of the biggest subjects covered yet we hear very little from the pulpit so it is impossible to cover in one short post everything I have learned, but a quick summary is;
The earth is the Lords and everything in it (Psalm 24 v 1)
That means that everything that we “own” still actually belongs to God and comes from Him, especially as believers and that He can either entrust it to us or not.
You are not your own, you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6 v 20)
We are instructed to;
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said “Never will I leave you, Never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13 v 5)
Ecclesiastes 5 v 10 says
Whoever loves money, never has money enough – whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income
The story is told of John Wesley, the the founder of the Methodist church who had became very successful and wealthy when he realised that he was not honouring God with how he spent his money. He then became more careful about his attitude to material goods so that he could give more to the poor and charitable causes and as his income grew even more, he did not modify his lifestyle but used the extra income to give more away.
One of the things that I have learned since I stopped being in paid employment is that my time is more valuable than the money I had. Yes I was able to give a good amount to my church (I believe that tithing is right) and when I lost my job I initially worried about the impact that would have on a small fellowship with not many people in work but I quickly realised through some of these verses, that actually – it was not my problem but God’s. As quoted earlier, He owns everything, even all the silver and gold and can choose to distribute it however he sees fit.
My responsibility was to be faithful and a good steward with what he entrusted to me and if my role was to provide financially then he would give that income to me, but if He chose not to, then that had to be OK too. At the moment it seems for me that He want’s my time and availability to serve in a practical way helping with Church activities and looking after my home and family rather than paying someone else to do it because I was always at work. Yes it is difficult and I have to think more carefully about any purchases I want to make, look for the best price, decide that I don’t really need it and leave it etc, but this is part of learning to be content and He has always provided enough for our needs of food, clothing and a home.
I think the correct attitude can be summarised very well in a prayer by Agur recorded in Proverbs
Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say “Who is the Lord?
Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonour the name of my God. (Proverbs 30 v 8-9)