By Wendy Patrick, PhD, Crosswalk.com
Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. (Luke 12:15)
Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? was a reality show in which fifty women competed for the “privilege” of marrying a wealthy man they had never seen—except in silhouette. The marriage between the man and the winning contestant, performed at the end of the show, was annulled after the honeymoon. Although most people don’t select partners based solely on money, the flagrant glorification of wealth was no doubt a powerful influence on the 22 million people who watched the broadcast. And not in a wholesome fashion.
When it comes to popularity, the sad truth is that in many cases, money matters: “The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends” (Proverbs 14:20). But while “wealth attracts many friends” (Proverbs 19:4), it does not always attract the right kind of people. Accordingly, some of the richest people downplay their worth to avoid being targeted for manipulation and exploitation.
Consider four ways to recognize and resist the rapture of riches.
1. The Dark Side of Wealth
Everyone needs enough to keep their homes warm, the lights on, food on the table, and clothes for the family. It is the attitude toward affluence that is dangerous. “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). And whoever loves wealth cannot also serve God: “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13). Unchecked, the desire for wealth can be dangerous spiritually, emotionally, and, ironically, even financially.
2. From Riches to Rags
People of modest means are spared the pressure of wealth, including the fear of losing it. “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:5).
Many lottery winners have experienced this wisdom firsthand—as most of them lose their winnings and go broke. Let that sink in. Reasons include financial mismanagement, foolish spending, and hefty taxes. And many lottery winners lose more than just the money as family and friends inundate them with hostile demands, expecting a share of the pie and writing them off if, God forbid, they refuse to write a check.
In addition, to be targeted by friends and family, most lottery winners also live in fear of being targeted by thieves and scammers, because, in most states, they are not permitted to remain anonymous. Some “lucky” winners admit that had they known the real price tag of sudden wealth, they would not have bought the ticket.
3. Money and Morality
Gaining wealth is sometimes linked with losing morality. King Solomon recognized this in his wisdom: “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?’” (Proverbs 30:8–9). For many people, wealth threatens faith. It is not that people have not heard the Word of God, but as explained in the parable of the sower, when sown among thorns, “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).
And money can create pride. “By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. By your great skill in trading, you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud” (Ezekiel 28:4-5). We forget where wealth actually comes from: “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
4. True Prosperity Is Priceless
King Solomon had everything a king could want: riches, power, wives, children, and livestock. But he also had wisdom. Accordingly, he described his life of abundance as “Utterly meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He notes that many things are more important than money: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).
Jesus expressed the true nature of wealth in speaking with a rich young man seeking eternal life: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). When the man turned and walked away sad, Jesus shared the famous revelation: “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 24). We are accordingly advised to keep our lives free from love of money, and be content with what we have: God’s presence and protection (see Hebrews 13:5).
So if you are pursuing both faith and fortune, consider the interplay between money and spiritual maturity. And if you are already blessed with wealth, the best way to enjoy spiritual prosperity, is to use it to bless others.
© 2023 Wendy Patrick, PhD author of “Why Bad Looks Good: Biblical Wisdom to Make Smart Choices in Life, Love, and Friendship” (BroadStreet Publishing)
Wendy Patrick, Ph.D. is a career prosecutor and holds a bachelor's degree in psychology, a law degree, a master of divinity, and a doctorate in theology. She teaches at Trinity Law School, Veritas University, University of San Diego, and San Diego State University.
Dr. Patrick is the author of Why Bad Looks Good (BroadStreet Publishing), Red Flags (St. Martin’s Press), and co-author of The New York Times bestseller Reading People.
To learn more about Wendy, visit her website www.wendypatrickphd.com, or find her on Twitter @WendyPatrickPhD.
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