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The Difference Between The Righteous Wealthy and The Wicked Rich

 

“But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and cry. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers were doing the same things to the false prophets.”

Luke 6:24-26

In English class, most teachers will tell you not to use uncertain language, but to state your point clearly. However, for this writing purpose, I’ll need to use some uncertain language. I am currently working through some thoughts about riches, wealth, and hope: specifically, on the Christian discussion of wealth, business, and making money.

In Luke, Jesus pronounces a curse on the rich:

“But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and cry. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers were doing the same things to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:24-26)

It is all too easy for us in the Reformed tradition to get comfortable in our belief that God saves by faith alone, and this is great comfort indeed! Sometimes, we get so comfortable that we miss out on how dire Jesus’ language is regarding certain sins. For those of us who fear God, my prayer is that we can look at these words, recognizing that Christ has paid for our failures and that these words guide us toward growth in sanctification.

My question is this: who are the rich? Certainly, to some extent, those of us in the Western world can acknowledge our greater material wealth compared to the people of ancient times. We are also richer than the vast majority of the world today. However, the Bible teaches us that sin is rooted in the heart, not in material possessions.

Immediately after this warning, Christ heals the Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-17). This person had servants meant to build the synagogue and had influence in the community. By all accounts, this individual is rightfully thought of as well off. But Christ marveled at the Centurion’s faith.

Matthew shows how one is poor in the Biblical sense: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3). This is slightly different from how Luke puts it in his gospel, which uses more physical language: “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20). Paul had to say this to the rich in Timothy’s church.

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty or to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19)

We are exhorted to set our hope on God, not riches. Earlier in the same chapter, Paul states that those in the church do not desire to be rich. “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evils, and some by aspiring to it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:9-10).

Notice the difference between those who are rich and those who want to be rich. In Paul’s language being wealthy is not the problem. Rather, it is a heart condition that is the problem.

Notice that the Centurion asked Jesus for help on behalf of his servant. This is especially crucial for employers to remember. The Centurion is an excellent example of how someone with authority can love his neighbor who works for him. If social credit worked in his favor, he used it for someone else under his employment. He obviously didn’t view him as someone that could be disposed of and replaced. 

Jesus and Paul paint a picture of the spiritually poor one who is dependent on God and not wealth. Those who are rich in heart have a terrifying lot indeed. If someone is wealthy, the desire should not be for riches but for good deeds. This may or may not lead to more riches. But your focus should be on good deeds by giving time and resources to others. Isaiah paints a good picture of what a wicked rich person does and what we should avoid as believers. 

“Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room, so that you have to live alone in the midst of the land!” (Isa. 5:8)

I pray that we can all be like the Centurion, who cared more for his community and those around him than building his own little kingdom.

For further reading
Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz
The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics by Jerry Bowyer
On Business & Economics by Abraham Kuyper
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
Jake Beal

Jake Beal

Since 2018, Jake Beal has been working as a realtor in Spokane, WA. He also holds a master’s degree in Music Composition. His interest in theology was sparked during his studies at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Jake has been happily married to his wife, Heide, since 2015.

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