Is Wealth Immoral? (Part 3)

Ecclesiastes 5

10Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth—except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers!

12People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich are always worrying and seldom get a good night’s sleep.

13There is another serious problem I have seen in the world. Riches are sometimes hoarded to the harm of the saver, 14or they are put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. 15People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born.

16And this, too, is a very serious problem. As people come into this world, so they depart. All their hard work is for nothing. They have been working for the wind, and everything will be swept away. 17Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work—whatever they do under the sun—for however long God lets them live. 19And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. 20People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-20)


The Daily DAVEotional

You may have seen in the news recently that President Joe Biden has decided to implement a “wealth tax” in his next proposed budget. The idea would be to tax those who make over $100 million a minimum of 20%.

Predictably, some are heralding this move as a positive step as it’s “about time the rich pay their fair share” while others have noted that the majority of taxes collected by the IRS are already paid by the rich, so what is the limit of what is fair?

My point is not to take a side in this particular legislation but to demonstrate that we live in an era where it has become fashionable by many, including Christians, to decry wealth as being immoral. Jesus himself seemed to care for the underserved and underprivileged so it is even asserted by some that Jesus was against wealth.

I wrote about this last year in a series of posts here and here. The problem for Christians who think that wealth is immoral is that there is nowhere in Scripture where wealth is actually condemned. Additionally, many righteous men and women of faith were people of great means.

I explain how these ideas are reconciled biblically in the previous posts but here, in today’s passage, Solomon, one of the wealthiest men in the Biblical record, helps us understand more deeply God’s view of wealth.

Here are some of the highlights:

    • Solomon doesn’t condemn wealth. He himself was EXTREMELY wealthy. But he does point out that the LOVE of money is futile because it cannot bring true happiness (verse 10).
    • One problem that comes along with great wealth is that others come to help you spend it. Many lottery winners have commented on how much more stressful life became when they hit it big. Not only was there the worry of how to keep what they have won but suddenly, everyone you’ve ever known shows up wanting a piece of the pie (verse 11).
    • People who have great wealth can sometimes lose it all because, as Solomon points out, the money is put into risky investments (verses 13-14). How many sad stories are told of athletes who made millions while playing but who are living in poverty because they didn’t know how to manage their money?

Solomon’s admonition against the dangers of wealth can be summed up in verse 15:

People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born.

Notice that Solomon doesn’t condemn wealth but warns against “living only for wealth”. This is another way of describing greed. The problem with living only for wealth is that you can’t take it with you. Wealthy people will die with nothing just as everyone else does. Jesus made this same point in the Luke 12 passage that I blogged about here.

Solomon ends his short discourse by actually saying that receiving wealth from God is a GOOD thing. He declares that wealth and the good health to enjoy it is a gift from God.

It seems clear from Scripture that wealth in and of itself is not bad. The real issues that are problematic are greed and envy. These two sinful vices are not reserved for the wealthy alone but for anyone regardless of your financial position.

Whatever your net worth is, the biblical admonition is to be content, not envying what others have or being greedy for more of what you think might make life more comfortable and enjoyable.

We should heed Solomon’s admonition to “enjoy your work and accept your lot in life….People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20)

Reflection

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your contentment with your current financial position?

Do you think money can bring true happiness? What are you relying on to provide happiness in your own life?

Do you agree with Solomon’s statement that people should enjoy their work and accept their lot in life? Why or why not?

What does it look like to “live only for money”? Have you ever had this attitude or disposition towards money?

When was a time when you experienced feelings of greed or envy? How can you ensure that your own heart motivations towards money and wealth are godly?

 

Photo by David McBee: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bitcoins-and-u-s-dollar-bills-730547/

Is it Possible to Cheat God?

6“I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already completely destroyed. 7Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my laws and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’

8“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!

“But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’

“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.  9You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.  10Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!  11Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,” says the LORD Almighty.  12“Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:6-12, NLT)


If you’ve ever been to a church and heard a sermon on tithing, you have probably heard this passage preached.

Malachi was a prophet who lived about 400 years before the time of Christ. He wrote to Jews who had very recently returned from being in exile (taken captive by the Babylonian empire).

Malachi was rebuking the people for their neglect of the temple. In this passage, he specifically addresses the people for their neglect of the tithe.

What is the tithe?

The word tithe literally means a tenth. When the Israelites entered the promised land of Canaan, every tribe was alotted an area of land as an inheritance , except for the Levites. The Levites were the tribe of Moses and his brother Aaron. The Levites were commissioned by God to be the priests who would lead worship and administer the temple sacrifices and act as mediators between the Lord and the people.

Because the Levites had no land, and their job was essentially religious clergy, they had no means of sustaining themselves. The tithe was implemented to take care of the Levites, who in turn were responsible for caring for the spiritual needs of the people.

When the Jewish people neglected the tithes, the Levites were forced to care for themselves in other ways and with other jobs. Therefore, the duties of the temple were neglected. It is in this way that the Lord is saying that the people had cheated Him. Because the tithes weren’t given, the priestly duties were neglected and therefore God was robbed of the worship that is rightly His.

It’s important to realize that the tithe wasn’t just money. It could be grain or some other portion of a harvest. This is why the author mentions the storehouse. The storehouse was a physical room in the temple that was used for storing the grain and other produce that the people brought into the temple as part of their tithe.

The principle of the tithe is still valid in the church today. Essentially, the Lord is asking His people, as an act of faith and worship, to give back to Him a portion of what He has given to us.

When we give a tithe, we are expressing to the Lord that we acknowledge that everything we have comes from Him. We also are trusting that He is able to sustain us on the portion that is left over.

In this passage, The Lord invites us to test Him. He says that if we give to Him the first fruits of our labor, He will richly bless us and the balance of our resources will be more than enough to provide for us.

This sounds counter-intuitive to our finite minds. It seems logical to us that if we keep all of our resources, we will have more wealth to spend and invest. But in God’s economy, He promises that if we give to Him first, we will actually end up with more because He will bless the balance of our resources and we will see a greater return on that smaller portion than if we had kept the whole for ourselves.

Reflection

What role has tithing played in your own spiritual life? How have you been able to integrate tithing (giving) into your spiritual practice?

If you have struggled to implement tithing as a spiritual practice, what are the factors that keep you from taking that step of faith? What experiences with the Lord can you draw upon in order to help you take a small step of faith?

 

Photo by Istiqamatunnisak on Unsplash