#104 Does God Want Us to Be Rich

The Christian Economist

#104 Does God Want Us to be Rich?

God wants us to be rich, but that’s not the same as wanting us to be wealthy.
God wants us to obey, which often results in wealth.

That question was posed at a men’s Bible study this week.  Good question.  It’s always a good question when we ask, “What does God want?”  Because Who knows the mind of God?

You must be rich!

When my Dad’s health was failing, I would often leave my early morning econ class and take the direct flight from DFW to Sioux Falls to spend a few days with him.  One night, very late, the kind healthcare giver noticed me in the hall and commented, “You’re here from Dallas again, you must be rich.”  I responded, “I’m rich, but I’m not wealthy.  I’m rich because I get to spend my Dad’s last days with him.  I’m rich because I have a wife who loves me.  I’m rich because my extended family cares about me.  I’m rich because I have a church group that helps me understand the scriptures.  I’m rich because I have fellow professors at Dallas Baptist University who help me integrate faith with learning in the classroom.  

Teaching at a Christian University is not the path to great wealth.  Oh, you want to know what is?  BOIL.  If that doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because I made it up.  A high percentage of rich people made their wealth in Business, Oil, and Land.  Now, if you have a business that deals in real estate, you get a twofer.  If that land has oil on it, you get a three-fer!  Now, just go get wealthy.  The problem is: That data is from the past.  Who knows what will make people wealthy in the future?

Get the point: God wants us to be rich.  Does he want us to be wealthy?

Be or Do?

In The Call, Oz Guinness explains that we have two calls.  The first is to BE a Christian, the second is to DO something.  The order of our calls is important.  Oh, and if you forget how to spell Guinness, look in your refrigerator.  Yes, he’s the descendant of the Irish brewer who started the Guinness brewery.  For details about how Guinness fulfilled God’s creational intent by brewing beer, I’ll suggest you do a Google search for “God and Guinness.”  

Hugh Whelchel said, “God made something out of nothing.”  Our call is to make something out of something.”  We are called to transform the world by supplying goods and services our neighbors demand.  

In Corporate Cults, I explain that our work should be what we do, not who we are.  Golfer Tiger Woods said simply, “Golf is what I do, it’s not who I am.”

We’re supposed to find our identity in Christ, not in our behaviors.  One of my favorite phrases is “In most religions, you behave to be saved.  But in Christianity, we believe we are saved to behave.  The order is important. 

A businessman in Brazil told me “To be successful, I don’t need to BE a Christian, but I need to act like one.”  That’s sounds hypocritical, but that’s not what he meant at all.  His point was that the behaviors that accompany Christianity happen to align with successful business practices.  Sergiy Saydometov and I include many of them in our book Biblical Economic Policy.  Just a few:  Don’t steal, don’t covet, use honest measures, and work is good.  Those Christian practices make a person rich. 

In his book For God and Profit, Sam Gregg writes, “Scripture doesn’t criticize the wealthy because they are richer than others. They are criticized, often fiercely when they are engaged in fraud, when they forget their real and direct responsibilities to the poor, or when their wealth becomes their God.”

 Nowhere in the New Testament, does Jesus advocate for the rich to be punished?

Christian Economics

Christians, really all people who believe in a higher being, concentrate on the means.  We believe God knows right from wrong behavior.  It’s our job as humble human beings to try to figure that out.  But, at least we assume there IS right and wrong, and we spend our lives trying to figure out what that is. 

Economics concentrate on the ends, or the outcomes.  That might explain why so many great economists: Frederick Hayek (yes, THAT guy), and Milton Friedman were atheists.  A recent biography of Thomas Sowell by Jason Riley explains that Sowell was un-naturally focused on the outcomes.  So much so that he had trouble getting along with others.  He changed institutions and jobs regularly, and that’s why the book is titled Maverick.  

So Christians are more concerned with how we do things.  Economists are concerned with the outcome.  Take taxes: In Biblical Economic Policy, Sergiy Saydometov and I explain that taxes are stealing and violate the eighth commandment because goods are taken by force.  We support taxing only as a necessary evil in a fallen world.  Economists, however, are relatively dis-concerned with the means and measure a policy based only on its outcome.  They will point out the deadweight loss caused by taxes.

David Kotter writing in the book titled For the Least of These points out that the only denunciations of the rich in the New Testament, are about the lack of justice when people got rich from oppressing the weak, leveling heavy taxation, and exploiting slaves.  But, he points out, the New Testament does endorse wealth that is earned from honest work and diligent labor.

The Prayer of Jabez

I Chronicles 4: 9-10 reads, “And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain. ‘ So God granted him what he requested.” that God would increase his status so he could do more for God.  The Prayer of Jabez is the title of a book by Bruce Wilkinson.  We should all pray that prayer.  

We have a good baseball team at Dallas Baptist University.  This summer, five of our alumni were in the major leagues.  When they received the call that they were being called up to “The show” as it’s called, do you think God wanted them to answer in affirmative?  Probably.  God wants us to have a larger platform to do more good for the kingdom.  

The manta of Socialism is “From each according to his ability and to each according to his need.”  If we only have what we need, how can we give?  I mention this in podcast #2 titled The Prophet who made a Profit.  Jesus probably worked with his dad from about the age of 15 to 30.  They had to make a profit to fulfill the Jewish command to give.  

Happy

Does God want us to be happy?  Tele evangelist Joe Olsteen seems to think so.  Reverend Olsteen has his ministry, and that’s okay.  I tend to believe God wants us to obey.  Sometimes that causes happiness and sometimes it causes pain.  Sometimes it makes us wealthy, and sometimes it makes us poor.  That reminds us of the Christian part of the Christian Economics mission: God wants us to concentrate more on the means and less on the ends. 

Arthur Brooks in Gross National Happiness makes the really interesting connection between religion and happiness.  He says that the more your neighbors go to church, the more prosperous you tend to be.  Presumably, this is because of the cultural benefits that accrue to the whole community from having members who follow the social norms of religion.  For example, people who go to their house of worship regularly might be more likely than otherwise to shun social ills such as divorce and drugs.  This might draw more people like them to their neighborhood and create a good example for neighbors, who thus prosper.  So religion isn’t just good for religious people, it enriches those around them as well.  This conclusion is important for helping us all, even secularists, to understand why we should celebrate the practice of religion in America.  

William Wilberforce is remembered for ending the slave trade in the UK 32 years before we did in the US.  But he had a second mission in life: The reformation of manners.  By this, he meant that the rich should care for the poor.  In the late 18th century in the UK, there was a general opinion that God made the poor to be poor, and humans should not mess with God’s intentions.  That’s really a twisted view of Christianity.  Andrew Carnegie believed God intended for him to be rich, and others to be poor, so giving to the poor denigrated God’s intentions.  Horatio Spafford who wrote the song, “It is well with my soul,” lost his fortune in the Chicago fire of 1871 and his four daughters to a ship collision in the North Atlantic.  When his fellow parishioners told him that these tragedies were because of his sin, he left the church and spent the last years of his life in Jerusalem, working in a philanthropic organization called the American Colony.  He’s buried in a small cemetery on the campus of Jerusalem University college that clings to the wall of the old city of Jerusalem.  I studied Biblical Geography there in 2013.  

Do you see what happens when the scripture gets twisted, and rich people see their wealth as their own, and they believe they can do what they want with it?  This is why the scripture says “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”  Money is not the root of evil, the love of it is.  Matter of fact, the love of anything that’s not God-ordained is evil.  It doesn’t have to be money. 

Read Along with The Christian Economist:

Follow The Christian Economist online:

Fear God
Tell the Truth
Earn a Profit