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Thursday, November 05, 2015

God Hates Rich People

While it is not true that God hates rich people, you would still find a reasonably large number of people who affirm that He does. Well, maybe "hate" isn't the right word. How about "despises"? You know, something like "is really unhappy with" or the like. Because, as everyone knows, "Blessed are the poor", right? I mean, doesn't James say, "Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable Name by which you were called? (James 2:6-7) He goes on to say,
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you." (James 5:1-6)
Not good. Not good at all.

So does God hate rich people? Oh, I know, not "hate". You know, like in the biblical sense. Like when we're told "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26) That kind of hate. Does God view rich people with disdain or something like it? Isn't it true that money is the root of all evil? How can it not be so?

So it seems, often from the "Left", that while genuine Christians aren't supposed to hate -- say, homosexuals or fornicators or murderers and the like -- it is certainly right and even ... ahem ... biblical that they should really think poorly of rich people. I mean, isn't that what we see in the Bible?

Let's examine it a minute. First, the logical approach. If it is true that God thinks badly of rich people and so should we, then I suspect you who are reading this are in deep trouble. There isn't likely a single American who would not be classified as "rich" in many (most?) places on the planet. Regardless of that, if you have the computer to read this, you've too much money already. It would seem, then, if this position is true, that Christians ought to embrace a vow of poverty. If, when Jesus said, "Blessed are you who are poor" (Luke 6:20), He did not mean "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt 5:3), but actually that poor people are blessed because they are poor, then it would be unkind to seek to make them other than poor and we would do well to become poor ourselves. You see, there are problems here from a logical perspective.

What about a biblical approach? Well, first, let's clear up a common error. It is not true that money is the root of all evil. The text says that it is the love of money that is the problem. And the actual translation is "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils." (1 Tim 6:10) So let's not go there. The problem there is who you love ... money or God. Always a problem. And clearly God is opposed to ill-gotten gains (Prov 21:6; Prov 22:16; Prov 22:22-23). People who find their consolation and comfort in wealth are in trouble (Luke 6:24). And the call is for us to put our treasure not in banks and goods, but in Christ (Matt 6:19-21). We are told, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt 6:33), but notice how the sentence ends: "and all these things will be added to you." (Matt 6:33)

Over against the "God doesn't like rich people very much" perspective, the Bible seems to argue that either extreme -- poverty or wealth -- are not good.
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the LORD?" or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Prov 30:7-9)
We have the example of Job who was wealthy (Job 1:3) by God's gift (Job 1:10), lost it all (Job 1:13-19), and God restored it (Job 42:12). If wealth in itself is evil, why is God giving Job wealth? Solomon warns against being lazy (Prov 6:6-11), where poverty is a result of laziness, and assures us that hard work produces wealth (Prov 10:4). He says, "The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life." (Prov 22:4) It seems that, while the Bible has dire warnings about wealth, it is not accurate that God hates wealthy people ... in any sense of the word "hate". Hate greed? Sure. Ill-gotten gains? Yes. Love of money? Of course. But not simply "wealthy people".

It is clear, biblically, that wealth has the potential for all kinds of problems. We might place our confidence in it. We might seek to get it by faulty means. We might love it. We might worship it. These are all problems. But don't let people tell you, "It's wrong for any good Christian to be wealthy." Especially when the person doing so is well dressed, well fed, and reasonably well off. That's not a good Christian whispering in your ear. It's a liar, a thief, and a murderer. At least that's who the person telling you that wealth is evil is listening to.


Marshall Art said...

There are all kinds of wealthy people in Scripture who are considered good servants of God. No need to list them here. At another blog, I just linked to an essay that speaks of Matthew and Luke and the differences between the presenting of the Beatitudes in each. The essay makes a great case for the two citing the same event, not two different sermons (one on the Mount and the other on the Plain). The larger point being that it spoke of "poor" being a spiritual thing, not a state of material poverty, and even though Luke may have been the more accurate re-telling, the audience to whom Jesus spoke would have taken it to mean "poor in spirit" as Matthew puts it.

In dealing with this issue at that other blog, I also pointed out Luke 16, wherein Christ speaks of how one should deal with wealth, not putting it before God, and using it well. I don't believe there's any Scriptural basis at all for suggesting good Christians can also be wealthy Christians.

Stan said...

I don't know on what basis anyone would say, "Luke was more accurate than Matthew", but I certainly would think that 1) it was the same event and 2) Jesus was saying the same thing. It makes no sense to argue that the poor, by virtue of having little, are blessed. It makes no sense, if one DOES argue that this is the case, that they would wish to elevate the poor out of their poverty, since "poor" = "blessed".

Just for clarification:
" I don't believe there's any Scriptural basis at all for suggesting good Christians can also be wealthy Christians. "

You do NOT believe that the Bible allows that good Christians can be wealthy?

Marshall Art said...

My bad. It should have read:

" I don't believe there's any Scriptural basis at all for suggesting good Christians can NOT also be wealthy Christians. "

Stan said...

That's what I figured.

JT said...

It also seems as though "rich people" in the new testament were a certain kind of people who would sin in order to gain wealth.

Nobody these days would claim that rich people like Mark Zuckerberg are evil simply because he got rich. He became rich through providing an amazing service to mankind. The same goes for Bill Gates.

However, it seems that in order to gain and maintain their riches in the New Testament time period they had to do all sorts of sinning. Society at that time was set up to favor the Romans, and it would be very difficult to become rich without denouncing Christianity. Thus riches were an indicator of sin. Literally they had to choose between riches or God, and if they were rich it was generally speaking an indicator of which choice they made.

Contrast that with the Old Testament where riches were generally a sign of blessings either in materials or in wisdom.

Stan said...

I would tend to disagree that no one would claim these days that rich people are evil for being rich, given the large segment of society that hates the "1%".

It is true that people who love money (classified as idolatry in Scripture) might do evil to get it, but it's not true that the only way to get rich is to sin. There were Christians with money in Scripture without any reference to getting it by sin.

I suppose the point is that we need to separate "having money" from either idolatry -- the love of money -- or sinning to get it, which would be classified as sin.