Last semester I read an enormously challenging book called “Missions And Money: Affluence As a Missionary Problem”. One of the most helpful chapters is Christopher Wright’s contribution on the “righteous rich” in the Hebrew Bible. He lists nine qualities that can be discerned from the text. If you are reading a blog more than likely you are considered wealthy in the global economy. Perhaps not in your own community or country, but in relation to your global neighbor.
I adapted his suggestions to be a little more digestible:
- They remember the source of their riches. (Deut 8:17-18; 1 Chron 29:11-12; Jer 9:23-24)
- They don’t idolize their wealth by putting inordinate trust in it, nor get anxious about losing it. (Job 31:24-25)
- Recognize that wealth is secondary to many things, i.e. wisdom, integrity, humility and righteousness. (1 Chron 29:17; Prov 8:10-11; 1 Kings 3; Prov 16:8, 28:6)
- Set their wealth in the context of God’s blessing. Wealth in righteous hands is servant of God’s mission. (Gen 12:1-3)
- Use their wealth with justice. (Ps 15:5; Ezek 18:7-8)
- Make their wealth available to the wider community through responsible lending (Lev 25; Deut 24:6, 10-13)
- See wealth as an opportunity for generosity–even when it is risky, and even when it hurts. (Deut 15; Ps 112:3; Prov 14:31; 19:17; Ruth)
- Use wealth in the service of God by meeting practical needs or materially supporting God’s servants. (1 Chron 28-29; 2 Chron 31; Ruth)
- Set an example by limiting personal consumption and declining to maximize personal gain. (Neh 5:14-19)
Jonathan Bonk Missions and Money p. 200
So often we hear about how the Bible criticizes wealth and chastises the rich. Jesus’ words in the story of the rich young ruler are often quoted, “Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor.” What we don’t hear is how the Bible instructs those who find themselves on the wealthy side of the divide to live with their wealth. The idea that there is a role for the rich in the kingdom is liberating for those crushed by guilt.
This doesn’t at all do away with the biblical critique of wealth and the rich, but it does give a more three dimensional picture of how we relate to and use wealth within the kingdom.