I love my brother. He truly is a beautiful soul. It saddens me to see him not walking with God and it saddens me to see him believe in the poverty perpetuating left. His challenge to me was to do a Bible Study on the accumulation of wealth. I accepted that challenge and am prepared to present this study to my BS group on Monday night.
At first blush, the unstudied Bible, without thorough context, appears to condemn the accumulation of wealth. Oft cited passages of Scripture such as “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 18:25) and “blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20) suggest that possession of wealth is suspect while poverty is virtuous. These verses, of course, should be balanced by others that present wealth differently. In the Old Testament, it says that wealth is to be regarded as God’s blessing to be enjoyed (Eccl. 5:18-20) and a result of one’s diligence (Prov. 10:4-5).
In the New Testament, Paul advises Timothy to keep wealth in proper perspective (1 Tim. 6:6-19), and Paul acknowledges that God gives generously to his people for their enjoyment (1 Tim. 6:17). This acknowledgment is balanced by warnings not to trust in your wealth because of the temptation to become arrogant and of the uncertainty involved in keeping wealth (Eccl. 5:8-6:12), and on the flip side, to be content with one’s economic station in life.
The Bible distinguishes between possession of wealth and love of wealth. This is important because only the love of wealth is condemned (1 Tim. 6:10). The love of wealth and desire to become rich bring many temptations and have the potential to destroy your spiritual life (1 Tim. 6:9). The members of the early church and the crowds who followed Jesus were both rich and poor. From what is known of Jesus’ background and his trade as a carpenter, it appears that he lived a middle class lifestyle in contrast to many portrayals of him in poverty. It doesn't seem that being rich is a problem in Scripture, but hoarding your wealth when surrounded by poverty is a sign of selfishness and greed.
Throughout Scripture, the rich are condemned for their callousness to the needs of the poor (Amos 4:1-4; James 2:1-7). The early days of the church were characterized by an extraordinary generosity toward the poor, many of whom constituted the majority of the membership in the early church (Acts 2:43-47). Though the pattern of the early church did not involve a socialistic style of holding property in common, it did involve more awareness of the needs of the poor.
Though the Bible says you may own private property, this right isn't absolute. It's tempered by the reality that all property belongs to God and that we are all stewards of God’s property. God has entrusted his property to us both for our personal needs and enjoyment and for use to achieve God’s purposes (such as meeting the needs of the poor). (Having a large government step in and be virtuous for us is never suggested in the Bible, by the way.)
The gathering of wealth 2,000 years ago was full of potential problems which made it easy to view those who had wealth with a moral and spiritual raised eyebrow. Though the temptations facing the pursuit of wealth today shouldn't be minimized, some important differences exist between the modern and ancient economic systems that at least partially account for the strong cautions about wealth.
Back then, as a general rule, people became wealthy differently than today. The economic system back then was centered around subsistence farming with limited commerce and trade. Real estate was the primary hard asset. The economy was a “zero sum game.” Economic resources were mostly fixed, so when one person got rich, someone else became poor. Or, to a pie guy, the economy was like a pie. When someone took a larger piece, someone else received a smaller piece.
Taking advantage of the poor occurred very regularly and is one of the reasons why the Bible so often condemns exploitation of the poor. There were very few morally legitimate ways to acquire great wealth back then. In most cases, the rich became richer at the expense of the poor, and when someone was rich, they had usually acquired it through some immoral means. As a result, the rich were viewed with suspicion and great emphasis was placed on the potential temptations of becoming wealthy.
The poor certainly continue to be exploited today, but the zero-sum game type of economic system no longer exists. In fact, the economy today is nothing like a zero-sum game. In modern economies, the economic pie is constantly growing. Wealth is created instead of just transferred. Every time a company makes a profit, wealth is created and the size of the pie gets bigger. This is why the rich can become richer while at the same time the poor can also be better off.
The incomes of the poor can and have increased at the same time that the rich get richer. If you get rich, it is not a fair assumption today, that someone else is worse off because of it. In today's modern market economy, wealth is always being created, so it's possible for you to become rich without succumbing to the temptations that the Bible warns against. Today’s market economy makes it far easier to be rich and virtuous than the economic system of old did.
Don't get me wrong; warnings not to give in to the temptations associated with the pursuit of wealth still apply today, as do the commands to share generously with those in need. Your attitude toward and generosity with your money are matters of the heart that haven't changed since the days of Jesus. No matter how much money you have, you are still expected to depend on God, not on money, to share a loving Godly heart for the poor, and to be generous toward those in need.
Having gone through this exercise, I am afraid I have to maintain my original point of view. I have not skewed any facts to defend a political stance, nor have I closed my mind to opposing points of view. If you would like to discuss this further, dear brother, I would be honored to further explore an opposing point of view. I will always speak from the heart when discussing God. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to present this topic in a manner that might result in you someday realizing that to attain Heaven, all you need do is believe that Jesus died for your sins (because NONE of us are good enough to get there on our own). I love you, brother. I eagerly await your comments.