There seems to be the idea that one needs to be poor to be a good follower of Jesus Christ. Aren’t many of the saints also poor? We need only to look at St. Francis of Assisi who gave up all of his riches to follow Christ. In modern times, we can look at the life of Mother Teresa, also known as the saint of the gutters. She left every comfort and sign of material security to serve the poorest of the poor.
Even the Gospels, we find Bible verses that warn us from the dangers of loving material wealth:
“Other people are like the seeds sown among the thorn bushes. These are the ones who hear the message, but the worries about this life, the love for riches, and all other kinds of desires crowd in and choke the message, and they don’t bear fruit.” – Mark 4:18-19 (GNT)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” – Matthew 6:19-21 (NABRE)
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’” – Luke 16:19-24 (NABRE)
On the other side of this, however, are God’s promises of provision and abundance for His followers. There are also many Bible verses that support how God blesses His people not only with spiritual riches but with material abundance. Wasn’t King David rich? And yet, he was the man after God’s own heart.
“Honor the Lord with your substance
and with the first fruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
– Proverbs 3:9-10 (NRSVCE)
“I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.”
-Psalm 37:25 (NRSVCE)
“The Lord will not let good people go hungry… Being lazy will make you poor, but hard work will make you rich.”- Proverbs 10:3-4 (GNT)
The Need for Discernment
God is our loving Father. He does not rejoice when His children suffer in poverty. It is Jesus Himself who taught us to pray for our daily bread.
If we have needs, we need to be diligent in our work and then pray and trust Him that He will never forsake us.
On the other hand, working only for riches and forgetting the importance of loving and following God will only bring us to ruin.
There is a wonderful verse that can teach us how to see all these in the proper perspective:
“…give me neither poverty nor riches;
provide me only with the food I need;
Lest, being full, I deny you,
saying, “Who is the Lord?”
Or, being in want, I steal,
and profane the name of my God.
– Proverbs 30 (NABRE)
While we can work to sustain ourselves and our loved ones, we should never forget God, our true Provider. We must also learn to set our priorities straight.
“But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” – Matthew 6:33 (NABRE)
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” – Matthew 6:24 (NRSVCE)
Using Wealth to Serve God and Neighbor
Money should not be used for our selfish pleasures and amusement. It should not be the source of our security and happiness.
We should instead see money as a tool we could use to help our brothers and sisters in need. It should show whom we truly worship and what we value most in life.
“Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, 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 pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” – James 5:1-5 (NRSVCE)
The True Danger of Riches
The real danger of material wealth is in allowing it to become the very center of our lives. Once that happens, we become slaves to it. We worship money instead of worshiping God!
When we find ourselves too comfortable because we are rich, we can forget where our wealth came from. We can even be filled with pride thinking we were the only ones who worked for the riches we gained in life.
Thinking about money night and day can set our minds only on the material things we can buy. We forget the spiritual world, even the existence of our souls.
This is the kind of temptation we should all resist because it risks our relationship with God and endangers our eternal destiny.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” – Mark 8:36 (DRA)
“The end of the world, Christ says, will come when the human race, sunk in the depths of indifference, is far from thinking about punishment and justice. It will be as in the days of Noah, when men lived without a care, built luxurious homes, and mocked Noah as he built his ark … Civilization will be at its zenith, markets overflowing with money, and stocks will never have been higher. Mankind, wallowing in unprecedented material prosperity, will have ceased to hope for heaven.” – Father Arminjon, End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life