For those familiar with Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Pastor Mark Driscoll addresses the topic of wealth from a Biblical perspective. We see examples of wealthy people who are good stewards of their money.
Classic examples include Bill Gates and Warren Buffett who have both pledged to give 99% of their wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The primary aims of the foundation are, globally, to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and in America, to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.
Conversely, there are bad stewards of money. A more recent example is Allen Iverson, former NBA superstar from my hometown of Philadelphia. Over the course of his 14 year NBA career, he amassed a $154 million dollar fortune, but through excessive spending and bad investments, he has declared bankruptcy. On Monday, February 13th, 2012, a Georgia judge ordered Iverson to pay a jeweler about $860,000 and, because Iverson apparently could not do so, the court is going after his bank account and garnishing his earnings.
Most times, wealth is often viewed through the incorrect perspectives of either prosperity or poverty theology. In prosperity theology, God loves rich people more than he loves poor people, as evidenced by his blessing of great wealth. In poverty theology, God loves poor people more than he loves rich people, who are vilified as greedy thieves.
Driscoll talks about four kinds of people: the righteous rich, the unrighteous rich, the righteous poor and the unrighteous poor (Luke 19:11-27).
The righteous rich became rich because God blessed them; they worked hard, invested smart and did not obtain wealth through sin like stealing or taking advantage of others. Such people spend their money righteously, generously sharing their abundance with those in need. I do not know the religious convictions of Gates or Buffett, but their generosity is an example of rich people acting in a righteous manner.
The unrighteous rich are people who obtain wealth through sinful means such as stealing and extorting. They spend their money in sinful ways and do little if anything to help people in need. The most legendary biblical example is Judas Iscariot, who stole money from Jesus’ ministry fund.
The righteous poor are people who work hard for the little money they have, spend it wisely and share their pittance with others in need. Jesus is the most obvious biblical example of someone who was both righteous and poor.
The unrighteous poor are people with little or no money because they are lazy or spend foolishly. They do not give to God or others. The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about such people, calling them “fools” and “sluggards.”
Often times, wealth and money are used to describe the rich or poor, when the real question should be righteousness and unrighteousness. This kind of rhetoric is amplified by politics and is manifested in our economic and tax policy. The question we should all ask ourselves is, are we righteous in how we obtain and distribute our wealth? Are we more aligned with Bill Gates or Allen Iverson?
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