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Christianity & Wealth, Part 2: Can A Christian Acquire Wealth?

This is the 2nd of 3 posts to address the question:  Can a Christian be a Capitalist?  Since this is a theological question, it will be answered using the Bible.  In the first post, I answered the question “Can a Christian possess wealth?”  In logical progression, I continue now by answering a second question:  “Can a Christian acquire wealth?”

This is the short titular form of the question.  A more concise question would be:   Within Biblical standards, can a Christian actively engage in entrepreneurship or in the acquisition of wealth?  I will show the answer is yes for four reasons:

  1. There are Biblical commands of honest gain that implicitly approve entrepreneurship.
  2. God flourished the livelihoods of Old Testament figures as a sign of favor.
  3. God used the growing wealth of New Testament figures to propagate the Gospel.
  4. The Bible contains no universal command for Christians to abrogate entrepreneurship or the acquisition of wealth.

 

First, there are Biblical commands of honest gain that implicitly approve entrepreneurship.  There are more than a few Old Testament Scriptures that command persons to do business in an honest manner, such as Proverbs that condemn the dishonest use of trade weights:

Proverbs 11:1  Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight.

Also about the WAY that wealth is made:

Proverbs 21:6  A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

Leviticus 25:14  And if you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor’s hand, you shall not oppress one another.

Obviously dishonest measuring techniques … or wealth created by lying … or oppression … could not occur without entrepreneurial trading.  Thereby these verses implicitly acknowledge the right of trade and wealth creation.

 

Secondly, the Bible depicts God flourishing the livelihoods of Old Testament figures as a sign of favor.  God prospered ALL of the Patriarchs in their livelihoods … Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  There is an intricate detail of God prospering Jacob’s livelihood as he worked for Laban (Genesis 30:30).  The virtuous wife of Proverbs 31 is praised for her ability to use her capital of land, labor and materials, sell them for gain, and even have enough left over to give:

Proverbs 31
16 She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength, And strengthens her arms.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hand holds the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.

These Old Testament examples are important even for those under the New Covenant of the New Testament.  If one believes in the immutability of God, that is, God does not change (Malachi 3:6), one would expect an unchanging attitude by God towards entrepreneurship.  Furthermore, the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), but within the Godhead exists the three distinct persons of the Trinity.  Jesus is God, thus Jesus would have the same unchanging attitude towards entrepreneurship.  Which can be shown in our third point:

 

God used the growing wealth of New Testament figures to propagate the Gospel.  I already mentioned Joseph of Arimathea and Lydia of Thyatira in Part 1 of this series.  Peter was lodged by Simon who was an entrepreneur in the tanning of hides.  Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, earned his living as a carpenter.  But the most compelling evidence that entrepreneurship is not sinful is that Paul himself was an entrepreneur!  On occasion, he supported his missions by making tents:

Acts 18
2 And (Paul) found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them.
3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.

 

Finally, the Bible contains no universal command for Christians to abrogate entrepreneurship or the acquisition of wealth.  As explained in Part 1 of this series, the Rich Young Ruler was commanded to abrogate his wealth because he placed his wealth above God, not because Jesus was giving a universal command to relinquish wealth.  On the contrary, in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, an elemental lesson to be learned is that it is not immoral to profit from our capital – our resources, education, and labor.  In fact, the punishment was accorded to the servant who did nothing with his capital.

In the New Testament, Paul commands able bodies persons to work for their own food:

2 Thess 3
10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.
12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

Paul even takes entrepreneurship a step further by admonishing those who gain a profit to help those in need:

Ephesians 4:28  Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

There are many instances of God’s miraculous provision to His children.  The Israelites were fed by manna falling from the sky.  Elijah was fed by a raven bringing him food.  However, the vast majority of Biblical figures were given the privilege of using their capital – their talents, resources, wit and labor – to earn their livings, often having enough left over to help those in need.

 

With the conclusion of these four points, I hope I have convinced the reader that a Christian can actively seek after wealth within Biblical standards of honest gain.  However, with it comes the admonishment that even the pursuit of wealth can ensnare and stumble believers:

1 Timothy 6:10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

In contrast to Paul’s warning is Jesus’ promise of rewards for those who voluntarily leave all to become missionaries of the Gospel:

Matthew 19:29  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.  30  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

There are disciples of Christ who will be blessed to enter this missionary life, and there are disciples of Christ who will be blessed to use their capital and profits to sustain those missionaries.

 

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