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David Hagni

This paper was written by David Hagni.

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Dave graduated from Rhema Bible Training Center and Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. He holds master's degrees in both divinity and business administration from Regent University.

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Articles > Charismatic Theology > Wealth according to Jesus

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Wealth According to Jesus

 

By David Hagni. Presented to Regent University and Dr. Lyle Story for Life and Teachings of Christ, BNTB 510 Spring 2000

 

“I do not undervalue for a moment our material prosperity . . . but we must keep steadily in mind that no people were ever benefited by riches if their prosperity corrupted their virtue.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

 

* * *

 

We live in a culture that has recently experienced unparalleled growth in its national economy. We also live in a church culture that is being forced – both by theological argument and by need of the poor – to sort Biblical truth from error concerning issues of material wealth and poverty. On one side we hear the proponents of faith teachings[1] and on the other side we hear counter complaints of those who are against the insidious disease[2]of the gospel of prosperity. What are we to do if we want to have a bedrock of understanding that will guide our ethics and beliefs, our daily financial decisions, and our long-term lifestyle commitments? It is probably not wise to base values and judgments on a roaring economy that may crash next year. And, it is also difficult to discern what is right when so many “anointed” teachers are giving messages that do not agree. An examination of the context and content of Jesus’ teaching reveal that Christ initiated a reversal of fortune between the wicked rich and the righteous poor. Jesus calls his followers to reorder their lives according to kingdom principles governing the righteous acquisition and distribution of material wealth.

 

Background

Before examining texts containing Jesus’ teaching on wealth, it is important to gain an understanding of the Old Testament background and Jewish mindset toward wealth. Jewish culture is the context in which Jesus thought and taught. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible defines “poor” as one who is destitute of wealth and of material goods, lacking in even the necessities of life. Also, metaphorically, it means the humble and the meek. There are many Hebrew words that describe the condition of being poor, but this is a good general definition to work with. Accordingly, the definition for “wealth” in the Old Testament designates the abundance of property. Two Hebrew words for wealth portray the meaning of “faculty,” “ability,” and “power” in relation to acquiring goods and influence[3].

 

  The Old Testament has a long-standing tradition of seeing wealth as a positive affirmation of God’s blessing. In Genesis 13, for example, Abram is said to have been very wealthy in property and precious metals (vs. 2). In chapter 14, it is apparent that God was the One Who blessed Abram and made him prosper (vs. 19-23). The tradition is continued with Abraham’s son Isaac (26:13), Isaac’s son Jacob (30:43), and Jacob’s son Joseph (41:40), all who became very wealthy by the favor of the Lord. Job also finds that he is twice as prosperous than before his calamities struck due to the blessing of God (Job 41:10).

 

  On the other hand, the Old Testament does not give wholesale credence to prosperity without qualifications and perameters. Deuteronomy 28 states that the voice of the Lord is to be carefully obeyed or poverty will follow as a punishment for disobedience (vs. 1-2, 11, and 15). Psalm 109:10-12 extends the punishment of poverty to those who trouble the plan of God. And, the book of Proverbs is explicit in its declaration that poverty is sometimes self-inflicted when a person becomes lazy (6:6-11), undisciplined (23:21), or out of control with his spending (21:17). As important as these principles are, there is one overriding theme found in the Old Testament concerning the rich and the poor that helps shed light on the teachings of Jesus in the gospels.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Footnotes

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