Monday, May 11, 2015

Should a Christian be wealthy?

While reading some of the blogs I follow I came across a post entitled "Should Christians Be Wealthy?" I did not read the article. There are two points of view on this question that many hold, and I disagree with both so I moved on to the next post.

One view takes the approach of the Prosperity Gospel that claims if you have enough faith you can create great riches. Pray in certain ways, use the right words, and God is obligated to open up the windows of heaven and pour out riches upon you. I stopped listening to those teaching that when I questioned why they never took that message to Bangladesh or some other third-world country. Surely those folks would like to know the magic formula to become wealthy. It seems those teaching this philosophy preferred to remain in the states where people could afford to buy their books and tapes.

The other view sees wealth as something evil. In this view one can only become wealthy if someone else is becoming poorer. People holding this view believe that wealthy people must be punished with increased taxes in order to spread the wealth. As a bivocational minister I am not wealthy, but I strongly disagree with this view.

People who take risks have the right to benefit when those risks produce results. An entrepreneur who starts a small business that becomes successful should not be punished for that success. The government is ready to increase his or her taxes if the business succeeds, but does nothing if it fails. Besides, what is gained by punishing success? No poor person ever gave me a job so I'm thankful that people have succeeded and businesses have grown so that they needed to employ more people.

There is a third view on Christians and wealth that I find more balanced. I believe the Bible does teach principles that will lead to a Christian (and non-Christian for that matter) to enjoy financial success. One of the best resources I've found that addresses this is Rabbi Daniel Lapin's book Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money. Rabbi Lapin explains that one of the reasons the Jewish people have often been so successful is that they follow Biblical principles that promote wealth. Referring to the Old Testament and the Torah, he presents ten fundamental "commandments" that relate to both money and business.

One of these commandments is that people should believe in the dignity and morality of business assuming they are conducting their business in a moral and ethical manner. No one should apologize for making a profit if they are offering a product or service that benefits others. No one should apologize for doing a good job and being rewarded financially for doing so, nor should they be attacked by others for being successful.

Another commandment addresses tithing. Rabbi Lapin says that for thousands of years Jewish people have seen the connection between giving and increased wealth. We do not give in order to receive, but it seems that givers do receive far more than they give which enables them to give even more. Some of the most generous people I know are wealthy Christians who understand they are merely stewards of all they possess.

Rabbi Lapin goes into great detail explaining the principles and reasoning behind each commandment. I found the book helpful as both a minister and an entrepreneur and learned things I had never seen taught elsewhere.

I think you will find this a very interesting and inspiring book. I enjoyed the insights the Rabbi shared regarding some of the teachings out of the Torah as well as the Jewish understanding of some Old Testament stories. You don't have to preach a prosperity gospel in order to teach your congregation sound Biblical principles about wealth and money.

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