Is It Possible to Be Rich and Righteous?

A Daily Little Lesson

Read the transcript of this video below.

We’re going to continue talking about money on this episode. We know that the Bible warns that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (see 1 Timothy 6:10).

Man holding jar with money - Is it possible to be rich and righteous

So there is a great danger there with money, and wealth, and riches. Most teachers and preachers who will mention the fact that Scripture warns against the love of money will quickly point out, and rightfully so, that it’s not money itself that is the root of all sorts of evil, but it is the love of money that is the root of all sorts of evil.

Money is a horrible taskmaster, but it can be a great servant, right? That’s important to remember.

Jesus warned that you can’t serve two masters (see Matthew 6:24). You’re going to love one, and hate the other, or vice-a-versa, right? He, specifically, then tagged money. He said you can’t serve God and money. Money is a great competitor against God for people’s hearts. God wants us to love him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. God wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we love money more than we love God, or more than we love our neighbor as ourselves, we got our love on the wrong thing.

Can You Be Righteous and Rich at the Same Time?

Okay, is it possible to be righteous and to also at the same time be rich? Well yes, but with a little disclaimer: the person who is laying up treasures for himself, as not rich towards God, as Jesus warned about in the parable of the rich fool, he’s not righteous.

If you’re going to be righteous and rich, you have to be submitted to God, and if you are submitted to God, then you’re going to be using your money to do his will. And then it can be a wonderful, wonderful blessing. As I said, money can be a wonderful servant, it’s a horrible taskmaster.

Looking at All of Scripture

Oftentimes we find some folks who love to just focus on one or two verses of the Bible and build their theology on those. For example, where Jesus said, “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.” (Luke 6:24).

If that verse was spoken in a vacuum, we might conclude that it’s just evil to be rich. But it wasn’t spoken in a vacuum, it was spoken within the context of everything else that Jesus said, and everything else that God said in the entirety of the Bible.

In fact, it might not hurt us just to read a little bit of the context of that statement by Jesus.

Jesus’ ‘Woe to You’ Statements in Context

But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way. – Luke 6:24-26

Well, was Jesus condemning all wealthy people? If He was, He was condemning a lot of biblical people, right? Sure, and He was condemning some folks who were helping Him in His own ministry, because Scripture makes it plain that Jesus was supported by the contributions of those who appreciated his ministry.

There’s also a condemnation of anyone who’s not currently hungry, and they’re well fed. Well, woe to a lot of us if there’s no deeper meaning, or perspective, that we ought to take by looking at the entirety of Scripture here.

Jesus also said, “Woe to you who laugh now,” yikes, “for you shall mourn and weep.” So He’s condemning everyone who’s not mourning and weeping right now. Well obviously, looking at that in the context of all of Scripture, these can’t be carte blanche condemnations of everybody who’s smiling and laughing, and everybody who’s got a full belly, who just completed a meal, and then for that same reason, for everyone who’s rich.

When Riches Are Sinful

Jesus is talking about a specific instance, a specific time, when His followers were being persecuted, and suffering because of it, and those who were not His followers who were having a party at the expense of His followers. Now, James similarly, whose writing mirrors what you find in the Sermon on the Mount perhaps more than any other epistle, wrote something similar.

He said in James 5:1, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.” I always believe that the best commentary on what Jesus said in the gospels as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is found in the epistles, right? These guys were the closest ones to Jesus.

Was James across the board condemning anyone who had some degree of wealth or riches? Well, he goes on and becomes more specific on who he’s condemning in this fifth chapter of James.

Description of the Greedy

“Your riches have rotted,” so that means you’ve got more food than you need, that could have been shared with the poor, but you didn’t care about the poor, your food, that you’ve got stored up has rotted, and it’s not good for anybody now. “And your garments have become moth eaten,” well that’s right out of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus warned about laying up treasures on this earth where moths, and rust consume.

The moths that eat the garments of the wealthy, those are garments that the wealthy aren’t wearing. In other words, it’s an incrimination against the wealthy. You’ve got more clothes than you need, you could be clothing the naked, but you just have clothes stored up in your closet, and you never wear them, and the moths are benefiting, but the poor are not benefiting from your wealth.

Then he goes on, “Your gold and your silver have rusted.” So you’ve got piles of stuff that is not being put to use, it’s not being invested, it’s not being given to anybody to help the poor, or to give opportunities for people. It just piling up.

“Their rust will be a witness against you, and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasures,” so clearly this is a condemnation of a certain group of wealthy people. Not generous wealthy people like Job, who used his wealth to take care of widows and orphans, and to employ people, and to put them to good service and use in a functioning little economy. This is just wealthy greedy people piling up their treasure on the earth, okay?

Well, this is a Little Lesson, and how time flies. So we’re going to have to do part two in our next Little Lesson. Thanks for joining me, hope to see you then. God bless.