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Paul Has 5 Things to Say to Rich Christians
Paul has a message for you.
This message comes to us through Keith Krell’s and the late Verlyn Verbrugge’s new book Paul and Money—a biblical and theological analysis of Paul’s teachings and practices on how financial matters intersect with our lives.
One of those matters addresses the question, “Did Paul have an independent message…for Christians who had wealth? The answer to this question is a resounding yes.” (242)
They reveal 5 important things about this message, which have great bearing on the financial lives of most Christians
1) Money-Love Roots Evil
We’ve all heard one of Paul’s more pointed instructions: “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Tim 6:10) While Paul does not condemn wealth, he is concerned by how it can affect peoples’ faith:
Some people who are attached to earthly wealth and set their hope on it end up denying Christ as their Savior and the teachings of the Christian faith. (243)
So Paul exhorts Christians to “have the right attitude toward their wealth and make proper use of it.” (244) Christians do both by having an eternal perspective on wealth:
The goal for every believer is to prepare in this present age for the coming age, and one of the best ways for the wealthy to do this is to share what they have with those who do not. (246)
2) False Teachers Seek Dishonest Gain
Paul also warns against those who teach “for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:11) While the motivation for kerdos also includes “social leverage, power, and clout as well,” what’s clear is the primary motivation of false teachers is greed. (247)
Paul calls such practice aischros—sordid, shameful, dishonest. These people could have been similar to the wandering philosopher, from whom Paul distanced himself. Several well-charted chapters outline this, including: how Paul earned a living from the gospel, his reluctance to accept support, and his eschewing the Greco-Roman patronage system.
“It was indeed important to Paul,” they conclude, “that no one preaching the gospel of Jesus should think he was in that business just to make a quick, easy buck.” (248) He instructs Christians to avoid such people (2 Tim 2:16), and ministry leaders to do what he did: have integrity.
3) Ministry Leaders: Seek Financial Integrity
Paul is quick to note that the antidote to fiscally sordid false teachers is “ministry leaders who serve as examples to the flock of what integrity is all about.” (249) Showing integrity with regards to money issues is of special import. Verbrugge and Krell outline three key characteristics:
- Hospitality: “[Paul] expects ministry leaders to set an example for believers in opening up their homes to strangers;” (249)
- No Greediness. “A church leader must have a detachment from wealth and its distractions…His goals and decisions are not to be influenced by money.” (250)
- God’s glory is primary. “The quest for money becomes base whenever one makes personal gain rather than God’s glory the prime object of life.”
4) Care for Widows
One of Paul's more extensive sections dealing with money is the care for widows, in 1 Timothy 5:3–16. Paul and Money provides important background context to inform Paul’s message.
When Jews became Christians they were often cut off from the welfare system of Israel. And because the Roman empire was no welfare state, “caring for the truly needy Christians became the responsibility of local churches.” This created some problems:
family members who had needy aging relatives began to depend on the church rather than considering it their own responsibility to care for these needy relatives. (253–254)
Paul chastised such people, and outlined four stipulations for a list of approved widows:
- She had no living relative who could care for her;
- She was a godly woman devoted to prayer;
- She was over sixty, was faithful to her husband;
- She was known for good deeds and service.
“The church has an obligation to care for widows who truly are alone, and it can only do so if it has the necessary resources.” (257)
5) Meet Peoples’ Needs
Finally, “a central goal of the Christian life and the role of the church is to meet the needs (creia) of people.” (258) Titus 3:14 and Ephesians 4:17–5:20 make this clear.
The latter in particular makes sharing “with the one who has need” (Eph 4:28) a central reason for working: “It is not enough to have an honest job; a central part of one’s daily work is to share with people who are truly needy.” (358)
Our purpose as working adults, then, “[is] not to build up one’s own little kingdom on earth, but to share what one has with those who truly have needs.” (259)
Engage Paul and Money today to fully appreciate and teach Paul’s message to the rich and his instructions on how the church should minister in our age of wealth.
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