Read: 2 Cor. 8:9 |
William Borden, an heir of the Borden milk fortune, was a wealthy Christian. In 1904, during his first year at Yale University, he answered God’s call and committed himself to reaching the Muslims of North India.
After graduating from Yale, Borden gave away his inheritance to various missions before departing to India. He sailed for Egypt to study Arabic before going to India. He was in Cairo for four months when he contracted spinal meningitis and was dead within weeks.
His death was cabled back to the U.S. and the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. “A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice”. His parting words he wrote in his Bible read, “No reserve! No retreat! No regrets!”
Borden was wealthy but his contentment came from doing the will of God and not from his wealth. As we continue our study of the Kingdom of God lessons for the Well-off and Comfortable, let us examine what does the Bible say about the rich and the poor.
Scriptural Survey of the Rich and Poor
Referring to Deuteronomy 15:11, Jesus shared that the poor will always be with us in Matthew 26:11. Looking around, it also seems that the rich will also “always be with us”.
The Bible has a lot to say about the rich and the poor. The words “rich” and “poor” appear 25 times within the same sentence; the word “rich” appears alone 161 times; the word “poor” appears alone 148 times.
Survey of “Poor” in the Bible
In some cases, when the Bible mentions the poor, it depicts them as such due to their bad choices. These verses tend to warn against laziness and failing to heed wise advice. [Proverbs 27:33–34; cf. 6:11; Proverbs 28:19; Proverbs 13:18 ESV]
In other places, the Bible depicts the state of being poor from a spiritual perspective. For instance, in the Beatitudes, Jesus points out that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, blessed are those that recognize that they can do nothing apart from God. Our poorness is based our need for God, for we cannot save ourselves.
Survey of “Rich” in the Bible
When the Bible speaks of riches, it can mean that we are rich with physical possessions we own or rich spiritually with whom possess us – Jesus. As Henry Ward Beecher said, “He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has”.
Repeatedly, in the Old and New Testament, the Bible warns believers of the poisonous potential of possessions. Proverbs 49 speaks of the folly of riches. When Jesus speaks of the rich, He notes the challenges and the temptations that they will face. [Matthew 19:23; Luke 16:19-31] Paul’s letters in the New Testament provide wise counsel to beware and to be careful of the temptations of wealth. [2 Corinthians 8:9; I Timothy 6:9,17-19; Philippians 4:11-12; Revelations 2:9]
The key point, however, is that the Bible never says that you cannot be rich and be a Christian. In fact, many Old Testament patriarchs were wealthy and yet served God faithfully. In the New Testament, the book of Acts alone notes 9 well-off people who helped spread the gospel:
- Joseph, called Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37)
- Dorcas (Acts 9:36)
- Cornelius (Acts 10:1)
- Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12)
- Lydia (Acts 16:14-15)
- Jason (Acts 17:5-9)
- Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2-3)
- Mnason of Cyprus (Acts 21:16)
- Philemon (Philemon 1)
These faithful believers did not suffer the problem of the rich young ruler. They were able to serve God and resist the temptations that so easily ensnare the wealthy.
We are to serve Him with “No reserve! No retreat! No regrets!” Thus, whether you consider yourself as rich or poor, make sure that you are rich and poor in the right things.
Strive to be rich in grace and mercy and poor in pride; rich in generosity and poor in selfishness; rich in trust in the Lord and poor in doubt of His promises; rich in prayer and poor in demanding our own way.
Ensure that the portrait the Bible paints of those who are rich yet without God, is not a Selfie of you!
Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well
– Matthew 6:33
1. Discover –
A. If you consider yourself poor, how do you perceive rich Christians? Have they treated you respectfully?
If you consider yourself rich, how do you perceive poor Christians? Have you treated them as you would want to be treated?
B. Read Proverbs 49 – The Folly of Riches. What are the key thoughts that you can apply this week.
2. Develop –
A. How does your Church handle the poor in your community? Would you consider this generous or is there room to grow?
B. Spiritually, it is good to have the right mix of rich and poor. Are you not rich or poor in some things that you are working on? Personally, I am constantly seeking His will to calibrate my walk with Christ.
3. Demonstrate –
A. In your will or instructions to your family when you leave and go to Heaven, have you designated anything to the less fortunate or your Church as a “gift”? Discuss the idea with your spouse.
B. What really matters is the purpose that possessions play in our lives. Are we looking to possessions for the meaning and security in our lives, or are we looking at them as blessings that can help us fulfill our role in God’s kingdom?