Jesus, Money and Prosperity

The Bible has a lot to say on the topic of money. Of the 38 parables told by Jesus, 16 concern how to handle money and possessions. One in 10 verses in the gospels (288 in total) deal directly with the subject of money. And, perhaps most strikingly, the entire Bible contains more than 2,000 verses on money, while only 500 deal with prayer and less than 500 deal with faith.

Contrary to what many believe, the Bible does not teach that there is anything wrong with wealth per se. 1 kings 3:10-13 recounts how God blessed Solomon with wealth to the point that he was richer than "all the other kings of the earth" (2 Chronicles 9:32). However, the Bible makes it clear that a person's attitude towards money reveals their heart. Matthew 6:21 says "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". 

Mark 10:17-25 presents us with the story of a rich man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. The man had kept all of God's commandments but, according to Jesus, he lacked one thing. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me," he said. The man went away sad, and Jesus said to his disciples: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

Jesus' words may seem harsh to us. Was he saying that we should totally renounce material things? Not quite. In the above story, the problem was not the man's wealth but his attachment to his wealth — his reluctance to part with it.  In Luke 16:13 Jesus says "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

Jesus was aware of the insidious power of money. We always think we need just a little more than what we have and before we know it things we once considered luxuries have turned into necessities. We begin viewing ourselves and those around us through the prism of financial status, assigning value to individuals according to their bank balance. And when times of financial crisis hit we panic because our sense of self-worth has become so tied up in what we own — the house we live in, the brands we wear, the cars we drive — that when our lifestyle is under threat we feel as though our very identity is under threat.

This is why 1 Timothy 6:10 says that "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil". Money itself is neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but when it takes the place of God in a person's life — when it becomes a master — it can be extremely destructive. The moment we start deriving our security from money rather than God, we know we have a problem. The moment we start looking to money as a source of happiness, it is time to reconsider our priorities and ask God to take his rightful place in our lives.

Malachi 3:10-12 says: "'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.'" God wants us to trust him with our finances not because he needs our money (all we own comes from him ultimately anyway) but because he is the true source of security, joy, satisfaction, and everything else that we look to money for. When we relinquish control of our finances to God, he provides us with all we need and more. This is the one thing that God says we can test him on.

Find out more

To find out more about what the Bible says about money, have a listen to C3 Mumbai's three-part series on the topic: "Jesus, Money and Prosperity". Recordings are available on SoundCloud and YouTube.