The Bible paints a remarkably coherent and consistent story of God and humanity. Still, it often appears that the Old Testament and the New Testament conflict with each other regarding some rather important topics. One of these topics is money. Read in isolation, one might conclude that Abraham’s life of material blessing is somehow starkly different than Paul’s life of hardship and suffering. And depending on your theological leanings you may conclude that one or the other is the model for Christians today. Read together though, one can see a thread of consistent theological truth around money running from Genesis to Revelation—from Abraham to Solomon to Jesus to Paul. In his classic survey of Scripture on money and possessions, Neither Poverty nor Riches, Dr. Craig Blomberg draws out five conclusions from the Old Testament about money that help us understand and interpret the Bible’s whole witness in a coherent and consistent way.
1. The Land and its Produce are Good. God’s creation and generous gift of a productive land is a good gift from which the whole world is provided for. The law provided protections against the over-accumulation and exploitation of the land for personal ends. Instead, it pointed us toward a perspective of God’s ownership, our stewardship, and the protection of the most vulnerable in and among us. The promise to Abraham and the principle of the year of Jubilee must be understood together, as the promise leads us to the principle. The land belongs to God and it is intended to benefit the community as a community in right relationship with God and each other. Do you view all that you have as yours or God’s?
2. Material Blessings are to be Shared. Continuing the line of reasoning from the first conclusion, the Old Testament clearly leads us to see that any material blessings gained are meant for the good of more than ourselves. “People always take priority over prosperity. Those in positions of power have no increased privilege, only increased responsibility” (p. 84). This line of emphasis continues through the New Testament where we see the individual and church given responsibility for caring for others out of God’s provision. How do you look for opportunities to share with others the material blessings God has entrusted to you?
3. Care for the Poor is Paramount. “The key to evaluating any individual church or nation in terms of its use of material possessions (personally, collectively or institutionally) is how well it takes care of the poor and powerless in its midst” (p. 84). The systems we create and participate in must be judged in light of how they care for the poor and marginalized. God’s concern for the poor is seen as a consistent thread from Genesis to Revelation and it’s seen as a marker of His people throughout time. Simply put, failure to care for the poor and marginalized is a sign that we are not God’s people. How are you and your church caring for the poor and the powerless in your midst?
4. Work is Good. Work is seen as necessary and good for all able-bodied people from the Garden of Eden and into eternity. The Old Testament “presupposes both the right and the responsibility of those who are able to work to provide for their own well-being” (p.84). We see this theme reemerge in the New Testament as Paul tells the Thessalonians that if they are able to work and won’t, then they shouldn’t eat. Finding joy and purpose in work is a theme that pervades Scripture and removes us from viewing work as a necessary evil. Let us work with joy!! How can you rejoice in the work that God has given you to do?
5. Neither Poverty nor Riches is the Ideal. The Bible places us in interdependence on one another and calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we see ourselves as a part of a community and dependent on God for provision, we become convinced that the best kind of life is one shared with others in both relationship and in using God’s resources to celebrate His goodness. Christ’s fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant for our benefit blesses the entire world (as promised to Abraham) and fully satisfies God’s promise of material blessing to the people of Israel. We “may not claim these promises in a literal, materialistic sense during the Christian era” (p 83). Instead, we seek neither poverty nor riches, but enough to give and receive and live in community with one another. How does a call to neither poverty nor riches realign your focus and pursuit with respect to wealth?
To learn more about what the Bible says about a theology of money see the following resources:
Blomberg, Craig L. (1999). Neither Poverty nor Riches: A biblical theology of material possessions. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Blue, Michael (2020). Free to Follow: Discover the riches of a surrendered life. Austin, TX: Thirst Land Press.