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Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements

Christians and Material Wealth (Part 3)

Specific Doctrines of the Charismatic Movement/Faith Movement
Kenotic Theology
The Anointing and Being Under Authority (Part 1)
The Anointing and Being Under Authority (Part 2)
Sickness and Healing (Part 1)
Sickness and Healing (Part 2)
Prayer, Asking and Receiving (Part 1)
Prayer, Asking and Receiving (Part 2)
Christians and Material Wealth (Part 1)
Christians and Material Wealth (Part 2)
Christians and Material Wealth (Part 3)
The "Rhema" and "Logos" Word (Part 1)
The "Rhema" and "Logos" Word (Part 2)
Those Who Speak in Tongues Necessarily Understand Themselves

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5

As we continue forward, we should also note that if it was God's intent through the Gospel that people learn how to become rich by exercising their faith and sowing financial seed, then why was the early Church and its leaders poor, including the Apostles? Either the apostles themselves did not understand Jesus teaching or the early Church did understand Jesus teaching and it is the Faith Movement teachers who are wrong.

Consider the following verses that demonstrate that Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Church in general was predominantly poor.

Matthew 8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Luke 9:58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Jesus spent his last 3 years on earth traveling from town to town and preaching. He did not have a house to call his own.

Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

Peter didn't have any supply of gold or silver either. He didn't even have enough to give to the beggar that was asking in this passage.

Romans 15:26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

The entire Jerusalem church was apparently in poverty. If only part of the Jerusalem church was poor and the rest were rich, it would not have been necessary to seek help from Macedonia and Achaia. Financial needs could have been met simply by the wealthy Christians in Jerusalem.

Acts 4:34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

The early church wasn't acquiring more and more possessions or property and becoming richer and richer. Instead, they were instead selling their possessions and property to share with each other and to meet the needs of those with less. Notice also that the distribution was given "according to the individual's needs." This means that people were not receiving an abundance because they were only receiving according to their needs.

2 Corinthians 8:13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

While the early church was predominantly poor, there were at times great needs in different communities and so Christians in other communities would take up donations to send to the need communities. And then, when those who gave would come into need, those they formerly gave to would take up donations for them. As Paul said, the goal was that all would have the same amount, which is simply the amount to meet their needs. No one had abundance and the wealth was not to be unequally possessed by some while others lacked. Furthermore, verse 15 demonstrates just as we saw from Acts 4 above, that there was not excess. Instead, everyone had only what he needed, no more and no less. Those whose earning produced more than they needed did not have extra because they gave the extra to those who had less than what they needed.

Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

Here in Philippians 4, Paul recounts his own repeated past experiences in poverty. He states that sometimes he has more than he needs and sometimes he goes hungry. In fact, Paul's need was so bad on some occasions that he had to receive help from various churches, such as the Philippians, in order to meet his basic necessities. Paul was not a rich man. But through the sharing of the Church he did sometimes have plenty.

Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

The Church in Smyrna is poor. Yet they are not criticized for their failure to use faith to obtain wealth. Instead, they are commended by Jesus.

Revelation 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

On the other hand, the Church of Laodicea was rich. Yet instead of commending them for using faith to acquire wealth, Jesus criticizes them for the leisurely and self-assured attitude that came from their abundance. In fact, Jesus criticizes them because they think that their material wealth is a sign of their spiritual well-being, when in reality they are worse spiritually than any of the other Churches and in danger of being cut off from Christ.

And while we are discussing the issue of whether or not the Apostles were wealthy, we should also review the following passages.

Matthew 21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Mark 11:15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Luke 19:45 And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; 46 Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.

In the famous passages above, Jesus cast out of the temple those who bought and sold items for Temple sacrifices and those who exchanged currencies from the different nations so that such items could be purchased. These men were no doubt being unfair in the exchange rates in order to bring about a profit for themselves.

But consider also the fact that the items being sold, including doves, were necessary for people to make the sacrifices required by the Law. Travelers were not likely to bring their own sacrifices from afar so they would simply purchase the animals there in Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus doesn't merely overthrow the moneychangers. He overthrows and casts out those that were buying and selling the animals for sacrifice. This demonstrates that his anger was not just over the dishonest dealing but over the fact that they had turned God's House into a marketplace and a means of making money.

And Paul warns about this type of inappropriate practice occurring in the Church as well.

1 Timothy 6:5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

In this passage, Paul speaks of those men who enter the Church and like those who bought and sold in the Temple, they turn godliness into a matter of making profit. We will revisit this verse again momentarily.

And, in fact, the contempt for those who treat godliness as a means of making money is routed in the Old Testament.

Micah 3:10 They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. 11 The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us. 12 Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.

Micah's statement here clearly reflects God's contempt for those who "teach for hire." In fact, from verse 12's statement that "for your sake...Jerusalem shall become heaps" we understand that this passage from Micah is actually a prophecy concerning those very same leaders and moneychangers at the time of Jesus. For it was the Roman army who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD as a sign of God's judgment on the Jewish leadership of Jesus' day. From Micah's words here, we can see that part of God's criticism of those leaders was the fact that they turned their service and teaching of the people into a means to make money.

If they were not paid, they would not teach. The only way you could access their teaching was to pay them. This is not the way of God. When Jesus sent his disciples to teach and preach, they received provision from those they went to were to supply for their basic needs, but their preaching and teaching was not dependent on their being paid to do so.

And going to the other extreme wasn't the idea either. We're not all supposed to sell our houses and become homeless. As we saw earlier, many early Christians kept their homes, which is the place where traveling apostles and others stayed when visiting and where the early churches met on Sunday for teaching in the Word, communion, and to receive from the weekly distribution according to need. (Acts 10:32, Acts 16:15, 40, 18:1-3, 7, Acts 21:8, Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 1 Timothy 5:8, 2 Timothy 1:16, Philemon 1:2, 2 John 1:10.)

If the key was not being rich and it was not being poor, what was the key? The key was contentment, the state of mind and life in which you do not take efforts or make priorities for the purpose of elevating your current financial status. That was the key.

We see the first hints of this understanding in Luke 3:14 were Jesus instructs the soldiers to be content with their wages.

Luke 3:14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

Paul expounds on this teaching more in 1 Corinthians 7.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. 21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. 22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. 23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. 24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

Here in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul plainly states twice that every man should not have ambitions. He should not seek to better his financial status or acquire more wealth for himself. Instead, he should remain in the status he was in when he first became a Christian. Even if a man was a slave, he was not to concern himself with obtaining his freedom and elevating his status to a free man. Instead he was to be content.

The purpose for this was that by keeping every man from making efforts to improve their financial status or social position, no one would be able to be distracted by the pursuit of such aims. It was simple and effective. And the only exception that Paul gives to this rule was that if a slave had an opportunity to obtain his freedom, he should do so. In this way, a man was not supposed to make the effort to obtain his freedom a regular, ongoing part of his life. That could get distracting. But if an opportunity arose that didn't require much effort, he should take it because it wouldn't be distracting if it came without long-standing effort.

Similarly in today's terms, if the opportunity happens to come along for a person to take a better job, they should take it, but not if it requires a regular, ongoing effort (or if it will detract from our pursuit of God in some other way). For the ongoing effort was what was potentially distracting. And of course, the moment that such an elevation in status begins to produce abundant wealth, it was most likely going to become a distraction in that way as well, which should also be avoided.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Here in Hebrews 13, Paul reiterates the same idea. Christians should remove from themselves the desire for material things and instead be content with what they have. For whatever takes effort to acquire will necessarily distract us from the most important pursuit of our lives, which is the pursuit of God and his teaching.

But as we saw earlier Paul says even more in 1 Timothy 6.

1 Timothy 6:5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

Here in verse 5, Paul refers to those who think that material gain is the same thing as godliness or at least a sign of godliness. Paul says such thinking is from a corrupt mind that is destitute of the truth. He feels so strongly about this kind of thinking that he even tells Timothy not to associate with men who think this way.

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

Here Paul reverses the notion. Instead of material gain being a sign of godliness. Being godly and content with what you have gains you very much. And what does it gain you? More material wealth? No. What it gains you is an abundant inheritance in the kingdom of God because you won't be distracted by worldly wealth and so be disqualified from entering the coming kingdom. Having abundance and wealth is necessarily a temptation and a snare that can keep us out of the kingdom of God. Therefore, Paul teaches that it is better for us to simply be content with what we have and in doing so, we will avoid the snare. For in verse 10, Paul goes on to say that by pursuing money, some have erred and fallen away from the faith. Thus, they won't enter the kingdom of God.

Notice also verse 11. Paul doesn't take the position that it is possible to do both at the same time, to pursue material gain and serve God. Instead, Paul's instruction to those who would be men of God is that they flee from such efforts entirely. There is no middle ground in this instruction. In conclusion, we see that the key is to be content with what you have and if you have extra, to find a way to use it to meet the needs of those who don't have enough. The goal is as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:14-15.

2 Corinthians 8:14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

If we do this, not taking efforts to improve our financial status but living in contentment, then we will stay within the teaching of the Lord. In the end, we return to James 4:13-15 because of its clarity on this issue.

James 4:13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

As we have seen already, according to James, tomorrow is not guaranteed to us. Instead, we must understand that whether or not we are able to accomplish something or succeed at a task is a matter of whether or not the Lord permits it. This demonstrates that sometimes God does not permit it and so God is not always willing for us to make money. This entire criticism from James makes no sense if God always wants us to be able to acquire wealth. For, if it was always the Lord's will that Christians be able to make wealth, then James could not criticize these men for assuming that they will be able to "buy and sell, and get gain."

In conclusion, as we have seen from all these passages of scripture, it is not correct to state that God always wants us to prosper and be wealthy. The early Church was poor including the Apostles and they received according to their needs so that no one had extra and no one was in need. Jesus plainly taught that storing up and acquiring material possessions on earth was not an act of faith, it was an act of doubt. And by taking efforts to store up wealth, not only were we acting in doubt of God's provision, but we were actually engaging in covetousness and pursuing money as a master. Jesus told his disciples that it was extremely difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God because the tendency was so strong that those with abundance would develop a love for their wealth, which would divert their hearts away from putting God first. Instead, as we have seen, the key is to be content and not to spend our time and effort trying to change our financial status.