There’s very little that Left and Right agree on in today’s contentious political climate, but one of the few things both sides seem to agree on is the idea that the wealth gap is a bad thing. Each side focuses on a different end of this disparity, the Left focuses on the super wealthy while the Right focuses on those who aren’t wealthy because they’ve been ‘left behind’. What both sides assume is that this disparity in wealth is an inherently bad thing. The Bible, however, does not support this idea that disparities are an inherently bad thing.
Let me clarify my argument at the outset, I’m not arguing that poverty is great and wonderful, or that there’s anything wrong with trying to better your lot. All I’m arguing is that there is nothing inherently wrong with some people having vastly more or less wealth than others.
The first thing we need to look at to establish this is the nature and purpose of wealth. According to Webster’s, wealth in its broadest sense is ‘all property that has a money value or an exchangeable value’. In addition to money, this includes things that could be sold for money like houses, gold, and ugly couches sold for twenty bucks at a garage sale. Wealth is a pretty nebulous idea that encompasses almost everything you have. We give people money in exchange for goods because the goods are more valuable to us than the money that we’re giving away. When we do this, we are essentially turning that money into goods that are useful to us. We could easily say that wealth is just money in a different, more useful, form. This leads into the purpose of money, and thus wealth in general: to be used by people in the furtherance of their own purpose.
If the purpose of wealth is to help people fulfil their purpose, then what is the purpose of people? Is it some nebulous idea floating out there in the ether for you to discover through a journey of self-exploration? Is it just to pass on your genes before you die, a la Darwin? Nope, none of the above. The purpose of people, according to Scripture, is best summarized in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end [purpose] is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever”. Thus, by extension, the purpose of wealth is to be used by people to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
That, of course, raises the question of how do you use wealth to God’s glory? It’s easy to think of the obvious options, helping the poor, giving to the church, supporting missionaries, etc., but these can be difficult for the large percentage of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, not to mention believers in other countries with even less. What about them?
Well, first we need to remember that God isn’t impressed by large dollar amounts. As the sovereign Master of the universe, He already controls all the money. What is more important to Him is what you do with what he has given you, whether that be a lot or a little, just look at the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. The master, a metaphor for God, is equally pleased with both of his servants who invested the money he gave them, even though one brought in more than the other. Jesus’ point here is that God isn’t as interested in how much you have, but what you do with what you have. Or, as He said through the prophet Samuel, “to obey is better than sacrifice”. What you would do if you had more isn’t worth nearly as much as what you do do with what you have. As it says in 2 Corinthians 9:7, ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’ God is more pleased with loose change scrounged up and given joyfully than with a check for a million dollars signed grudgingly.
Second, using wealth for God’s glory isn’t something you can only do at church. A father who spends five bucks on a good catechism and uses it to teach his kids about God is using that little bit of wealth to glorify God. Even if he has to spend all or most of his paycheck to keep his family fed and clothed, that brings glory to God through obedience, see 1 Timothy 5:8. Even cooking a meal for a sick church member is using wealth to glorify God, and not just because you’re spending money. The cooking implements used to do the cooking count as wealth, and you’re using them to glorify God by helping out another believer.
So, does the wealth gap inhibit your ability to glorify God? No, not really; because God knows your heart and He decided how much wealth you should have. Just because someone else has astronomically more wealth than you do, that doesn’t prevent you from using what you have to God’s glory, which is the whole purpose of life. Thus, the wealth gap isn’t a bad thing. Stop worrying about what other people have, and focus on how you can glorify God with what he has given you.
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