* Wealth can entice & enslave us

Lot’s greedy desire for the best of everything, wealth, led him into sinful surroundings.  His burning desire for wealth, possessions and success, cost him his freedom and enjoyment.  As a captive to Kedorlaomer, he faced torture, slavery, or death.  In much the same way, we can be enticed into doing things or going places we shouldn’t.  The wealth, prosperity, we long for is captivating; it can both entice us and enslave us if our motives are not in line with God’s desires. (NLT)

Genesis 14:12 – They also captured Lot–Abram’s nephew who lived in Sodom–and took everything he owned.

* Don’t value wealth more highly than God

Although Balaam’s motives were not correct, in blessing Israel he acted with integrity.  God’s message had so filled him that Balaam spoke the truth.  In so doing, he forfeited the reward that had lured him to speak in the first place.  Staying true to God’s Word may cost us promotions and advantages in the short run, but those who choose God over money will one day acquire heavenly wealth beyond measure. (NLT)

Numbers 24:11 – “Now get out of here!  Go back home!  I had planned to reward you richly, but the Lord has kept you from your reward.”

* Wealth can dull our spiritual vision

Moses warned the people not to forget God when they entered the Promised Land and became propserous.  Prosperity, more than poverty, can dull our spiritual vision because it tends to make us self-sufficient and eager to acquire still more of everything–except God.  The same thing can happen in our church.  Once we become successful in terms of numbers, programs, and buildings, we can easily become self-sufficient and less sensitive to our need for God.  This leads us to concentrate on self-preservation rather than thankfulness and service to God. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 6:10-13 – “The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It is a land filled with large, prosperous cities that you did not build.  The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce.  You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant.  When you have eaten your fill in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.  You must fear the Lord your God and serve him.  When you take an oath, you must use only his name.”

* Wealth can cause you to forget God

In times of plenty, we often take credit for our prosperity, wealth, and become proud that our own hard work and cleverness have made us rich.  It is easy to get so busy collecting and managing wealth that we push God right out of our lives.  But it is God who gives us everything we have, and it is God who asks us to manage it for him. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 8:11-20 – “But that is the time to be careful!  Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and laws.  For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, that is the time to be careful.  Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.  Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry.  He gave you water from the rock!  He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors.  He did this to humble you and test you for your own good.  He did it so you would never think that it was your own strength and energy that made you wealthy.  Always remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you power to become rich, and he does it to fulfill the covenant he made with your ancestors.

“But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed.  Just as the Lord has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.

* What true wealth is

If wealth, power, and status mean nothing to God, why do we attribute so much importance to them and so much honor to those who possess them?  Do your material possessions give you goals and your only reason for living?  If they were gone, what would be left?  What you have in your heart, not your bank account, matters to God and endures for eternity. (NLT)

James 1:10-11 – And those who are rich should be glad, for God has humbled them.  They will fade away like a flower in the field.  The hot sun rises and dries up the grass; the flower withers, and its beauty fades away.  So also, wealthy people will fade away with all of the achievements.

* Following God for selfish gain of wealth

Through this entire incident, no one desired to worship God; instead, they wanted to use God for selfish gain.  Today some people go to church to feel better, be accepted, relieve guilt, and gain business contacts or friends.  Beware of following God for selfish gain rather than selfless service. (NLT)

Judges 18:11-26 – So six hundred warriors from the tribe of Dan set out from Zorah and Eshtaol.  They camped at a place west of Kiriath-jeraim in Judah, which is called Mahaneh-dan to this day.  Then they went up into the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah.

The five men who had scouted out the land around Laish said to the others, “There is a shrine here with a sacred ephod, some household idols, a carved image, and a cast idol.  It’s obvious what we ought to do.”  So the five men went over to Micah’s house, where the young Levite lived, and greeted him kindly.  As the six hundred warriors from the tribe of Dan stood just outside the gate, the five spies entered the shrine and took the carved image, the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the cast idol.

When the priest saw the men carrying all the sacred objects out of Micah’s shrine, he said, “What are you doing?”  “Be quiet and come with us,” they said.  “Be a father and priest to all of us.  Isn’t it better to be a prest for an entire tribe of Israel than just for the household of one man?”  The young priest was quite happy to go with them, so he took along the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the carved image.  They started on their way again, placing their children, livestock, and possessions in front of them.

When the people from the tribe of Dan were quite a distance from Micah’s home, Micah and some of his neighbors came chasing after them.  They were shouting as they caught up with them.  The men of Dan turned around and said, “What do you want?  Why have you called these men together and chased after us like this?”  “What do you mean, What do I want?” Micah replied.  “You’ve taken away all my gods and my priest, and I have nothing left!”  The men of Dan said, “Watch what you say!  Some of us are short-tempered, and they might get angry and kill you and your family.”  So the men of Dan went on their way.  When Micah saw that there were too many of them for him to attack, he turned around and went home.

* Wealth not always a sign of God’s blessing

We are often partial to the rich because we mistakenly assume that riches are a sign of God’s blessing and approval.  But God does not promise us earthly rewards or riches; in fact, Christ calls us to be ready to suffer for him and give up everything in order to hold on to eternal life.  We will have untold riches in eternity if we are faithful in our present life.  (NLT)

James 2:2-4 – For instance, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in shabby clothes.  If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the flooor”–well, doesn’t this discrimination show that you are guided by wrong motives?”

* – Jeroboam II had no devotion to God, yet under his warlike policies and skillful administration, Israel enjoyed more national power and material prosperity, wealth, than at any time since the days of Solomon.  The prophets Amos and Hosea, however, tell us what was really happening within the kingdom.  Jeroboam’s administration ignored policies of justice and fairness.  As a result, the rich became richer, and the poor, poorer.  The people became self-centered, relying more on their power, security, and possessions than on God.  The poor were so oppressed that it was hard for them to believe God noticed their plight.  Material prosperity is not always an indication of God’s blessing.  It can also be a result of self-centeredness.  If you are experiencing prosperity, remember that God holds us accountable for how we attain success and how we use our wealth.  Everything we have really belongs to him.  We must use God’s gifts with his interests in mind. (NLT)

2 Kings 14:28 – The rest of the events in the reign of Jeroboam II and all his deeds, including the extent of his power, his wars, and how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah, are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel.

* Wealth can lead to self-sufficiency

If everything went so well in Judah when the people worshiped God, why did they turn away from him?  Prosperity can be both a blessing and a curse.  While it can be a sign of God’s blessing to those who follow him, it carries with it the potential for moral and spiritual decline.  Prosperous people are tempted to become self-sufficient and proud–to take God for granted.  In our prosperity, we must not forget that God is the source of our blessings. (NLT)

2 Chronicles 24:18 – They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead!  Then the anger of God burned against Judah and Jerusalem because of their sin.

* Taking advantage of others to increase your wealth

God’s concern for the poor is revealed in almost every book of the Bible.  Here, Nehemiah insisted that fairness to the poor and oppressed was central to following God.  The books of Moses clearly spelled out the Israelites’ responsibility to care for the poor.  The way we help those in need ought to mirror God’s love and concern. (NLT)

Nehemiah 5:9-11 – Then I pressed further, What you are doing is not right!  Should you not walk in the fear of our God in order to avoid being mocked by enemy nations?  I myself, as well as my brothers and my workers, have been lending the people money and grain, but now let us stop this business of loans.  You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes to them this very day.  Repay the interest you charged on their money, grain, wine, and olive oil.”

* Faith in God doesn’t guarantee wealth

Many people think that believing in God protects them from trouble, so when calamity comes, they question God’s goodness and justice.  But the message of Job is that you should not give up on God because he allows you to have bad experiences.  Faith in God does not guarantee personal prosperity, and lack of faith does not guarantee troubles in this life.  If this were so, people would believe in God simply to get rich.  God is capable of rescuing us from suffering, but he may also allow suffering to come for reasons we cannot understand.  It is Satan’s strategy to get us to doubt God at exactly this moment.  Here Job shows a perspective broader than seeking his own personal comfort.  If we always knew why we were suffering, our faith would have no room to grow. (NLT)

Job 2:10 – But Job replied, “You talk like a godless woman.  Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”  So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.

* – The disciples were amazed.  Was not wealth a blessing from God, a reward for being good?  This misconception is still common today.  Although many believers enjoy material prosperity, many others live in poverty.  Wealth is not a sign of faith or of partiality on God’s part. (NLT)

Mark 10:26 – The disciples were astounded, “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

* Wealth does not measure happiness

We deceive ourselves when we measure our happiness or contentment in life by the amount of wealth we possess.  When we put riches at the top of our value system, we let power, pleasure, and financial security overshadow the eternal value of our relationjshp with God.  We think we will be happy or content when we get riches, only to discover that they don’t really satisfy, and the pleasures fade away.  The true measurement of happiness or contentment is found in God’s love and in doing his will.  You will find true happiness if you put your relationship with God above earthly riches. (NLT)

Psalm 17:13-15 – Arise, O Lord!  Stand against them and bring them to their knees!  Rescue me from the wicked with your sword!  Save me by your mighty hand, O Lord, from those whose only concern is earthly gain.  May they have their punishment in full.  May their children inherit more of the same, and may the judgment continue to their children’s children.

But because I have done what is right, I will see you.  when I awake, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face to face.

* Ironies in how we use wealth

God’s people had allowed their love of money to lead them into sin.  And for this, God would destroy them.  Money has a strange power to lead people into sin.  Paul said that “the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil.”  It is ironic that we use money–a gift of God–to buy things that separate us from him.  It is tragic that we spend so much money seeking to satisfy ourselves and so little time seeking God, the true source of satisfaction. (NLT)

Ezekiel 7:19 – “They will throw away their money, tossing it out like worthless trash.  It won’t buy their deliverance in that day of the Lord’s anger.  It will neither satisfy nor feed them, for their love of money made them stumble into sin.”

Jews’ views about wealth

In the Bible, God gives rewards to his people according to his justice.  In the Old Testament, obedience often brought reward in this life, but obedience and immediate reward are not always liked.  If they were, good people would always be rich, and suffering would always be a sign of sin.  As believers, our reward is God’s presence and power through his indwelling Holy Spirit.  Later, in eternity, we will be rewarded for our faith and service.  If material rewards in this life came to us for every faithful deed, we would be tempted to boast about our achievements and act out of wrong motivations. (NLT)

Matthew 19:27 – Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everyting to follow you.  What will we get out of it?”

* Dealing with the love of wealth

What does your money mean to you?  Although Jesus wanted this man to sell everything and give his money to the poor, this does not mean that all believers should sell all their possessions.  Most of his followers did not sell everything, although they used their possessions to serve others.  Instead, this incident shows us that we must not let our possessions or money keep us from following Jesus.  We must remove all barriers to serving him fully.  If Jesus asked, could you give up your house? your car? your level of income? your position on the ladder of promotion?  Your reaction may show your attitude toward money–whether it is your servant or your master. (NLT)

Mark 10:21 – Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him.  “You lack only one thing,” he told him.  “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”

* How wealth makes one less dependent on God

Jesus said it was very difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God because the rich, having their basic physical needs met, often become self-reliant.  When they feel empty, they buy something new to try to fill the void that only God can fill.  Their abundance and self-sufficiency become their deficiency.  The person who has everything on earth can still lack what is most important–eternal life. (NLT)

Mark 10:23 – Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for rich people to get into the Kingdom of God!”

* Wealth is temporary

If you are trying to find fulfillment only through riches, wealth may be the only reward you will ever get–and it does not last.  We should not seek comfort now at the expense of eternal life. (NLT)

Luke 6:24 – [Jesus said] “What sorrows await you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now.”

* Wealth not same as the good life

Jesus says that the good life has nothing to do with being wealthy, so be on guard against greed (desire for what we don’t have).  This is the exact opposite of what society usually says.  Advertisers spend millions of dollars to entice us to think that if we buy more and more of their products, we will be happier, more fulfilled, more comfortable.  How do you respond to the constant pressure to buy?  Learn to tune out expensive enticements and concentrate instead on the truly fulfilled life–living in a relationship with God and doing his work. (NLT)

Luke 12:15 – Then he [Jesus] said, “Beware!  Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have.  Real life is not measured by how much we own.”

* Using wealth wisely

Money seen as an end in itself quickly traps us and cuts us off from both God and the needy.  The key to using money wisely is to see how much we can use for God’s purposes, not how much we can accumulate for ourselves.  Does God’s love touch your wallet?  Does your money free you to help others?  If so, you are storing up lasting treasures in heaven.  If your financial goals and possessions hinder you from giving generously, loving others, or serving God, sell what you must to bring your life into perspective. (NLT)

Luke 12:33 – [Jesus said] “Sell what you have and give to those in need.  This will store up treasures for you in heaven!  And the purses of heaven have no holes in them.  Your treasure will be safe–no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.”

* Possessing much wealth carries greater responsibility

Ephesus was a wealthy city, and the Ephesian church probably had many wealthy members.  Paul advised Timothy to deal with any potential problems by teaching that having riches carries great responsibility.  Those who have money must be generous, but they must not be arrogant just because they have a lot to give.  They must be careful not to put their hope in money instead of in the living God for their security.  Even if we don’t have material wealth, we can be rich in good deeds.  No matter how poor we are, we have something to share with someone. (NLT)

1 Timothy 6:17-19 – Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone.  But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.  Tell them to use their money to do good.  They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them.  By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life.

* Why do we attribute such importance to wealth?

James condemns acts of favoritism.  Often we treat a well-dressed, impressive-looking person better than someone who looks shabby.  We do this because we would rather identify with successful people than with apparent failures.  The irony, as James reminds us, is that the supposed winners may have gained their impressive life-style at our expense.  In addition, the rich find it difficult to identify with the Lord Jesus, who came as a humble servant.  Are you easily impressed by status, wealth, or fame?  Are you partial to the “haves” while ignoring the “have nots?”  This attitude is sinful.  God views all people as equals, and if he favors anyone, it is the poor and the powerless.  We should follow his example.  (NLT)

James 2:5-7 – Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters.  Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?  Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the kingdom God promised to those who love him?  And yet, you insult the poor man!  Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court?  Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

* Gaining proper perspective of wealth

Why is it wrong to judge a person by his or her economic status?  Wealth may indicate intelligence, wise decisions, and hard work.  On the other hand, it may only mean that a person had the good fortune of being born into a wealthy family.  Or it may be the sign of greed, dishonesty, or selfishness.  By honoring someone just because he or she dresses well, we are making appearance more important than character.  Sometimes we do this because (1) poverty makes us uncomfortable; we don’t want to face our responsibilities to those who have less than we do; (2) we want to be wealthy, too, and hope to use the rich person as a means to that end; (3) we want the rich person to join our church and help support it financially.  All these motives are selfish, stemming from the view that we are superior to the poor person.  If we say that Christ is our Lord, then we must live as he requires, showing no favoritism and loving all people regardless of whether they are rich or poor.  (NLT)

James 2:2-4 – For instance, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in shabby clothes.  If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”–well, doesn’t this discrimination show that you are guided by wrong motives?

* Taking advantage of others to gain wealth

Merchants in the Roman Empire grew rich by exploiting the sinful pleasures of their society.  Many business people today do the same thing.  businesses and governments are often based on greed, money, and power.  Many right individuals are tempted to take advantage of an evil system to enrich themselves.  Christians are warned to stay free from the lure of money, status, and the good life.  We are to live according to the values Christ exemplified: service, giving, self-sacrifice, obedience, and truth. (NLT)

Revelations 18:2-3 – He gave a mighty shout, “Babylon is fallen–that great city is fallen!  She has become the hideout of demons and evil spirits, a nest for filthy buzzards, and a den for dreadful beasts.  For all the nations have drunk the wine of her passionate immorality.  The rulers of the world have committed adultery with her, and merchants throughout the world have grown rich as a result of her luxurious living.”

* Wealth can make you too comfortable

The people of Babylon had lived in luxury and pleasure.  Te city boasted, “I am queen on my throne . . . . I will not experience sorrow.”  The powerful, wealthy people of this world are susceptible to this same attitude.  A person who is financially comfortable often feels invulnerable, secure, and in control, feeling no need for God or anyone else.  This kind of attitude defies God, and his judgment against it is harsh.  We are told to avoid Babylon’s sins.  If you are financially secure, don’t become complacent and deluded by the myth of self-sufficiency.  Use your resources to help others and advance God’s Kingdom. (NLT)

Revelations 18:4-8 – Then I heard another voice calling from heaven, “Come away form h3er, my people.  Do not take part in her sisn, or you will be punished with her.  For her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God is ready to judge her for her evil deeds.  do to her as she has done to your people.  Give her a double penalty for all her evil deeds.  She brewed a cup of terror for others, so give her twice as much as she gave out.  She has lived in luxury and pleasure, so match it ow with torments and sorrows.  She boasts, ‘I am queen on my throne.  I am no helpless widow.  I will not experience sorrow.’  Therefore, the sorrows of death and mourning and famine will overtake her in a single day.  She will be utterly consumed by fire, for the Lord God who judges her is mighty.”

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