Imagine you were given a single wish and that with it you could ask for anything you wanted in all the world. What would you ask for? Love and peace? Family and community? Health and long life? A new home or home extension? Wealth and riches? For most people the only challenge would been choosing simply one wish!
God once asked a king called Solomon this very question. As a young ruler Solomon chose to ask for the wisdom to discern the difference between right and wrong. God granted him as he wished and because he asked for wisdom, God also gave him wealth and riches unequalled by any King (1 Kings 3). In fact God gave Solomon so much wisdom that he became the author of the first personal development and success book which we know as the biblical book of Proverbs. As far as God is concerned, success and wisdom are living God’s way in God’s world.
An international poverty charity recently said that the worlds richest eight billionaires “are as rich as the worlds poorest half”, claiming that it was “simply unacceptable”.
But the Biblical story of King Solomon shows that God is not opposed to wealth or the disparity of wealth. Indeed, Proverbs shows that wisdom lies neither in poverty or wealth for its own sake but in contentment with what the God provides for us (Prov 30:8-9). Neither the Old nor New Testaments glamorise poverty – or criminalise wealth.
Wealth is all relative. Most people reading this article will be in the top ten of global income.
It’s not what you’ve got that counts but your attitude to wealth and what you choose to do with what you’ve got that matters. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25) explains that if we use our God-given resources in a godly way, then he may well give us more, but if we don’t he will take away what we have.
We live in a world of greed and injustice, however, if we are honest, we are all a little selfish ourselves. What is amazing about the people named by the international poverty charity is that five of the eight billionaires have committed themselves to ‘The Giving Pledge’. This initiative of Bill and Belinda Gates invites the worlds richest people to give away the majority of their wealth during their lifetime to combat poverty.
These individuals may possess lots of money but it doesn’t appear that their money possesses them.
So not only has Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook created hundreds thousands of jobs around the world creating livelihoods for families and communities, but he and his wife have chosen to give away the majority of their wealth to fight poverty in a globally strategic way. The example of what they are and others like them are doing is worth celebrating rather than complaining about the wealth that they have.
When God makes provision in abundance he reminds us, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).
God is the architect of wealth creation so that families, communities and nations can prosper. When God blesses individuals with the ability to make money and protects them from being seduced by it but, in contrast, enables them to be generous and to alleviate the poverty and suffering of others, this ought to be applauded.
Charity can alleviate poverty in the short term, however it is business that creates livelihoods and solves poverty in the long term. It’s the wealthy who create the greatest employment and who give strategically to eliminate systemic poverty. So let’s be for the poor without being against the rich.