Is it a sin to desire to be rich?

The Bible takes it as a given that people wish to be wealthy and that there is nothing wrong with this. While there are certainly dangers inherent in the wish, the wish itself is never rebuked, except insofar as illicit means are used to fulfill it.

Many people think that it is unspiritual to talk about money. But one of the things that I love about the Bible and have come to appreciate more and more over the years is that it is very down to earth. It’s very worldly, in the sense that it teaches us how to live in this world. And this is a good thing because this is where we live. We need to know the way to heaven, to be sure. But we also need to know how to live in this world while we’re here. And a very large part of living in this world has to do with money.

Money is not regarded in Scripture as an intrinsic evil, as some people suppose. Someone will ask, “But doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Money is the root of all evil?’” Well, no it doesn’t, actually. It says, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10a). Not money itself; but the love of it. And there is a big difference! Paul warns us that there are many dangers that attend the desire to be wealthy. And we would do well to be aware of them. He says,

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Tim. 6:9-10).
You see here how it is not money itself but the love of money, especially where this love is pursued as an ultimate goal where the acquisition of wealth subordinates every other consideration and makes you willing to cut whatever ethical corners are necessary in order to make a buck.

But let us understand this clearly. Money is not an intrinsic evil. It is simply a tool—in fact I would argue that it is the single most useful tool there is. If you have a mechanical problem with your car and you don’t have the proper tool to fix it, but you have money, you can purchase the tool you need. Or better yet, you can hire someone to do the repair work for you. Money is merely a means to an end. Money is “in order to.” I have a need, and money enables me to fulfill it. That’s all. It has no more moral character in and of itself than any other tool. Does a screw driver have moral character? Is it good or evil in and of itself? No, of course not. A good or evil purpose may be made of it. You can use it to fix something that is broken. Or you can use like a weapon to kill somebody. But it has no moral character in and of itself. By itself it just sits there and does nothing.

The same is true of money. It has no moral character. It can be used for a good purpose or a nefarious one, but by itself it's inert. It doesn’t do—it can’t do—anything, whether good or evil. Money is merely a tool, serving as a medium of exchange.

The Lord himself, in Deuteronomy 8 tells Israel—warns Israel—not to forget that it was he who gave them the power to get wealth. And later in this same book he promises the blessing of wealth as a reward for covenant faithfulness. Some of God’s choicest saints were fabulously wealthy men. Think of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Think of King David and Solomon.

It’s true that the possession of wealth carries with it certain temptations, but so does poverty. And if it’s all the same to you, I think I’d rather deal with the temptations that come with wealth, than the ones that come with poverty! (In my favorite movie, "The Fiddler on the Roof," when Perchik told Tevye, "Money is the world's curse," Tevye said, "May the Lord smite me with it...and may I never recover!")

The fact of the matter is that money is essential to life, and so long as we keep the desire for wealth in proper perspective, there is no sin in it. Let Proverbs 3:9-10 serve as the guiding principle and you’ll be alright:

Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
This is something that everyone should do, regardless of how much or how little you have. “Honor the LORD with your wealth…” And then, as the Lord prospers you, recall Deuteronomy 8:17-18,
Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
If you do these things you’ll be okay.


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