It takes tremendous wisdom to handle wealth and the acquisition of it. All throughout the New Testament we read warnings about the dangers of letting it influence our sense of dependence upon God.
Some notable verses are:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. -1 Timothy 6:6-10
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” -Ref all of Matthew 19:16-28
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. -Matthew 6:24
There are several more, but just these few help to make the point that Jesus and the Apostles recognized the dangers of wealth.
Now with that being said, it is important to note that money and possessions are completely amoral (they are neither good nor evil). What matters when it comes to God and money is, “What do I put my confidence in?” Faith in Jesus is synonymous with confidence. We don’t just “believe” in Jesus… we place our confidence in the reality that “The Lord [really is] my shepherd, and I [really do] have all that I need.” -Psalm 23:1
So when it comes to providing for our family, saving for the future, growing a company, or wanting to pass on an inheritance – these are all very wise and good things to do! (Ref: 1 Thes 4:11-12, 2 Thes 3:10-22, 1 Tim 5:8, etc.) We also know there are several examples in the Bible of wealthy people who were dedicated followers of God and handled money wisely. See Gen 13:5-6, Gen 26:12-13, Gen 41 … and that’s just the book of Genesis!
So it is evident there is a tension here: there is nothing wrong with achieving great wealth, but yet it takes great spiritual maturity to handle it wisely. Those who are poor find it easier to cry out to God for his help because they don’t have a lot earthly resources to draw upon. Conversely, those who are wealthy have abundant resources and access to care. Someone who is wealthy must purposefully place themselves into a position of submission and emptiness before the Lord, whereas for the poor it is their daily reality.
But regardless of whether we are poor or rich, we are equally dependent upon God. Perhaps Agur (a man who wrote a few chapters in Proverbs) addressed this tension probably better than anyone in the Bible:
Two things I ask of you, Lord… give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. -Prov 30:7-9
So now with all that said, what does this look like practically lived out in a successful man or woman’s spiritual, work and family life? How do you balance the good desire to provide for your family while also desiring to be a faithful Apprentice of Jesus?
So long as your spiritual growth is outpacing your financial growth, and your spouse, children, and physical health are a higher priority than financial success – you can make as much money as you want, or grow your business as large as you wish.
The hard part is discerning… when is enough enough? I would submit to you that it is time to pull back on the reigns when your work is negatively affecting any of the aforementioned relationships.
And pulling back on the reigns is okay.
Because the Lord your shepherd, you can absolutely trust him with the opportunities that you’re going to miss… and the goals you have to let go of.
That is the part that requires great wisdom and spiritual maturity, because the rest of the world will think you’re a nut for pulling back when others would go all the more. But don’t listen to them! Listen to the Word of the Lord and follow his guidance.
This snippet from Paul’s first letter to Timothy probably sums this up the best.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” -1 Timothy 6:17-19
Recommended resource: This is one of the most powerful messages I ever heard on this topic and I highly recommend it!