Wealth creation is an obsession in India. The pandemic opened the opportunity for the rise of finfluencers in India, teaching and training Indians how to wisely use and grow their wealth to serve their future goals. Questionable prosperity teaching has spiritualised wealth creation and promises material gain in exchange for financial generosity. Wealth creation is a profitable business, inside and outside the church.
Wealth is either demonised or idolised among Christians in India. But is there a way for Christians to think wisely about wealth creation and stewardship? Throughout the Scripture, we actually see that God calls his people to steward wealth with wisdom. The Bible has much to say about money, wealth, prosperity, and possessions.
When we read the Bible’s warnings about wealth, it can be easy to conclude that any pursuit of material profit and prosperity is always evil. But money itself is not the root of evil. It is the love of money (1 Tim. 6:10).
Biblical wealth creation and stewardship is not a “get rich quick” scheme. Biblical wealth creation means anyone can rely on God’s wisdom to faithfully steward their resources and grow them, little by little (Prov. 13:11). So what does a robust biblical theology of wealth creation and stewardship look like?
Creation: Be Fruitful and Multiply
From the beginning, God invited humans to enjoy the abundance of Eden. It was a garden of flourishing and delight. The earliest humans lacked nothing in Eden. They had everything they needed. Though there was only one rule, they could eat of “every tree in the Garden.” (Gen. 2:16-17).
God commanded Adam and Eve to multiply. He entrusted them to take this spiritual-material paradise to the ends of the earth (Gen. 1:28). As Adam and Eve worked and kept the earth, the land itself would yield abundant produce for them (Gen. 1:29). God’s desire was always to fill the whole earth with the abundance and prosperity of Eden.
The Fall: The Love of Money Fills the Earth Instead
Money Becomes a False God
Adam and Eve’s rebellion cost them the garden of prosperity. However, God’s calling to generate wealth and provision of power to generate it remains. Previously, Adam’s work was satisfying. But now, his work in the field would be costly. Work before the fall would be joyful and simple—an offering of worship. But now it is painful and self-centred. Thorns and thistles resist him at every step (Gen. 3:17-18).
One blatant consequence of the fall is our forgetfulness with respect to money. God reminds us how self-centred we are. He warns his people of what they say in their hearts. He says, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:17).
False Financial Teaching
In its most nefarious forms, the “prosperity gospel” reduces our relationship with God to a transaction. At the heart of such prosperity teaching is the idolatry of wealth and the love of money. In this false gospel, we do not serve God’s purposes. Instead, he panders to our desires.
The answer to false prosperity teaching is not hating wealth or despising those whom we perceive as wealthy. This is the message of the “scarcity gospel.” But that simply answers a false gospel with another false gospel.
The “scarcity gospel” creates a false dichotomy between spiritual and material things. It teaches us that God will only take pleasure in us if we look down on the material world. True spirituality is measured by the renunciation of material things. Such teaching assumes that participation in any form of wealth creation and enjoyment of any comfort is inherently sinful.
Both these false teachings on wealth are deceitful and hurtful. But the true gospel undermines the extremes of prosperity and scarcity. Instead, it gives great wisdom and true freedom to God’s people for their finances.
Jesus’s Work in Redemption: Prosperity Realigned
You Cannot Serve Both God and Money
Jesus has much to say about the dangers of wealth and the stewardship of wealth.
In his warnings, he tells the rich young ruler to give up all his possessions and follow him (Luke 18:18-30). He celebrates an older widow who gives almost all she has (Luke 21:1-4). In the parable of the rich fool, Jesus rebukes a wealthy landowner who hoards his wealth and refuses to be generous toward God (Luke 12:13-21).
Reading these warnings alone, it may seem that Jesus is preaching the scarcity gospel.
Jesus does not rebuke the pursuit of prosperity. He rebukes the self-centred pursuit of prosperity. The parable of the wealthy landowner implies that God makes the ground productive and good for wealth creation (Luke 12:16). The problem with wealth is that it easily takes the place of God and becomes an object of worship, instead of an instrument of worship (Matt. 6:24, Luke 16:9).
You Can Steward Wealth Without Losing Your Soul
On the cross, Jesus paid the steep price for our self-centredness. He was crucified to pay the penalty for our sinful deeds—including our love of money, our negligence with it, and our poor stewardship of wealth.
As a result of his death and resurrection, Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit. He is a creative, innovative, and sufficient Helper who empowers us to trust the gospel and obey God’s Word. Through him, we can apply God’s wisdom to all our resources. We can serve God as faithful stewards of any wealth that he gives us the power to generate.
The New City: Prosperity in the New Creation
Even a cursory reading of Revelation 21 shows that the New Jerusalem is a lavish city. It is large and expansive (Rev. 21:16). Its wall is made of jasper and the city is “pure gold, like clear glass” (Rev. 21:18). All kinds of jewels adorn the city, from topaz to sapphire to beryl (Rev. 21:19). Even the kings of the earth will bring the glory and honour of the nations into it (Rev. 21:24, 26).
Most scholars, including Randy Alcorn, agree this is not merely spiritualised glory and honour they bring. They are bringing the material wealth of the nations. Repeatedly, in the Old and New Testaments, God portrays the Heavenly City as a place of immense prosperity and wealth (Isa. 61-62). One day, the whole church will enjoy Jesus together in the prosperity of the New Jerusalem.
The Pursuit of Wealth in the Here and Now
What does all this mean for us today? It means that God gives us the power and wisdom to pursue, create, and generate material wealth. He calls us to do this in the service of his Kingdom, not in the service of ourselves (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
Church leaders can encourage professionals to understand how God’s desire for multiplication extends to how they think about finances. We can teach God’s people to see managing personal finances as a significant part of their discipleship and spiritual formation. Deepening in our biblical wisdom can change the way we earn, give, save, spend, enjoy, and invest.
We should encourage entrepreneurs and investors to start redemptive, gospel-centred businesses that make life-giving products, support local communities, and help nurture gospel movements. Such redemptive businesses can create products that benefit society and capture profits that allow for growth.
We should rebuke the love of money, greed for gain, selfish ambition, obsession with profit and the idolatry of prosperity. But we should not discourage the pursuit of material profit and prosperity, in the service of one’s family, community, and city.
The idolatry of wealth leads to the lies of the prosperity gospel. It teaches us to give more money to God so that we can receive more money from him. But in the gospel of Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to generate wealth. Then we can give to God because he has given to us.
God trains our hands to generate wealth so that we can be generous with our wealth—towards God and one another. Then we can enjoy the freedom of the gospel and say like Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).