Does God Want You To Be Rich?

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25).

I learned this verse when I was in elementary school. I was from a lower income family, so I wasn’t worried about what it meant for me. But I remember the teacher said this verse was not meant to be taken literally. I grew up in a Christian tradition that believes that Adam and Eve were real, evolution is false, and Moses literally parted the Red Sea. Since they are so fond of biblical literalism, it seemed odd that this verse was an exception.

The teacher explained that the camel/needle situation was just a metaphor.  She said the verse showed how money can be a distraction from God and our Christian walk. According to her, the “eye of a needle” ACTUALLY referred to a small gate found at town entrances during biblical times.

So, it wasn’t impossible, just kind of tricky, to get that pesky camel in the door. Whew! What a relief to all those rich people who can keep their cash and still get into heaven!

Even at a young age, it felt like my tradition’s policy was that every Bible verse is literal until it is inconvenient. In those cases, biblical interpretation is open to metaphor, allegory, context, and the “real” meaning of verses. It’s handy how biblical literalism can be adapted to make room for wealth.

Mo’ money, no problem!

Recently, I read a TIME article about the Prosperity Gospel, which is a Christian movement that believes God rewards faithfulness with health and wealth in this lifetime. The article said, “Unlike the moral majority leaders of the past 30 years, prosperity preachers don’t just want Americans to be saved. They want them to be successful.”

The article referred to Prosperity leaders who seem to be prioritizing the message of earthly wealth over eternal salvation. Are physical blessings now prioritized over heavenly ones?

Money is the second-most referenced topic in the Bible, including warnings for the wealthy and calls to sell your possessions. But Prosperity Gospel adherents champion other verses that claim God wants his followers to live abundantly.

Seems like if we’re going to cherry-pick Scripture, maybe we should go with the verses that emphasize kindness towards others, loving our enemies, and helping those in need. But those things are hard though. This is a real pickle…

This is a controversial topic, but I want to hear your thoughts. Share them in the comments.

 

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2 comments

  1. Very true [yet again]. “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” -> So sell your possessions and donate the money to [insert church here]. Cherry picking this from ‘Timothy’ (the New Testament book, not the popular 70s song by the Buoys: very different messages). But glossing over “Do not judge others and you will not be judged” when trying to pass or keep conservative laws condemning consenting adult behaviors always seemed a little self-serving by the ultra-rich…

  2. I toured the Vatican once and the whole time all I could think of was all the good the church could do if they sold off all these naked sculptures and other things they’ve accumulated and helped some people out. Then again they also refused to baptize me because my parents weren’t donating to the church at the time so I doubt that will ever happen. Personally I follow the Dave Ramsey philosophy. Donate some, save a lot. I think it’s important we leave a legacy for our children (even though I don’t have any yet) and allow them to have some of things I didn’t have.

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