Eight Christian Leaders Discuss Wealth: Is it Okay to be Rich?

By Julie Roys
American Christians hold vastly different attitudes concerning wealth. On one end of the spectrum is Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, who unapologetically states that his 16,000-square-foot, $1.7 million house is a “gift from God.” On the other end is Ron Sider, author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and one of my guests this Saturday on Up For Debate. Though Sider graduated from Yale and certainly could have pursued a comfortable middle-class life, he consciously chose to live among the poor in Philadelphia.

Is one choice more spiritual than the other? I decided to ask Christian leaders from various walks of life their opinion of personal wealth. Specifically, I asked: Is it okay for Christians to be rich?


Chuck Bently

The Bible never condemns wealth, thus the issue is not whether one has an excess of material goods or not. The Bible explicitly condemns greed and selfishness. The issue is a matter of the heart. We must examine our motives and the purposes that we use money. We are responsible to God for how we use money whether we have a lot or a little.” Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and author of The S.A.L.T. Plan.


Shane Claiborn“Asking if it is okay for Christians to be rich is a strange question. It is like asking if it is okay for Christians to overeat, or watch too much TV. It may be permissible, but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea. I believe Jesus came to set us free — and one of the things he wants to set us free from is our obsession with money and possessions. (This) is why he says such harsh things like ‘Woe to you who are rich…’ (Luke 6:24). Why would we want to try and accumulate the stuff that Scripture says the love of which is the root of all sorts of evil? John Wesley said so well, ‘If I have money in my hands, I get rid of it quickly lest it make its way into my heart.’ 

“A constant thread in Scripture is that we are not to take more than we need while others have less than they need, a radical critique of the world we live in. The early Christians went so far as to say that if a Christian has more than they need while their neighbor is in need, the Christian is a thief. ‘If we have two coats we have stolen one.’ … There is no greater thing to do with the gifts of God than to share them, especially with those in need. The best thing to do with the best things in life — is give them away.” Shane Claiborne, activist and author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
Tony CampoloFirst John 3:17 asks us that if someone has this world’s goods and knows of someone who is in need, and keeps what he has while that person suffers, how can that person say I have the love of God in my Heart?” It’s pretty hard for anyone to stay rich given how many suffering people the are in the world. There’s nothing wrong with earning a lot of money, but some serious questions must be asked about keeping it. Tony Campolo, author and social activist


Jay Richards“People often misquote Paul when they say ‘money is the root of all evil.’ In fact, he wrote that the love of money is the root of all evil. That’s a crucial distinction. Money in itself is simply a means to achieve certain economic ends. Paul warns us, just as Jesus did, about the dangers of loving money, that is, the dangers of making it our highest loyalty. That is a serious problem that all of us have to look out for. But by itself, it doesn’t tell us whether it’s ok for Christians to be rich.

No theological principle and no biblical text tell us how much money we can or should have. We don’t pass into the realm of sin when our net worth passes a certain black line on the income scale. And in fact, by historical standards, almost all middle class Americans are fabulously wealthy. Rather than spending time worrying about whether you are too rich, you should be asking hard questions about how you got that way, and about what God expects of you as a result.”Jay Richards, fellow at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and author of Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
RivadeneiraCertainly it’s ‘okay’ for a Christian to be rich (and also certainly: even at my most broke, I was richer than most, globally and historically!). But I’m not certain it’s all that good–or the blessing we make it out to be. I mean, Jesus warned the rich, repeatedly. He said it’s nearly impossible for them to experience his kingdom. That should scare us! Our wealth can do wonders when we commit it to God, when we are open-handed and open-hearted with it, but it’s also dangerous. There’s nothing quite like the comforts money affords to take us away from God.Caryn Rivendeneira, author of Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed About God’s Abundance

Joe Slawek“As Christians we are all rich indeed. For those of us who have been entrusted by God to care for His money (it is all His), His people, and His things, it should be done as in Matthew 25 Sermon of the Talents. We remember that it is the Lord’s money, people, and things. We are simply to be good stewards. If we choose not to be good stewards, God has a redistribution plan to those who are.”Joe Slawek, CEO of FONA International and author of Ingredients for Success


Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove“‘Does God want me to be rich?’ isn’t so much a question about whether God wants to bless us. Scripture is clear. He does, and abundantly so. The question is about the extent to which I’ve rooted my identity in the body of Christ. Because in Christ, we bear one another’s burdens. I can’t enjoy excess if I know my sister or brother is suffering lack.” Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of God’s Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel


Elliot“The reality is that most American Christ followers are wealthy. A salary of $25,000 per year puts one in the top 2 percent of income earners in the world. Even one making minimum wage is in the top 8% of global earners (www.globalrichlist.com). Whether one makes $25,000 or $250,000, what is key is a biblical understanding and Spirit-led practice of stewardship… “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” (Luke 12:34). The words of Jesus are as challenging today as they were to his followers 2,000 years ago; and, in the affluent country in which we live, probably more so.”Jim Elliott, Vice President of Stewardship at Moody Bible Institute


Now it’s your turn. What do you think? Leave your comments below or join the conversation on Facebook. Then tune in to Up for Debate at 8 a.m. Saturday to hear guests Ron Sider and Craig Blomberg discuss “Is it Okay for Christians to be Rich?”

Julie Roys is a Christian speaker, journalist, and host of national talk radio show Up for Debate. Follow Julie on Facebook or Twitter.

PHOTO CREDIT: “Homeless and hungry” by Ed Yourdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0



Keep in touch with Julie and get updates in your inbox!

Don’t worry we won’t spam you.

More to explore

2 thoughts on “Eight Christian Leaders Discuss Wealth: Is it Okay to be Rich?”

  1. I see a lot of those above side-stepping the question. They don’t want to call themselves out, so it becomes all about what they’re doing with it. Ok, what are they? Big screen tv’s? 1/2 million dollar homes, or more? $100,000 cars? Flying first class, $500 suits, gold watches and all kinds of expensive toys they idolize instead of Christ? Net worths of over $1,000,000.
    Is this how Christ told us to live? What would Paul have said about these preachers? Peter, Timothy, Bartholomew, John? If they were to see these preachers today, what would they think? More importantly, what do they think God thinks? I mean, really. Is this what Christ wants?

    1. How much more are you helping others or his kingdom when you give from wealth as opposed to from poverty ? If I have a million dollars I earn each year and give away 20-30% of it ($200-300k) I help more. If I self loath and don’t try to earn that million per year, that’s less that go to help others. It’s love of money and greed and selfishness that’s the issue.

Leave a Reply