International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
welth, wel'-thi (hon, chayil, nekhacim; euporia, "to possess riches," "to be in a position of ease" (Jeremiah 49:31)): The possession of wealth is not regarded as sinful, but, on the contrary, was looked upon as a sign of the blessing of God (Ecclesiastes 5:19; Ecclesiastes 6:2). The doctrine of "blessed are the poor, and cursed are the rich" finds no countenance in the Scriptures, for Luke 6:20, 24 refers to concrete conditions (disciples and persecutors; note the "ye"). God is the maker of rich and poor alike (Proverbs 22:2). But while it is not sinful to be rich it is very dangerous, and certainly perilous to one's salvation (Matthew 19:23). Of this fact the rich young ruler is a striking example (Luke 18:22, 23). It is because of the danger of losing the soul through the possession of wealth that so many exhortations are found in the Scriptures aimed especially at those who have an abundance of this world's goods (1 Timothy 6:17 James 1:10, 11; James 5:1, etc.). Certain parables are especially worthy of note in this same connection, e.g. the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21), the Rich Man and Lazarus-if such can be called a parable-(Luke 16:19-31). That it is not impossible for men of wealth to be saved, however, is apparent from the narratives, in the Gospels, of such rich men as Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38, 39 Matthew 27:57-60), and Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10). It may fairly be inferred from the Gospel records that James and John, who were disciples of our Lord, were men of considerable means (Mark 1:19, 20 John 19:27).
Wealth may be the result of industry (Proverbs 10:4), or the result of the special blessing of God (2 Chronicles 1:11, 12). We are warned to be careful lest at any time we should say "My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember Yahweh thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:17, 18).
Those possessing wealth are liable to certain kinds of sins against which they are frequently warned, e.g., highmindedness (1 Timothy 6:17); oppression of the poor (James 2:6); selfishness (Luke 12 and 16); dishonesty (Luke 19:1-10); self-conceit (Proverbs 28:11); self-trust (Proverbs 18:11).
It is of interest to note that in the five places in the New Testament in which the word "lucre"-as applying to wealth-is used, it is prefaced by the word "filthy" (1 Timothy 3:3 (the King James Version), 8; Titus 1:7, 11 1 Peter 5:2), and that in four of these five places it refers to the income of ministers of the gospel, as though they were particularly susceptible of being led away by the influences and power of money, and so needed special warning.
The Scriptures are not without instruction as to how we may use our wealth wisely and as well-pleasing to God. The parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16) exhorts us to "make.... friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness," by which is meant that we should use the wealth which God has committed to us as stewards in order that we may win friends (souls) with it for Him and His kingdom, just as the unfaithful steward used the goods with which his master had entrusted him to make friends for himself. The parable of Dives and Lazarus gives us the sad picture of a selfish rich man who had abused his trust, who had failed to make friends with his money, and who, in the other world, would have given anything just for such a friend (Luke 16:19-31).
See also RICHES.