Christians and Material Possessions

The Bible puts an emphasis on generosity and heavenly treasures rather than earthly ones. So, how can we as Christians find a balance when it comes to buying and enjoying material possessions? Greg explains:

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How can we justify owning and possessing material things when it seems like the godly Christians in the Bible and even missionaries are giving everything away for the kingdom?

My response is twofold, maybe three threefold. Certainly the Scriptures warn us of the dangers of being too attached to stuff, and that we have a responsibility to share material possessions with those in need, especially other Christians. John makes this point I John, and we see other references in the scripture. However, it it's not the case that every Christian who is really committed in biblical times gave everything away. In Jerusalem, the first Christians there did share all things in common, but that's a description not a prescription. That is it's what they decided to do at that moment, it is not something that was required of them biblically speaking.

The Old Testament law required 10 percent at different times and probably amounted to about 30 percent a year when you add up all the tithing systems. New Testament Christians are not under that legal obligation, but notice that even under the theocracy, a substantial amount was still left behind for the godly person to use as he would for his own needs.

In the New Testament, there are references to the way the rich are to be, and we see that in James. I think Peter makes reference to that, or possibly Ephesians, but there's a scattering of references to these things that makes it clear that you had wealthy people and poor people that were mixed in with the church. There were certain virtues that were to be characteristic of their life, but there's no command to divest oneself of everything in order to be a true follower Jesus. It's just not there.

Missionaries nowadays make lots and lots of sacrifices, but they don't divest themselves of everything. I know many missionaries, and I’ve been on the mission field myself. When you're doing that kind of work in that kind of circumstance, you are trimmed to the bone, no question. It's just easier to work. But we had maids, cooks, people who kept the house and did the laundry, and all that other stuff. That sounds pretty fancy, but they were cheap, and it allowed us to be freed up for the work that we were really out there to do on the mission field.

To some degree, there's a relative element that's involved. I think the safest way to think of it is that we are stewards of that which God has given us, and we have to be mindful of our stewardship in the things that we own. We are to be generous and cheerful givers like Paul says in II Corinthians. Not giving from from obligation, but cheerfully from our own heart. 

If we are pursuing that kind of thing, there certainly is wealth that we can enjoy on our own as long as we are careful that we're not clinging too tightly to it, we are generous as a virtue in our lives, and we are willing to help those who are in need, especially members of our own household. All those things work together to create, I think, the balance that the Bible requires.

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Greg Koukl

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