A Biblical View of Wealth and Riches

By Patrick Layhee

American dollarsWe business professionals understand revenues and profit.  It’s in our fiscal DNA. We know how to strike the right balance between risk and reward while growing the top-line and delivering the bottom-line. This is what we do with our business enterprises and our personal finances.

Our careers and businesses pay off more frequently than they let us down, and at the end of the day we have generally created wealth where there was none before.  Even if our wealth seems unexceptional by U.S. standards, we are all wealthy and richly blessed by the world’s standards.[i]

The Difference between Wealth and Riches

As Christians it is important to understand our material wealth from God’s point of view, and this is precisely what David Kotter addresses in his chapter in the book, For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty, where he defines wealth as follows:

“Wealth … will be defined as ‘a suitable accumulation of resources and possessions of value.’ Under this simple definition, one is wealthy to the extent that one has sufficient food of good quality, clothing appropriate to keeping cool or warm, and shelter for protection from the elements. In a modern economy, this definition is often extended to include access to safe and reliable transportation and communication that enables one to work. Wealth includes adequate physical possessions to live and flourish as a human being created in the image of God, and it also requires a specific heart attitude toward the purpose of possessions.”[ii]

What constitutes a person’s basic needs has changed throughout history and these needs vary widely from location to location, culture to culture, and tribe to tribe.  But, the key for today’s Christian is to know if God has given you the basics of what you need to “live and flourish as a human being” then you are wealthy by his standards—wealthy in the sense of being materially equipped to pursue a fruitful life in the world God created.

David Kotter also states that in the Bible “wealth” and “riches” are often used interchangeably, but he draws a spiritual distinction between the two regarding the heart attitude of their possessors. According to Kotter “riches” correspond with self-indulgent hearts while the wealthy see themselves as stewards of God’s gifts and manage their possessions in ways that honor him. For example, the riches of the young ruler (Luke 18:18-25) skewed his thinking and blocked his union with Christ but Lydia, a dealer in expensive purple cloth (Acts 16:14), worshipped the Lord with an open heart and was baptized.

Appreciating your material wealth as a blessing from God to be used in ways that glorify him is one thing, but when this same wealth separates you from God and stifles your spiritual growth then this is an altogether different matter. Jesus is speaking to the negative aspects of riches in the Parable of the Sower when he warns that we can be “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures.” (Luke 8:14).

Instructions for the Wealthy

Finally, 1 Timothy 6:17-18 offers divine instructions for the wealthy among us. The passage reads:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

When your season of material wealth arrives, if it hasn’t already, this 1 Timothy 6:17-18 passage is telling you to do the following four things:

Don’t become arrogant. Work hard and become successful in life but don’t think of yourself as better than others because of your material wealth. In Deuteronomy 8:18 Moses reminds us, “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

Don’t put your hope in your wealth. Proverbs 23:5 says, “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” A good job or business and its steady earnings can be here today and gone tomorrow.

Be rich in good deeds. A good deed is a free and voluntary act of service toward another person. Doing good deeds for others is the fruit of your salvation in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:10 tells us: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”

Be generous and willing to share. Generous people are synergistic. They build organizations and contribute to the success others. Think about it: who wants to do business with someone who only takes?


If you are reading this article you are already wealthy by God’s standards.  Honor him with your worldly success. Enjoy the things God has sent your way while being respectful of others, rich in good deeds, and generous with the less fortunate.


Patrick Layhee is the founder and president of GANE Technology, Inc., a Houston-based professional recruiting firm. He is the founder of GodsCareerGuide.com and author of God’s Career Guide: Practical Insights for the Workplace Christian where he combines his workplace expertise and intimate knowledge of the Bible to improve and enrich the work-lives of other Christians. Patrick can be contacted at playhee@godscareerguide.com.


[i] “According to the most recent estimates, in 2011, 17 percent of people in the developing world lived at or below $1.25 a day.” Source: The World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview

[ii] For The Least Of These: A Biblical Answer To Poverty, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, 2014; Chapter 3, Remember the Poor: A New Testament Perspective on the Problems of Poverty, Riches, and Redistribution by David Kotter, M.Div., M.B.A