The Important Role of Money in Your Spiritual Growth

Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?
— Luke 16:11
The Ascetic Simeon Stylites, artist unknown. Public Domain.

The Ascetic Simeon Stylites, artist unknown. Public Domain.

This passage gives a surprising teaching about how to handle unrighteous wealth—money included. Here are two historically opposing viewpoints about material things that Gospel-workers need to understand. 

In the first century, the Gnostics sect declared that since God is holy, matter is evil. Only the spiritual is important. Accordingly, some early Church Fathers lived as desert hermits in an attempt to draw closer to God. Simeon Stylites of Syria (390?–459) lived on tall pillars for 30 years and preached to crowds from these elevated platforms.

By contrast, in the early 1900s, some Christian groups began to teach that you should pray for wealth because it demonstrates God’s hand upon you. “God wants you healthy andGod wants you wealthy,” they said then and still say today. 

Most of us live somewhere between Simeon Stylites and late-night wealth evangelists. Is there a happy medium? No. Rather than going to the extremes of rejecting or seeking unrighteous wealth, we need to heed Luke 16:11.

First, what exactly are true riches? Jesus doesn’t explain, but He contrasts true riches with unrighteous wealthTrue riches surely include non-material things like biblical truth, the eternal souls of men and women, and “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

Second, we get a surprise. We receive true riches based on how we use non-true riches—unrighteous wealth. Instead of eschewing riches or desperately seeking riches, we are to faithfully manage riches, that which we can see—the physical. Then we will be entrusted with things we can’t see, true riches

But many believers have a semi-Gnostic relationship with material things. As a new believer in Christ, I was deeply impressed by our godly Bible-study leader who rightly warned us against materialism. He said, “Material things are going to burn.” 

He was right. According to prophecies in Revelation, material things (along with the earth) will burn one day. But this day—today, the way we handle unrighteous wealth is our passport to receiving something more valuable—true riches. Material things are a litmus test. If we faithfully manage material things, we receive true riches

The issue is stewardship. We are not owners, but caretakers of what God puts into our hands. We flippantly say, “My computer, my house, my body,” but they are not truly mine. Haggai 2:8 says, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, says the Lord.”

That’s why we pray over financial decisions: “Lord, do You want me to upgrade Your computer? Shall I put a new roof onYour house?” 

How do we know if we are faithfully managing material things? Two indicators pop out in parables Jesus told before and after Luke 16:11.

Preceding our text is Jesus’ story of the “Unrighteous Steward” who cheated his landlord (16:1-9). The landlord sacked him for dishonesty.

Following our text is Jesus’ story of the rich man who lived “in splendor every day” (16:19–31) but ignored poor Lazarus who begged at his gate, “covered with sores.” Both men died. The rich man ended up in Hades while Lazarus found himself in Abraham’s bosom. If wealth was a sign of God’s blessing, why was the rich man in Hades?

These two stories highlight poor stewardship. The property manager cheated his employer. The rich man ignored human suffering. Neither managed unrighteous wealth according to God’s values—absolute honesty and compassionate generosity. And neither received true riches.

 My friend, do you want true riches? Do you long to have a multiplying discipleship ministry? To grow in intimacy with God?Start today by faithfully handling the material resources God has put into your hands. And do it with absolute honesty and compassionate generosity. 

If you handle well that which you can see, God will entrust you with something you cannot seetrue riches.

Prayer: Dear Master, sometimes I forget that what You have placed in my hands is actually Yours. Help me not to love money nor to disdain it. May I faithfully manage the unrighteous wealth You have given me—may I be honest and generous. As it pleases You, may I receive true riches. Amen.


This is an excerpt from my new book

What the Bible actually says about money: 31 meditations

It is said that the Bible has over 2000 verses about money, but does it say you are out of God's will if you are not wealthy? Most of us have strong opinions about money, but let's admit our opinions originated from parents, church or our common sense. Rarely do we study Bible verses on money. For your spiritual growth, you owe it to yourself to take a few minutes each day for a month and discover first-hand what the Bible actually teaches about money. So let's start with 31verses--not 2000. Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride!

You can purchase the book here.