The Bible issues several warnings against the love of money and the snare of wealth (1 Timothy 3:3; 6:10), but in Proverbs 30:8–9, Agur, the gather of wise sayings, asks that he would have neither poverty nor wealth. Why? Does God want us rich or poor?
Agur is certainly onto something here, especially given that his motivation is to honor the Lord. He prays: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).
Paul, writing to the Philippians, echoes this balance, giving God the credit for sustaining him through both poverty and riches: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
These passages have in common the application of spiritual wisdom, but the question of wealth or poverty gets at something deeper. Is one of these extremes more blessed? Are some people “closer to God” by virtue of their economic status?
Of course, both the materially poor and the rich are equally in need of a Savior – and Jesus is deeply concerned that both hear and respond to the good news of his kingdom. By his grace, men and women with great wealth can love God and demonstrate his faithfulness through generosity, and brothers and sisters living in poverty can praise the One who provides for and protects them.
Perhaps, though, the poor have a leg up in understanding the simple power of the gospel message. In experiencing material poverty, the effects of sin and brokenness in the world – and the need for the restoration of all things – is apparent. For the gospel to be truly good news to the rich, who enjoy many comforts in this present life, it must first be “bad” news: Wealth is no indicator of spiritual status, and Jesus’s call to take up a cross requires greater sacrifice from those who benefit from the kingdoms of this world.