What is the Bible’s warning to the rich? 

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The Warning to the Rich 

The Bible gives a warning to the “rich” who have many opportunities to bless others but who avoid doing so. These neglect God in the pursuit of worldly things. Jesus warns, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24). In too many cases, material wealth proves to be, to their possessors, a great wall between them and the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:23, 25; Luke 18:24, 25). 

Jesus shows pity on those who lay up treasure in heaven rather than on earth (Matthew 6:33, 34). His disregard to the material things of life (Matthew 5:3) caused the wealthy at His time to dislike Him for they considered material things to be the main objective of life (Matthew 6:1–6; etc.). 

Jesus says, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” But then He adds a message of hope, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:23-24), that is, for the man who is willing to allow God to control his life (Philippians 4:13).

Christ gives a parable of a foolish wealthy man who had stored wealth instead of using them for the good. This man could not take his wealth with him when he died (Luke 12:16–20). These “riches” proved worthless because they fostered in him self-gratification. With all his earthly wealth, the unconverted rich man was “not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

Those that are like this foolish wealthy man think to secure their future by gathering material assets, but in so doing, they forgot the purpose of life which is to work to fulfill God’s good will on earth and live for His glory (Luke 12:21). 

Oppressing the Poor

The apostle James wrote, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.”

“Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you” (James 5:1-6). 

The apostle James refers not only to the insecurity that always surrounds an accumulation of wealth but also to increasing tensions as the last days of earth’s history draw near. And he writes about some of the ways by which some of the “rich” have collected their fortunes – dishonesty or delay in the payment of wages. These methods are clearly forbidden in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 24:14, 15).

Sign of the End

The statements of Christ concerning the rich accumulating wealth (Matthew 6:24–34; Luke 12:13–34; etc.) show that the condition described in James 5:1–6 prevailed in New Testament times. The same was also true of Old Testament times (Isaiah 5:8; Amos 2:6–8; Micah 2:1–3; etc.). Greed and covetousness have always led to oppression.

But as with the violence and injustice of which Paul spoke in 2 Timothy3:1–5, greed and oppression are to reach a new height in the days just before the “coming of the Lord.” Eventually, the wicked will receive the reward that is stored up for them. Every person, whether rich or poor, will be rewarded with what he deserves (Matthew 16:27; Luke 6:35; 1 Corinthians 3:8; Revelation 22:11). The reward that the selfish wealthy have stored up will be the “fire” of God’s wrath (Revelation 20:15; 21:8).  

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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