The Bible and Materialism

By James M. Rochford

Randy Alcorn claims that the Bible contains twice as many verses on money (2,350) than on faith and prayer combined.[1] While we haven’t done our own study of this, we believe that this is most likely the case. The Bible speaks to materialism quite often. In this article, we list the pertinent Scriptures by category. Unless otherwise noted, the verses are in the NASB translation.

God owns the world and all that is in it

(Ps. 24:1) The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.

(1 Cor. 4:7) What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

(Job 41:11) Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.

(1 Chron. 29:12, 14) Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone… 14 “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.

(Lev. 25:23) The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.

(Hag. 2:8) ‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the Lord of hosts.

(Ex. 19:5) …All the earth is Mine.

(Deut. 10:14) Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.

(1 Cor. 6:19) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Even our bodies belong to God.

God expects us to be faithful with his money by being a giver

Since God owns the world, we are just temporary managers or stewards. The Bible contrasts our thought of ownership with stewardship.

(1 Cor. 4:2) In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.

(1 Pet. 4:10) As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

(Rom. 14:12) So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

The Bible denounces “greed.”

(Eph. 5:3) But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

(Col. 3:5) Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

(Lk. 12:15) Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.

Jesus wouldn’t need to tell us to “beware” or “be on [our] guard” unless wealth was deceptive. This passage is given in the context of the rich fool.

(2 Pet. 2:3, 14) In their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep… Having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children.

One of the characteristics of a false teacher is greed.

Money is deceiving

The first major sin recorded in the early church was Ananias and Sapphira’s withholding of money (Acts 5:1-11).

(Prov. 30:9) That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.

Affluence leads us to forget about God.

(Hos. 13:6) As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me.

(Rev. 3:17-18) Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.”

Money led these believers to be completely deceived about their spiritual state.

We cannot serve both God and money

(Mt. 19:23-24) Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, 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.

(Mt. 6:21) Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

(Mt. 6:24) No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Why can’t we serve two masters? Alcorn comments, “For the same reason a woman cannot have two husbands. When we carry on a love affair with the world, we commit spiritual adultery… God will not be a half husband.”[2]

(Jas. 4:4) You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

(1 Jn. 2:15) Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

(1 Tim. 6:5) Men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

The context for “gain” is financial gain (6:9-19).

The love of money destroys spiritual growth

(Mt. 6:21-23) Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

(Mt. 13:22) And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Jesus devoted one quarter of the seed to those who were taken out by wealth and the world system (the kosmos).

(1 Jn. 2:15-17) Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

(Heb. 13:5-6) Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”

Believers should not desire to become rich

(1 Tim. 6:9-11) But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness.

God tells us to flee from sexual immorality, because it is so tempting and difficult to resist (1 Cor. 6:18). The same is true of materialism.

(Prov. 23:4-5 NLT) Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.

(Prov. 30:8) Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion.

Wealth doesn’t last

In the next life, our situation will be reversed (Lk. 16:25; 1:53; 6:20, 25).

(Ps. 49:16-17) Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; 17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away; His glory will not descend after him.

(1 Tim. 6:7) For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.

(Prov. 11:4) Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

(Eccl. 2:11) Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

(Eccl. 5:10-15) He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. 11 When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? 12 The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep. 13 There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt. 14 When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him. 15 As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand.

People have a thirst for God. Money is a cheap substitute.

(Ps. 42:1-2) As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?

(Ps. 63:1) O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

(Ps. 34:8) O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

(Mt. 5:6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

(Jn. 7:37-38) Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

(Rev. 21:6) Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

(Rev. 22:17) The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

[1] Alcorn, Randy C. Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2003. 3.

[2] Alcorn, Randy C. Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2003. 42.