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Is Excess Wealth A Sin?

Many Christians that have accumulated a large estate battle with what God’s purpose is for their wealth and whether they are sinning by accumulating it. The answer to that question is whether you have a God given purpose for what God has gifted you. Everything that we “own” is truly owned by God. He has said it numerous times in the Bible that all that we have is owned by God and that we are merely Stewards of that wealth. So it begs the question of how to determine what God wants us to do with that wealth and whether what we are doing currently is our choice rather than His.

You can choose to live your life one of two ways:

  1. You can either live your life on purpose serving the creator of that wealth, or…
  2. You can live your life by accident enjoying the fruits of your labor without concern for God’s plan.

In other words, you can plan your life with a Godly purpose and live God’s plan, or you can simply let the flow of life events and circumstances sweep you down the river of time taking you wherever it will. The latter, sadly, is the way most people live their lives—by accident. The former is how God created us to live—on purpose. (See Ephesians 5:15-16, Psalm 90:12.)

God made plans. (See Hebrews 11:40a, Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 1:11.) Paul made plans. (See 2 Corinthians 1:15-17, Romans 15:24.) And we are encouraged to make plans. (See Proverbs 16:3, 20:18, 21:5.)

Unfortunately, when it comes to building one’s financial “empire” we can often find ourselves doing it without any real divine purpose behind it. Successful people continue to build up their “pile of stuff” because they have become exceedingly good at what they do and that is also a gift of God. They also find great emotional enjoyment and personal satisfaction in building, so they keep on building without ever giving much thought to where it will end up. However, I think there is a foundational question that we, as believers, need to ask ourselves,

“What is my purpose for continuing to build my financial empire when my pile of stuff is already higher than I will ever need it to be?”

Jesus tells us plainly that accumulating excess wealth as a sole end in itself is entirely futile. For those who do this, they are like the rich farmer who planned to tear down his smaller barns and build bigger barns to hold his surplus wealth. Remember, Jesus called him a fool.

There is no greater example of the utter folly of building without a purpose than the story of Sarah Winchester.

Sarah was the wife of William Winchester, the only son of Oliver Winchester, the founder, and owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Sarah and William had a daughter who died shortly after birth in 1866. This was followed by the death of her father-in-law (1880) and then her husband just a few months later (1881), leaving her with a fifty percent ownership in the company and an income of $1,000 a day (about $21,000 a day in 2015 dollars).

Sarah believed that her family was under some kind of a curse and consulted a medium to determine what she should do. The medium told her that her family was indeed cursed by the spirits of all the people that the Winchester rifle had killed. She should move out west and build a house for herself and all the tormented spirits who suffered because of her family. The medium also told her that if construction on this house were ever to cease, she would immediately die.

In 1884, Sarah moved to California and began one of the most bizarre building stories in American history. She began spending her $20 million inheritance and regular income to buy and begin renovating an eight-room farmhouse in what is now San Jose, California. From that day forward construction continued nonstop, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week until Sarah’s death at age eighty-three—a total of thirty-eight years. She kept no less than twenty-two carpenters busy continuously. The sounds of hammers and saws could be heard throughout the day and night for almost four decades.

At its zenith, this seven-story house contained 160 rooms, forty bedrooms, forty-seven fireplaces, seventeen chimneys, and 10,000 windowpanes. What made Sarah’s lifetime building project so bizarre was that it had no discernable architectural purpose or plan behind it. Closet doors opened to solid walls. Windows were in the floor. Stairways led to nowhere. Railings were installed upside down. Drawers were only one inch deep. Trapdoors were everywhere. Blind chimneys stopped short of the ceiling. There were double-back hallways. Doors opened to steep drops to the lawn below. Many of the bathrooms had glass doors. The list of oddities runs into the dozens. Could there be a more classic example of the outcome of “building without a purpose?”

We may think that what we are building is not bizarre, like Sarah Winchester’s construction project, but unless there is a divine purpose behind why we are doing what we are doing—God may find it as meaningless and bizarre as the Sarah Winchester Mystery House.

Paul addresses this very issue in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 when he says,
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

May I ask, “What foundation are you building on? What materials are you building with? And why are you building what you are building?”

I think John Wesley had it right when he said, “Gain all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” If we adhere to this compelling “financial triad” as we labor on our building projects, we will be building on a solid foundation utilizing building materials of heavenly “gold, silver, and precious stones.” And in our building efforts we will discover that we are indeed living life on purpose.

 


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joe-sturnioloBy Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring
about significant impact for His Kingdom.

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