John Stott outlines three options for rich Christians.
It might be supposed that 2 Cor 8:9 teaches this. Consider also:-
(a) The example of Jesus. He was born into a poor home. He had no home and few possessions. ‘He taught from a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, spent his last evening in a borrowed room, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. He and his disicples shared a common purse, and depended for their support on a group of women who sometimes accompanied them. Lk 2:2ff; 9:57ff; Mk 4:1 11:1ff; 14:12 ff; 15:42ff; Jn 12:6; Lk 8:1ff.
(b) The teaching of Jesus. He challenged would-be followers to give up everything, and the 12 apostles did so. He told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and then follow him. Lk 14:33 Mk 1:16ff; 2:13ff; 10:21,28. He taught that we must store up heavenly, not earthly, treasure, and that no-one can serve God and money. Mt 6:19 ff; cf Lk 12:33 ff Mt 6:33 Lk 12:15 Mt 6:24 But he did not tell all his followers to get rid of all their possessions: Joseph of Arimathea was both a ‘rich man’ and a ‘disciple’.
(c) The early church. The first Christians ‘had everything in common’, Acts 2:44-45 4:32 ff. But that this was not meant to be a universal rule is seen from the fact that some believers still had houses in which they met. The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not that they withheld some of their property but that they were deceitful in pretending they had given it all, Acts 5:4.
‘The example, teaching and early Church of Jesus all challenge us to renounce covetousness, materialism and luxtury, and to care sacrificially for the poor. But they do not establish the case that all Christians must actually become poor.
Wealth, it is justifiably claimed, is a blessing from God, Deut 28:8,12. But some moderns go much further than Scripture allows when they teach that prosperity is part and parcel of the gospel. Some go so far as to encourage generosity to others in order that the giver might receive yet more material blessings in return. But the blessings promises in the new covenant are principally spiritual blessings, Eph 1:3. Paul in 1 Tim 6:17-19 does not tell rich people to become poor, but he does warn of the spiritual dangers of wealth (pride – looking down on the poor, and materialism – enjoying the gift but neglecting the Giver), and also tells them to be generous with their wealth.
Be generous and contented
1 Tim 6:17-19 teaches us to add one kind of wealth to another – to add richness in good deeds to richness in money and possessions. Then, add contentment to generosity, 1 Tim 6:6-10. This paragraph speaks of ‘those who want to get rich’, the covetous. Contentment, on the other hand, recognises that ‘we brought nothing into the world, and can take nothing out of it’. Life ‘is a pilgrimage between between two moments of nakedness…So we should travel light, and live simply’. ‘Our enemy is not possessions, but excess.’ (John V Taylor)
We need to avoid materialism (an obsession with things), asceticism (an austerity which denies the good gifts of the Creator) and Pharisaism (binding one another with rules).
‘The principle of simplicity is clear…It rejoices in the Creator’s gifts, but hates waste, greed and clutter…It wants to be free of anything and everything which distracts from the loving service of God and others.’
‘We accept the distinction between necessities and luxuries, creative hobbies and empty status symbols, modesty and vanity, occasional celebrations and normal routine, and between the service of God and slavery to fashion.’ (An Evangelical Commitment to Simple Lifestyle, 1980)
Based on Stott, New Issues Facing Christians Today, 273-281