Wealth -- By: Derek Kidner

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 15:1 (Oct 1964)
Article: Wealth
Author: Derek Kidner


Wealth*

Derek Kidner

*An Abridgement Of A Paper Read To The Biblical Theology Study Group, July, 1964.

IN THIS ARTICLE, wealth will bear its everyday meaning, not its old sense of ‘wellbeing’. We turn first to the Old Testament, then to the New, finally to the modern world in the light of these.

The Old Testament

The fact that the Old Testament opens with the account of an abundant creation which is pronounced ‘very good’ carries implications which the New Testament makes explicit in such a passage as 1 Tim. 4:1-5. God is generous: we are to take and be thankful. The companion fact, that one thing was withheld from man on pain of death, carries from the outset the balancing implication that ‘a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’ but in his response to ‘every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’—and his use of material things will be an effective expression of that response.

The attitude which the Old Testament fosters in this realm can be summed up by saying that it teaches us to view possessions as blessings and as responsibilities.

1. Blessings. Although the word ‘blessing’ sometimes denotes a human gift (e.g. Gn. 33:11; 2 Ki. 5:15), it is the characteristic term for a divine one; and as such, it makes earthly goods embodiments of good will, tangibly communicating God’s love and power. We need not labour the point, which is richly elaborated in e.g. Deuteronomy 28, and which became so firmly fixed in popular thought that the book of Job became necessary to protect it from its friends. With all its tendency to be misunderstood, this view is a preservative against wealth’s particular temptations to pride and materialism. As A. Weiser comments on the promise of domestic bliss in Psalm 128, ‘The deeper meaning which the Psalmist . . . wants to bring out is that a man’s delight in wife and children is experienced as God’s blessing. It is this attitude which first transforms happiness into “blessing”; for without religion the very element which makes these things a blessing is missing’.

2. Responsibilities. Properly speaking, there was no absolute ownership in Israel, whereby a man might say, ‘This is unconditionally mine’; e.g. Naboth was not free even to consider the enhanced value of his vineyard. It was not his to sell. Indeed it was not only what he called ‘the inheritan...

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