According to a study by Lisa Keister, conservative Protestants build up far less wealth than the average American. The USA Today reports:
Lisa Keister has scanned the Bible and found
nearly 2,000 verses in the New Testament that touch on the topic of
money. It’s those very verses that may be keeping many conservative
Protestants from building up long-term wealth, she says.
Jesus warned his followers not to "store up for
yourselves treasures on Earth," and later cautioned that it will be
"hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven." Perhaps the
best known is the admonition that "the love of money is the root of all
According to data analyzed by Keister, a Duke
University sociologist, the median net worth for conservative
Protestants in 2000 was $26,000, compared to the national median of
Why the gap? Keister says it may all come down to theology.
"The one big difference is the conservative
Protestants’ assumption that God is the owner of money and people are
managers of it," Keister said. "They are doing with their money what
God wants them to do with it, so that does mean that it is not sitting
in their bank accounts."…
Keister’s new article in the American Journal of Sociology,
"Conservative Protestants and Wealth: How Religion Perpetuates Asset
Poverty," argues that traditional views of money — it’s God’s, not ours
— keep many Protestants from building a financial safety net.
Could be. If it is, I’m glad that people are taking Jesus’ teaching about money seriously. I think it is important to point out, though, that a failure to store up material wealth on earth is not due to a lack of concern about security. There is some implication in this article that Christians are so busy doing God’s work with God’s money that they are foolishly unconcerned about tomorrow. This is untrue. The fact is, these Christians are spending their money on the kingdom of God because they see that as the way to a truly rewarding "retirement" – one that money will never provide.
While Jesus did teach that we are not to "Store up for
yourselves treasures on Earth," it is because the treasure on earth is such a terrible safety net. It actually provides no security, and security is what you need. The end of the sentence is "where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19). Jesus then goes on to prescribe a course of action that is truly secure: "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do
not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20).
The reason we are not to "put our hope in wealth" is that it "is so uncertain" (1 Timothy 6:17). Jesus did not teach that we are not to think about our future. Rather, he taught that we are to be wise investors, planning for a future that can never be taken away from us, built on a foundation that will never crumble. Money does not offer that future – God does. We are to put our trust in Him.