By Stephen Phinney

Have you ever heard the phrase “that dollar is burning a hole in his pocket?” It used to be a person couldn’t wait to spend money that he was about to receive. Then, it was money he “would have.” Now, a person can’t wait to spend someone else’s money, which he has no intention of paying back.

So it is with the level of standard of living that most of us demand. I can remember in my parents’ generation, they would have to work their entire lives to buy a house, a used car, and maybe a television. Today, I counsel a generation that typically has a $350,000 house, one car, one van, one motorcycle (his and hers), one television (in each room), and one Jet Ski – all before the age of 27. You think I'm exaggerating? Do your research and what you’re going to find is that most young people, married or not, are in debt up to their ears, while tirelessly working to keep the bank from taking their toys.

Your average person will raise his standard of living according to how much cash is stuffed in his wallet. Our standard of living should be based upon the contentment of basic essentials. I am afraid that is not the case with most. Since income is becoming more and more unpredictable, these postmodern concepts of money and spending are not cutting it anymore. Whether our income increases or decreases, we need to learn how to manage our lives accordingly.

When God causes our income to increase, it is not for the purpose of spreading out our luxurious living; but rather, to help the needy and poor. It is so easy to lose perspective on this. Usually what happens is that God will increase our base and we make the sinful mistake of setting our focus on the increase. God clearly warns us of this.

“Do not trust in oppression and do not vainly hope in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart upon them” (Psalms 62:10, NASB).

Trusting in oppression? Do not vainly hope in robbery? Just by a mere glance, these two warnings seem a bit odd. The Hebrew word there for “oppression” is “osheq,” which means “fraud or unjust gain.” The Hebrew word for “vainly” in this passage is “habal,” which means “being led astray.” Finally, the Hebrew word of “robbery” is “gazel,” which means “plunder or gain of others.” When we put the three of these meanings together, we get this:

Do not trust in fraud or unjust gain and do not be led astray by your hope in the profits of others.

With that being said, we need to contemplate on what it means to “trust in fraud and unjust gain.” Any form of financial gain, which is not 100% reliance on God and His divine will, is fraud. Those who are captured by the deception that oppressing others is a means of financial gain will automatically be lead astray to rob others. They will use the gain of others to secure their financial portfolios. That is how simple this is.

GAMBLING: Have you ever really taken the time to analyze the true definition of gambling? The original meaning is “investing money with the hope of making money on other people’s losses.” But if we look at the true nature behind gambling, we will see a clear violation of Psalm 62:10. Typically, when one person wins, another is oppressed (loses). We might say that this is the point of “gambling.” Most people relate gambling to cards, slot machines, and poker. Even by the definition in most dictionaries, the truth of the matter is gambling encompasses insurance companies, the stock market, sports pools, making money off of foreclosures and bankruptcy, and even, bingo. The general principle is based upon robbery. Instead of using our funding to help those who are getting ready to lose their home, cars, etc., gambling takes advantage of those losses. This is why God is so against it!

So – is it wrong for Christians to have wealth? No, but it is wrong to use that wealth to feed off of the losses of an oppressed person. God is quick to correct and discipline those who heap up riches for themselves.

"Surely every man walks about as a phantom (secret one); surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses (stores up) riches and does not know who will gather them” (Psalms 39:6, NASB, parentheses mine).

It is so easy for those of wealth to become puffed up and proud. When this happens, they start looking at their accumulation of wealth like it is a child. They start caring for and babysitting their money, more than caring for people. This is not always the case, but it is most common. The greatest violation is to fall into the temptation of switching the focus from God to the amasses.

“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17, NASB).

Rich people tend to love money. In most cases, this IS why they are rich. He who loves riches will ultimately hate those who try to take it from them: government, family, friends, investors, or the world in general. The positive aspect of a godly person having riches is that he gives God the glory for the wealth and the reason for having it. He understands it is God who is able to make all grace abound toward him. If God decided to take it all away, he would continue to consider being sufficient in all things. Why? Because he is continuing to abound in good works – helping the poor.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NASB).

The bottom line is simple. When God increases your wealth, don’t increase your standard of living. First, look around to see who or what God is wanting you to help with that extra cash. If He continues to increase your wealth, be extra careful about raising that standard of living. Work to live as if you are hand to mouth, so you can help those who do. Not being content with what you have is at the base of all temptations. Realize and appropriate what God has given you - everything you need for your present standard of living. Struggling with discontentment starts the downward cycle of spiritual, emotional, and financial bankruptcy.