What does the term “rich” mean in Scripture? If we fail to notice how Scripture uses the term “rich”, we could easily fall into a Marxist-style delusion that God hates people with money and He loves those who have nothing — a half-truth at best. (God gave them their money, after all.) From a sermon on Luke 16:19-31, hear Luther explain what “rich” often means in Scripture:

It was not a sin for this rich man to clothe himself, to eat and drink; for God created clothing, food and drink, and says it is blessing from him. The one who receives it may use it in accord with his needs. But to be greedy is wrong and a sin. Christ clearly says, “There was a rich man.” Now the word “rich” is a very problematical word in many places of Holy Scripture. Abraham also is rich, but Scripture does not for this reason call him a rich man; but “rich” in Scripture means almost as much as an unscrupulous shyster or wicked man, as spoken of in Isaiah 53:9: “He made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.” There the prophet takes “rich” and “wicked” as one and the same thing. His point is, Christ died and was buried as an evildoer, rogue, and scoundrel, even though he had done wrong to no one. This is Scripture’s meaning of “rich.” I would not dare to defame a rich man in this way. Now then! If someone is greedy and does not want to hear or accept it from us that he is greedy and wicked, he will still have to hear it just as this rich man had to hear it. The point here is whether we are going to deceive God in heaven, or ourselves.

Martin Luther, Complete Sermons, Vol.6, p.228-229 (Baker Books, 2000.)

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