When it comes to explicit instruction about wealth the two major themes seem to dominate the non-gospel portion of the New Testament:
- Losing focus on God and making wealth an idol.
- Exhortations to share with poor and commendations for doing so.
In 1 Timothy 6:6-10 we read:
6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (NRSV)
Also 1 Timothy 6:17-19:
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
There are also warnings earlier in 1 Timothy that church leaders must not be “lovers of money” (3:3, 8). Love of money is listed among other sinful behaviors in 2 Timothy 3:2. The author of Hebrews warns:
Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." (13:5)
James offers similar sentiments in 2:9-11. James also has condemnation for those who have amassed their wealth by depriving others of justice:
1 Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. 2 Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. 4 Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.
Speaking to the church at Laodicea, Jesus says:
17 For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Luke notes that Cornelius was singled out by God because of his generosity to the poor (Acts 10:4). 1 John 3:17 asks:
How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
James 1:27 makes service to the poor the test of “religion that is pure”:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Again, the themes seem to focus on avoiding the love of money and generosity to the poor. Yet there is little extended discourse on wealth and giving in most of the books of the New Testament. The one exception is 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 as the Corinthians are exhorted to give to another fellowship. We turn there next.