God recognizes our material needs, and His Word contains plenty of promises of supply, even in abundance.1 But Jesus also warned that a vain pursuit of wealth can be a stumbling block to a Christian life.2 Human nature also makes it difficult for us to correctly assess our needs. As Benjamin Franklin observed, “The more [money] a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.”
So how much is enough?
The apostle Paul addresses this big question in a letter to Timothy, and his conclusion is surprising in its minimalism: “If we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.”3 He doesn’t say anything negative about living above this minimum standard, but his point is that real contentment isn’t related to material prosperity.
Studies have confirmed that beyond a certain point, increasing wealth can have diminishing returns as far as happiness and quality of life.4 That makes sense—we all need some money to provide for ourselves and our families, but once our basic needs and aspirations are satisfied, the pursuit of wealth often ends up being at odds with the pursuit of happiness.
The bottom line seems to be that much depends on our attitude and what God is doing in our lives at a given time. Above all, whether we are currently abasing or abounding,5 we should remember that true success and fulfillment in life come through learning about and getting closer to our heavenly Father. “A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”6