Newsletter #11 On Dying Wealthy


I have the privilege of being one of the volunteers who answers inquiries posted on the BlueLetter Bible Bulletin Board ( Quite a few questions come in asking about tithing. "How much am I supposed to give to my church?" "Tithe" means one-tenth of course. But most of our correspondents are not familiar with the specifics of the Old Covenant system God required of the people so I usually refer them to Paul Winslow's outstanding article "Tithing" ( which explains in detail that the principle of tithing is connected with God's ownership of the land of Israel, and with the obligation of tenants to pay rent for the use of God's land, to support the Levitical priesthood and the temple, to care for the needy, and to represent God to strangers in the land by showing hospitality.

Many Christians do not realize how radically things changed under the new Covenant which our Lord Jesus placed into effect at the Last Supper (Luke 22:20). This covenant was made with Israel of course, but Jesus instructed His disciples after His resurrection to invite Jews and Gentiles around the world to join the true church, which He, Jesus would build--before His return to fulfill the rest of his commitments to the nation of Israel. (Matthew 16:18, Acts 3:19-21)

Principles of New Testament giving are outlined in detail in Paul's letters to the Corinthians and illustrated vividly in the gospels. The basic idea is that God owns all that we have and are. We are stewards responsible for the wise use and distribution of what we have been given. Naturally this applies to money and property, but every Christian is given spiritual gifts and we are ALL called to the work of the ministry (see Body Life by Ray Stedman, This means that the use of our time and energy deserve even more attention than where and how we give money. Paul writes, "Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy." (for an outstanding commentary on this see

Back in the '50s when my church, PBC of Palo Alto, was built the founding elders had a selection taken from 1 Cor. 6:19-20 inscribed across the front of the main auditorium,

" you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."

I heartily recommend, as must reading on this subject of giving, the outstanding sermon series by Ray Stedman, "The Christian and his Possessions" (

The New Testament is full of warnings against the accumulation of wealth for its own sake.

"And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Then Peter answered and said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?" And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first." (Matthew 19:24-30)

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus spoke about laying up treasures--either on earth or in heaven. We can not take our wealth with us when we die--but we can send it on ahead!

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

One of my favorite parables is found in Luke 16. I like it because I have found myself again and again to be an unfaithful steward.

Jesus also said to the disciples, "There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and this {steward} was reported to him as squandering his possessions. "And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.' "And the steward said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. 'I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the stewardship, they will receive me into their homes.' "And he summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he {began} saying to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' "And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' "Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' And he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' "And his master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. "If therefore you have not been faithful in the {use of} unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true {riches} to you? "And if you have not been faithful in {the use of} that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. And Jesus said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God." (Luke 16:1-15)

James, the half-brother of Jesus did not become a believer until after the resurrection, but he then took to heart the teachings of Jesus when he became pastor of the early Christian assembly in Jerusalem. In regard to those who would align themselves with the lifestyles of the world he wrote,

"You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." (James 4:4-10)

William Barclay says in his commentary on James,

The Authorized Version (KJV) makes this passage even more difficult than it is. In it the warning is addressed to adulterers and adulteresses. In the correct text the word occurs only in the feminine. Further, the word is not intended to be taken literally; the reference is not to physical but to spiritual adultery. The whole conception is based on the common Old Testament idea of Jahweh as the husband of Israel and Israel as the bride of God. "Your Maker is your husband; the Lord of hosts is his name" (Isaiah 54:5). "Surely as a faithless wife leaves her husband, so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel, says the Lord" (Jeremiah 3:20). This idea of Jahweh as the husband and the nation of Israel as the wife, explains the way in which the Old Testament constantly expresses spiritual infidelity in terms of physical adultery. To make a covenant with the gods of a strange land and to sacrifice to them and to intermarry with their people is "to play the harlot after their gods" (Exodus 34:15, 16). It is God's forewarning to Moses that the day will come when the people "will rise and play the harlot after the strange gods of the land, where they go to be among them," and that they will forsake him (Deuteronomy 31:1-16). It is Hosea's complaint that the people have played the harlot and forsaken God (Hosea 9:1). It is in this spiritual sense that the New Testament speaks of "an adulterous generation" (Matthew 16:4, Mark 8:38). And the picture came into Christian thought in the conception of the Church as the Bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:1,2; Ephesians 5:24-28; Revelation 19:7; 21:9).

This form of expression may offend some delicate modern ears but the picture of Israel as the bride of God and of God as the husband of Israel has something very precious in it. It means that to disobey God is like breaking the marriage vow. It means that all sin is sin against love. It means that our relationship to God is not like the distant relationship of king and subject or master and slave, but like the intimate relationship of husband and wife. It means that when we sin we break God's heart, as the heart of one partner in a marriage may be broken by the desertion of the other.

In this passage James says that love of the world is enmity with God and that he who is the friend of the world thereby becomes the enemy of God. It is important to understand what he means (1) This is not spoken out of contempt for the world It is not spoken from the point of view which regards earth as a desert drear and which denigrates everything in the natural world. There is a story of a Puritan who was out for a walk in the country with a friend. The friend noticed a very lovely flower at the roadside and said, "That is a lovely flower." The Puritan replied, "I have learned to call nothing lovely in this lost and sinful world." That is not James's point of view; he would have agreed that this world is the creation of God; and like Jesus he would have rejoiced in its beauty. (2) We have already seen that the New Testament often uses the word kosmos in the sense of the world apart from God. There are two New Testament passages which well illustrate what James means. Paul writes, "The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to Godthose who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7, 8). What he means is that those who insist on assessing everything by purely human standards are necessarily at variance with God. The second passage is one of the most poignant epitaphs on the Christian life in all literature: "Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me" (2 Timothy 4:10). The idea is that of worldliness. If material things are the things to which he dedicates his life, clearly he cannot dedicate his fife to God. In that sense the man who has dedicated his life to the world is at enmity with God. (3) The best commentary on this saying is that of Jesus: "No one can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). There are two attitudes to the things of this world and the things of time. We may be so dominated by them that the world becomes our master. Or we may so use them as to serve our fellow men and prepare ourselves for eternity, in which case the world is not our master but our servant. A man may either use the world or be used by it. To use the world as the servant of God and men is to be the friend of God, for that is what God meant the world to be. To use the world as the controller and dictator of life is to be at enmity with God, for that is what God never meant the world to be.

Ever since I first became a Christian I have returned again and again to the book of James. I also enjoy William Barclay's commentaries. James has a lot of strong words reserved for the selfishly rich! Here is more:

"Come now, you rich, weep and wail at the miseries which are coming upon you. Your wealth is rotten and your garments are food for moths. Your gold and silver are corroded clean through with rust; and their rust is proof to you of how worthless they are. It is a rust which will eat into your very flesh like fire. It is a treasure indeed that you have amassed for yourselves in the last days!" (James 5:1-3)

William Barclay says,

In the first six verses of this chapter James has two aims. First, to show the ultimate worthlessness of all earthly riches; and second, to show the detestable character of those who possess them. By doing this he hopes to prevent his readers from placing all their hopes and desires on earthly things.

If you knew what you were doing, he says to the rich, you would weep and wail for the terror of the judgment that is coming upon you at the Day of the Lord. The vividness of the picture is increased by the word which James uses for to wail. It is the verb ololuzein, which is onomatopoetic and carries its meaning in its very sound. It means even more than to wail, it means to shriek, and in the Authorized Version is often translated to howl; and it depicts the frantic terror of those on whom the judgment of God has come (Isaiah 13:6; 14 31; 15:2, 3, 16:7; 23:1, 14; 65:14; Amos 8:3). We might well say that it is the word which describes those undergoing the tortures of the damned.

All through this passage the words are vivid and pictorial and carefully chosen. In the east there were three main sources of wealth and James has a word for the decay of each of them.

There were corn and grain. That is the wealth which grows rotten (sepein).

There were garments. In the east garments were wealth. Joseph gave changes of garments to his brothers (Genesis 45:22). It was for a beautiful mantle from Shinar that Achan brought disaster on the nation and death on himself and his family (Joshua 7:21). It was changes of garments that Samson promised to anyone who would solve his riddle (Judges 14:12). It was garments that Naaman brought as a gift to the prophet of Israel and to obtain which Gehazi sinned his soul (2 Kings 5:5, 22). It was Paul's claim that he had coveted no man's money or apparel (Acts 20:33). These garments, which are so splendid, will be food for moths (setobrotos, cp. Matthew 6:19).

The climax of the world's inevitable decay comes at the end. Even their gold and silver will be rusted clean through (katiasthai). The point is that gold and silver do not actually rust; so James in the most vivid way is warning men that even the most precious and apparently most indestructible things are doomed to decay.

This rust is proof of the impermanence and ultimate valuelessness of all earthly things. More, it is a dread warning. The desire for these things is like a dread rust eating into men's bodies and souls. Then comes a grim sarcasm. It is a fine treasure indeed that any man who concentrates on these things is heaping up for himself at the last. The only treasure he will possess is a consuming fire which will wipe him out.

It is James's conviction that to concentrate on material things is not only to concentrate on a decaying delusion; it is to concentrate on self-produced destruction.

Not even the most cursory reader of the Bible can fail to be impressed with the social passion which blazes through its pages. No book condemns dishonest and selfish wealth with such searing passion as it does. The book of the prophet Amos was called by J. E. McFadyen "The Cry for Social Justice." Amos condemns those who store up violence and robbery in their palaces (Amos 3:10). He condemns those who tread on the poor and themselves have houses of hewn stone and pleasant vineyards--which in the wrath of God they will never enjoy (Amos 5:11). He lets loose his wrath on those who give short weight and short measure, who buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes, and who palm off on the poor the refuse of their wheat. "I will never forget any of their deeds," says God (Amos 8:4-7). Isaiah warns those who build up great estates by adding house to house and field to field (Isaiah 5:8). The sage insisted that he who trusts in riches shall fall (Proverbs 11:28). Luke quotes Jesus as saying, "Woe to you that are rich!" (Luke 6:24). It is only with difficulty that those who have riches enter into the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:24). Riches are a temptation and a snare; the rich are liable to foolish and hurtful lusts which end in ruin, for the love of money is the root of all evils (I Timothy 6 9, 10)...

One of the mysteries of social thought is how the Christian religion ever came to be regarded as "the opiate of the people" or to seem an other-worldly affair. There is no book in any literature which speaks so explosively of social injustice as the Bible, nor any book which has proved so powerful a social dynamic. It does not condemn wealth as such but there is no book which more strenuously insists on wealth's responsibility and on the perils which surround a man who is abundantly blessed with this world's goods. (The Letters of James and Peter, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1976)

I live in the heart of Silicon Valley, South of San Francisco where we enjoy enormous material and cultural blessings from God. I am convicted that most all of us have become "dull of hearing" when it comes to taking God seriously on these issues of the use of our time, our wealth and our life-styles.

"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree {firmly} planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish." (Psalm 1)

About Spam: Spam is electronic junk email. I read an article the other day saying that Spam is up 400% in the past year. Junk mail from the post office is been paid for by the sender and we simply toss it in the trash. We all pay for Spam! The cost is passed along to us by our ISPs and we suffer slower Internet connections and much wasted time because of all this exploitive trash. Instead of simply trashing the dozens of spam email messages I receive each day, I copy and paste them into a wonderful web site called SpamCop ( These great folks actually fight email by calling the senders of email to account and in many cases shutting them down altogether. (Read the simple instructions for SpamCop so you don't accidentally report email which is legit).

Trip to Israel: My wonderful Christian brother Glenn Miller ( along with our capable tour hostess Dawn McDaniel, and I, plan to be in Israel and Jordan March 3-17 with a special group of about two dozen dear friends.. I personally welcome the election of Ariel Sharon. I think he will help move the nation back in the right direction away from the path of self-destruction. It's a great relief to me to see that Bill Clinton is no longer mucking up the Middle East with his ill-advised plans to build a personal legacy. I'll plan to send you a trip report when we return. Here is what Moses said about Israel a mere 3500 years ago:

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, as the gentle rain upon the tender grass, and as the showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he.

They [Israel] have dealt corruptly with him [God], they are no longer his children because of their blemish; they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus requite the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.

"For the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and he made him suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs and rams, herds of Bashan and goats, with the finest of the wheat--and of the blood of the grape you drank wine. But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked; you waxed fat, you grew thick, you became sleek; then he forsook God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominable practices they provoked him to anger.

They sacrificed to demons which were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come in of late, whom your fathers had never dreaded. You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. "The LORD saw it, and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. And he said, `I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. They have stirred me to jealousy with what is no god; they have provoked me with their idols. So I will stir them to jealousy with those who are no people; I will provoke them with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.

"And I will heap evils upon them; I will spend my arrows upon them; they shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured with burning heat and poisonous pestilence; and I will send the teeth of beasts against them, with venom of crawling things of the dust. In the open the sword shall bereave, and in the chambers shall be terror, destroying both young man and virgin, the sucking child with the man of gray hairs. I would have said, "I will scatter them afar, I will make the remembrance of them cease from among men," had I not feared provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries should judge amiss, lest they should say, "Our hand is triumphant, the LORD has not wrought all this."'

"For they are a nation void of counsel, and there is no understanding in them. If they were wise, they would understand this, they would discern their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters are bitter; their wine is the poison of serpents, and the cruel venom of asps. "Is not this laid up in store with me, sealed up in my treasuries?

Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly. For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free. Then he will say, `Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your protection! See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and swear, As I live for ever, if I whet my glittering sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries, and will requite those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh--with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy.'

"Praise his people, O you nations; for he avenges the blood of his servants, and takes vengeance on his adversaries, and makes expiation for the land of his people." (Deuteronomy 32)

Paraclete Forum: I answer as much of my own email as I can. However I also work with a marvelous team of email who are wise, proficient and knowledgeable. Contact us through our web site, The Paraclete Forum ( We deal with apologetics, emotional and spiritual needs, prayer requests, and inquiries on all manner of Biblical topics.

Miscellaneous: In my last newsletter I that mentioned average traffic on my personal web site was running about 14,000 users requests per day. Last week I was amazed to see a peak day of over 22,000 requests, and 600 Mb of file downloads. My daily average (now about 18,000/day) has grown about 22% since the first of the year! I pay for my web site out of my own pocket and I have no organizational backing or regular funding apart from my own Social Security check and Retirement plan. I am therefore grateful for any and all financial help in support of my ministry. Your gifts (tax deductible) should be sent to Peninsula Bible Church, 3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California 94306. Please mark your contribution for Lambert Dolphin's ministry.

I wish I could share the fantastic email I receive from total strangers, many of whom are now friends! It was 6 years ago this spring that my dear friend Carl Gallivan suggested I "dabble" in Internet ministry. Little did I realize at the time the incredible oppoirtunities God would give those of us who have set up free Christian library sites. Now the news from Christianity Today this week (see "Is Dead" suggests that commercial Christian web sites are dying right and left! This encourages me greatly because from the first we decided to keep our web sites totally non-commercial. My dear friend Mike Kollen has done the same with the web sites he has built. Don Stewart has gone so far as to put his fine books and his Bible study program ( on Internet for free. BlueLetter Bible is completely free--and so on! Many people see the church today as a commercial enterprise. We deliberately counter that caricature by giving the truth of the gospel away at no charge to the user, and by offering our time and services gladly in the service of God and the people out there He cares about. We try to emuilate Paul's lifestyle," For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ." (2 Cor. 2:17)

Sincerely, Lambert Dolphin.
February 9,2001. Web Archive for these newsletters: