In your podcast, you mentioned fairly wealthy families you know who give very little. How do you deal with this? I think about Ephesians 5, where Paul says no immoral, impure,or greedy person will inherit the kingdom of God. Would you say this is a salvation issue, not because they aren't giving 10%, but because they are not repenting of greed? -- Chris Tang, Santa Barbara

Some wealthy families may be giving to other causes, or dividing their donations. But the Bible never gives us a quantifiable metric for greed, and tithing is strictly an Old Testament agrarian requirement. No minimum and no maximum level of giving under the New Testament!

Greed is indeed a salvation issue, as you point out, because it’s idolatry -- and no idolater will inherit the kingdom of heaven. We should also heed Paul’s advice in 1 Timothy 6, to command the rich to be generous. Again, this may or may not be the same as giving more money to the church. And yet most generous families I know give liberally to church and other causes as well.

I am privileged to know many wealthy families who are also highly generous. Wealth is not necessarily proof of materialism. Yet in my forty-plus years as a Christian, I have never seen anyone disciplined or disfellowshipped for greed. I think this is highly telling. We consider sexual sin as a serious matter -- materialism, not so much. This raises the very real possibility that you and I (and many others living in the prosperous, developed world) may be in the danger zone, yet unaware of the danger. As Francis of Assisi noted, wealth is dangerous!

I know the Amish stance on these issues. They embrace, simple, plain living -- and some aspects of lifestyle more at home in the 18th century than the 21st. Yet there must be a biblical point somewhere between an Amish lifestyle and luxurious living. I just don’t know where that balance point lies -- and welcome further thoughts.