Is it morally wrong to be rich in a world where so many are poor?
Wealth—whether we possess it or not—is a great challenge in mortality. The Apostle Paul wrote that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). Someone else once quipped that the lack of money is the root of all evil. The first statement is scripture. The second, though made in jest, also contains a kernel of truth.
King Benjamin spoke to “the poor, … all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give. And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received” (Mosiah 4:24–25).
The key is to avoid coveting—the loving of money. We can love money just as much when we don’t have it as when we do. And evil comes into the world not only through those who have wealth and use it selfishly or dishonestly, but also through those who do not have it and yet covet it. Perhaps this is why the Lord has shown us glimpses of the kind of society He wishes us to achieve. In Zion, there are neither rich nor poor (see 4 Ne. 1:3).
Being wealthy is not morally wrong. The danger, as the Book of Mormon repeatedly emphasizes, is that when people become wealthy they sometimes forget the Lord and His commandments.
President Brigham Young (1801–77) said: “The worst fear that I have about [members of this Church] is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and his people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches” (quoted in Preston Nibley, Brigham Young: The Man and His Work , 128).
If we are to “stand wealth,” as President Young said, we must remember why the Lord might bless us with wealth and understand both why and when we should seek it. Jacob explained, “After ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:19).
One of the best ways to help those in need is to pray for the Lord’s guidance. The Spirit can guide us to those in need of our help—as can our bishop or branch president.
If we use wealth to bless those in need, we show the Lord that our hearts are right and He can trust us. If, on the other hand, we hoard wealth or use it for selfish purposes, we are as the wicked servant who hid his talent in the earth, and the Lord will likewise condemn us (see Matt. 25:14–30).
Attitudes and Priorities
“Those who set their hearts upon the things of the world usually focus on some combination of that worldly quartet of property, pride, prominence, and power. When attitudes or priorities are fixed on the acquisition, use, or possession of property, we call that condition materialism. …
“From the emphasis given to this subject in the scriptures, it appears that materialism has been one of the greatest challenges to the children of God in all ages of time. Greed, the ugly face of materialism in action, has been one of Satan’s most effective weapons in corrupting men and turning their hearts from God. …
“The Apostle [Paul] did not say that there was anything inherently evil about money. … It is not money but the love of money that is identified as the root of all evil.”—Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Pure in Heart , 73–74, 78)
Heavenly Father often chastises those who give their riches first priority, forget God, and think themselves superior to others. But we’re here on earth to progress temporally as well as spiritually. The Lord doesn’t want His people to be idle. He wants us to obtain knowledge and be useful in society. If one person earns more money through his or her effort than another, I don’t think it is wrong. It is bad only if he or she doesn’t have the pure love of Christ and doesn’t share that wealth with the poor.
Lorena Mendoza, Anacleto Medina Branch, Parana Argentina District
I believe that when the wealthy read the Book of Mormon, they will have a special feeling in their hearts to love the poor. We are to love our neighbors. The poor are our neighbors, and we can share with them.
Latai Fonohema, Humble Ward, Kingwood Texas Stake
Some people in the Book of Mormon became rich then forgot Heavenly Father. We should seek to be self-reliant, but we should give glory to God for everything. Let us seek spiritual riches as our first priority. That is what will lead to exaltation.
Roberto Paula de Freitas Campos, Copacabana Ward, Uberlândia Brazil Stake
The scriptures often warn of the dangers of wealth. Many people have misinterpreted this to mean wealth is bad, in and of itself, and that all rich people will be denied an opportunity to dwell with God. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job had great riches, but they were also faithful and upright.
José Ariel Espinola Olmedo, Fernando de la Mora Ward, Fernando de la Mora Paraguay Stake
We are our brothers’ keeper, and we should remember that everything, including our physical body, is not ours but is God’s. We should put wealth to good use, whether it is money, expertise, knowledge, service, time, or even just a smile. Share it, because God often blesses others through us. We can be an answer to others’ prayers.
Milika M. Paletu’a, Pangai Ward, Ha’apai Tonga Stake
It is not wrong to be rich as long as you get rich honestly—with hard work. And when you are rich, you should not judge yourself to be better than people who have less power of acquisition.
Ângela Marciane Assenheimer, Santa Rosa Branch, Santo Angelo Brazil District
It is morally wrong to be rich in a world where so many are poor if you don’t help the poor with your riches.
Ebenezer Kwesi Aboah, Mpintsin Ward, Takoradi Ghana Stake
The Lord said we should seek riches only to do good. We should first seek the kingdom of God, and then we will obtain riches for the purpose of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and comforting the sick and afflicted (see Jacob 2:18–19).
Elder Eduardo Luiz Mendes, Brazil Maceió Mission
If we use wealth to help the poor, we are showing our thanks to Heavenly Father. We will be rich spiritually.
Elder Carlos Alberto García, Colorado Denver North Mission
It is not wrong to be rich as long as you pay tithing and fast offerings, give generously, and help the poor. Don’t judge anyone on his or her outward appearance. Pray for those who are less fortunate than you are, that they may be rich in spirit and might have the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 14:7).
‘Ilaisaane Vaine Satini, Deanwell Ward, Hamilton New Zealand Glenview Stake