Is it okay for Christians to buy expensive watches?
If you’re just learning about Wasson Watch Co. for the first time you may be surprised to discover that we are a company that publicly embraces Christian values. In other words, we openly declare that the Bible is the living, breathing, true word of God. What God prohibits should never be done, and what God commands should always be done (in its appropriate context of course).
This leads to an important question: Is it a contradiction for a luxury watch company to call itself “Bible-based” when the Bible talks so much about forsaking worldly possessions and talks about the evil of money?
In short, no, it’s not. But let me unpack why.
First let’s address the presuppositions that the Bible commands us to forsake (or get rid of) worldly possessions and that money is evil. Like many presuppositions, these ones didn’t just pop out of nowhere. There are a number of passages that people might misinterpret as saying these things.
Presupposition 1: Forsake worldly possessions
Matthew 19:16-30, the story of the rich young man, is one such passage. After an exchange in which the young man and Jesus discussed what must be done to get eternal life, Jesus tells him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The young man went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when interpreting scripture, is taking it out of context. Every Bible verse exists in the context of the paragraph, and Book of the Bible it is in, along with the consistent truth of the entire Bible. Further context includes basic elements of information like who was speaking, who was the audience, when and where did it occur, and so on.
Someone could say, “The Bible says, ‘sell what you possess and give to the poor,’” and technically they would be right. The Bible does say that. But the context is important. Jesus said that to an individual, who may have been a slave to his wealth - it may have been the thing he was clinging to that was keeping him from eternal life. The passage doesn’t say, but the passage does go on to show us how Jesus used the interaction to make an important point.
When the disciples heard that it was difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, they asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus didn’t say, “the poor,” or “those who forsake their wealth.” No, he said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
In other words, there’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that no human being is capable of making it to heaven on their own. As it says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The good news is that, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
We know from the broader context of scripture that we do not gain eternal life by giving money to the poor, or the church, or anything, but by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. For this reason, as well as the other lessons highlighted in the passage itself, we can see that Jesus’ instructions to the rich young man were specific instructions for him, and not a general command for all mankind.
Nevertheless, there is an important lesson about wealth embedded in this passage that we shouldn’t miss. That is, wealth and worldly possessions can be a stumbling block, and an obstacle to a relationship with God. No, we are not saved by the dollar amount in our bank account (high or low), but if you happen to be wealthy, it can be way harder to think you need a relationship with God in the first place. Often there is a direct relationship between hardship and our dependence on God. The more hardship, pain, suffering, and need we have in our lives, the more we are driven to depend on God. How often have you prayed in times of need? How fervently have you prayed in times of need? On the flipside, how often have you prayed when it seemed like everything was just fine?
The truth is, we need God no matter what our life circumstances are. Good health, safety, wealth, and pleasure are all illusions that can blind us to our eternal state. Proverbs 18:11 says, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.” No amount of wealth can save a person from death, nor can it be used to secure eternal life.
Presupposition 2: Money is evil
The Bible actually never says that money is evil. What it does say, in Timothy 6:10, is that, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” This passage is misquoted or misinterpreted all the time. Money is not the root of all evil. In fact, if you look closely, you’ll see that the love of money is not even the root of all evil. It is the root of all kinds of evil though. Loving money, trusting in money, obsessing over money, or worshiping money are all different ways of breaking the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Once again, this is a heart issue. Money is not evil, it is neutral. It can be used for good or evil, and the way people view money can be right or wrong. It’s a little bit like compromise. Some people believe compromise is good, and some believe it is bad. The truth is that compromise is neither good nor bad, but there is such thing as good and bad compromise. Suppose I want pizza for lunch and you want tacos. We could compromise by getting tacos today and pizza tomorrow. We both get what we want (eventually), and we get to eat together. That’s a good compromise. Now take the issue of abortion. Suppose one group says abortion (which is murder) should always be legal, and the other side says that it should never be legal (because it’s murder). It would not be ok to compromise on this. Murder is never ok. It’s not ok some of the time, and it would be wrong to accept a scenario where abortion were legal for any reason. Abortion should be abolished.
Money, like compromise, fire, and guns, is not evil. It can be used for evil or for good.
Furthermore, the Bible does speak positively of money and wealth in multiple places.
Proverbs 21:20 says, “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” Wealth can be a bi-product of wisdom, and appropriate conservation of wealth is something a wise man does, while a foolish man squanders his possessions.
Proverbs 13:11 says, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” There’s an age-old principle that fast money doesn’t last. We see it all the time with people who win the lottery, and end up worse-off than they were before because they take all limits off their spending and end up in massive debt well beyond what they received from their lottery winnings. This passage extols the virtue of building wealth through steady, consistent work.
In Luke 16:9, Jesus said, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” In this passage he doesn’t tell his followers to forsake earthly possessions, but to use them wisely for eternal gain. In this instance, having money is not seen as some kind of inherent evil, but as an asset.
Where and how to draw the line
At this point it should be clear that God cares more about the state of our hearts than the amount of wealth we have. Rich or poor our faith and affection should be aimed at Christ, not worldly possessions.
However, while having wealth is not prohibited, could our pursuit of wealth and luxury say something about the state of our heart? Yes, it could, but where do you draw the line?
In 1 Timothy 6:9, just before it talks about the love of money being the root of all kinds of evil in verse 10, it says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
There’s nothing wrong with being rich, but if you desire wealth, if your heart is set on it, that says something about the state of your heart. Proverbs 30:7-9 says, “Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” This verse beautifully illustrates the nature of man. Ideally all humans would be content with what God has given them. He not only made us in his image, but sent his one and only Son to pay for our sins. That is sufficient. Yet, this verse acknowledges our humanity, that despite that truth we are still subject to physical needs, and can be driven to temptation through poverty. Furthermore, and more to the point, it recognizes that if our wealth goes beyond covering our basic needs, it puts us in the dangerous position of becoming an idol.
In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 God gives instructions for kings to Israel. In verse 17 he says, “And he shall not […] acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” You’ll notice that the king was not prohibited from acquiring silver and gold, just doing so excessively.
What on earth is excessive?
Frankly, the Bible doesn’t answer that question with a number or description of how much is too much. Part of the answer is in Proverbs 23:4, which says, “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.”
The answer to how much is too much is discernment. You have to be able to discern if your heart is in the right place, if you’re toiling after wealth because it has become an idol, or if you’re simply obeying Colossians 3:23, which says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
There is no universal number. For some people too much might be a net worth of $100,000, and for others it may be $100 billion. In order to better understand how much is too much for you, pray for discernment, and meditate on Proverbs 1:7, which says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
The line is already drawn in your heart. It’s up to you to figure out where.
Applying this to watches
Up to now I’ve written at length about wealth and worldly possessions, but haven’t really said anything about watches, but the application is fairly direct.
Luxury watches like the Wasson Automatic Field Watch represent a worldly possession and in some instances may even be equated with wealth. So the question comes down to this: Is it ok for me to spend $945 on a Wasson Watch? How about $12,000 on a Rolex? Or $50,000 on a Patek Philippe?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with spending any amount on a watch. It’s not about that. It’s about the state of your heart.
If buying a Wasson or any other luxury timepiece will cause you to stumble, if you will swell with pride because you have something better than others, if it will contribute in any way to you putting your trust in the work of your hands instead of God, then I have one simple piece of advice:
Don’t buy it.
Get a Timex or a Casio or look at your phone when you need to tell the time.
The Wasson Automatic Field Watch is an excellent timepiece that will serve you well, and if it won’t cause you to stumble then I would love to sell you one.