Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Biblical Basis for Saving

A friend from church who consistently calls us to faith and trusting God to meet our needs asked recently "Where do you see any Biblical instruction to save and keep reserves? Instead we need to live by faith!" (I love this man's challenge for us to be strong in faith.) I gave this a lot of thought and study, and present here my thoughts on what the Bible has to say about saving.

Scripture on Saving   (NIV)

Proverbs 30:24-25 "Four things on earth are small,  yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer."  (c.f. Prov 6:6-8)

God does provide. But sometimes he provides before the need, and expects us to be wise stewards in setting aside in times of plenty for times of greater need.

I Corinthians 16:2 "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made."

Saving up - to give away and use to serve others - is commanded in a way that is consistent, and proportional to income. That is contrasted with waiting until the last moment the money is needed and passing the plate.

Proverbs 21:20 "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has."

Saving up (not hoarding) is considered wise. It's considered foolish to spend every dime you bring in. 

Luke 14:28-30 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’"

It's not a great sign of faith to expect God to cover you when you don't plan and save up. It's merely a sign of poor planning that does not honor Him.

Proverbs 13:11 "Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow."  (or the NASB: "Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, But the one who gathers by labor increases it.")

Wealth itself is never described as evil in the Bible - the key is what you do with it. The way to become wealthy: piece by piece, spending less than you bring in. 

John 13:29 "Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor."

In the Bible there are stories of God providing miraculously (Jesus and paying a tax, Mt 17:27; Elisha and the widow's olive oil), but this is for His purposes and in His timing, not a command for how we normally operate. It's clear that Jesus and His disciples also 'kept a purse' and had to balance issues of saving and spending.

Scripture on Giving

It should be pretty clear that God loves a generous giver, that we are called to give to the poor, to share of our possessions. Giving is not something you do instead of saving, it's something to do in addition to saving.

Proverbs 28:27 "He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."

Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

God loves to meet our needs, He desires the tithe from us both as an act of worship and as a means to develop us spiritually.

Managing the Tension - Both Giving and Saving

What about the story of the rich fool and the commandment to be like the ravens who have no storeroom or barn? (Both from Luke 12). The teaching points here are not to avoid saving, but rather:

1) If you store things up for yourself and are not rich toward God, look out (Luke 12:21)
2) To fret and worry about the future and finances is foolish - your heart will be where your treasure is, and that should be in God.  (Luke 12:34)

Here's how the 'Money Help for Christians' website displays it, as a continuum from
Squander -- Save and Give -- Hoard

They note that one who squanders lacks self-control, one who saves has self-control, and one who hoards has greed. "The question is not to save or not to save. Nor is it to give or not to give. Both giving and saving should be practiced at the same time. Each Christian must prayerfully find the right saving balance.  Squandering our money does not honor God.  Hoarding our money dishonors God.  We must find the right – God pleasing – balance of saving."

Kick Debt Off discusses what the Bible has to say about savings and offers these comments.

Benefits of Saving Money as a Christian

  1. You are able to meet your family obligations without getting into debt.
  2. You get the ability to support other people in need.
  3. You are able to support Gods work in the local church and missions abroad.
  4. You have the ability to demonstrate your obedience to God through your finances.

Dangers of Saving - you're on a dangerous path if:

  1. Savings becomes your god
  2. You build your confidence and security in your savings fund
  3. You are hoarding (a good word for greed)
  4. Are in the habit of just collecting stuff without a purpose
  5. Your saving is motivated by worry

One final heart check - if we are calling on the church to "rely on faith" in all things instead of planning well and having set-asides for both known future needs and to have the ability to meet unknown needs in the future - do you have life insurance? a mortgage? money in a checking account? and IRA or a fund for a vacation with the family? Again it's not faith OR saving, hoard OR give-it-all-away, but a prayerful balance of giving now and saving to give later.


Joe said...

Great post and thanks keep the good work.

Larry Baxter said...

Thanks Joe, my pleasure! Thanks for commenting, and best wishes to you with your efforts to provide a Christian perspective on finances and debt.