The other day my wife Natalie and I were casually talking about where we are regarding our retirement plans. After about 30 minutes of looking and talking through the different income sources we expect to be drawing from, an uneasy, perhaps even fearful mood gripped both of us. For a brief period of time, filled with worry about the future, we lost focus of who we are and what we've been called to be, faithful followers of Christ, seeking God's will and not our own.
The world pushes us to accumulate as much as possible to ensure we will be safe, but there's no amount of money or possessions that will ever make us feel safe. Ask any wealthy person what they're worried about, and more than likely, they, just like you, fear not having enough regardless of how much money they have.
Everyone is subject to worry about the future, and that attitude affects how we manage our money and our motives behind how and why we save.
The Bible emphasizes saving as a prudent and wise thing to do. Being prepared for the future, when the future is uncertain, is wise. But, I have a sinking feeling that for many of us, at least here in the United States, our view and approach to saving is drastically different than God's view. And it is quite possible that God looks at the way we save and how much we accumulate in the same way he looked at the rich fool of Luke 12.
Luke 12:16–21 (ESV): And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry."' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." It's not that we should not save; it's that we should do so according to God's will and purpose. The rich fool already possessed enough crops to fill his barns before his fields produced plentifully. Why would he say, "I have nowhere to store my crops" if his existing barns were empty?
It's interesting to note that Jesus said nothing about his already full barns. He didn't say he should have never had anything stored in the first place or that he should have given it all away. Saving for the future is biblically supported. Saving to excess is what Jesus called foolish.
The rich fool's motivation for tearing down and building bigger barns was self-focused rather than God-focused. It is pretty easy in our culture of "you can never have enough" to adopt a similar attitude when saving for the future. It is no wonder that in multiple surveys over the past few years done by Chapman University on what Americans fear the most, running out of money for the future was consistently listed in the top five.
When our motivation for saving is about our protection and safety, or our abundance and comfort, we've stopped trusting in God and have begun trusting in our wealth. To only way to have a proper balance in saving is to remain dependent on God and seek His will and purpose for your life.
Immediately following the parable of the rich fool, Jesus affirms God's promise to always provide for those who seek His kingdom and his righteousness (Luke 12:22-34). He tells us not to worry. He knows what we need, and He desires to take care of us. Worry, fear, and a desire for comfort cause us to become self-focused laying up treasure for ourselves instead of being rich toward God.
__WE MUST RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO CHOOSE EXTREME PERSPECTIVES WHEN HANDLING MONEY AND WEALTH. __
You can't constantly give it all away because you'll eventually become a burden to others. You also can't hoard and accumulate to excess, so you never have to depend on anyone, especially God. There's a balance somewhere between those extremes, and we can maintain that balance with God's direction.
Like Natalie and I, you will face times when you will be gripped with fear and worry about the future. We have no way to prevent those thoughts from coming, but we can stand on God's promise, remembering that He's in control and that He loves us, so we have nothing to fear. Remember, your part is to steward, that is, to manage what you've been given by a loving and generous God. To maintain the right balance in saving, seek God’s will and let Him guide you on how much to save, and how much to give away.