I remember when it wasn't uncommon for Christians to believe saving meant you lacked faith and that it was unspiritual to save money. Perhaps the reason so many Christians embraced this point of view is because it sounded so spiritual, but it's false, especially when you take into account what the Bible has to say about it.
We hear a lot more about saving these days, so much so that the fear of not having enough money saved or running out of money is one of America's top fears. These messages have caused us to believe there is no such thing as saving too much.
We've gone from one extreme, “don't save because saving is unspiritual”, to the other: “save to the point of hoarding because you can never have too much.” To find the balance between these two extremes, we need to understand what God's word says about this principle of saving.
Since our definition of saving is setting aside something (money) we have today to have and use in the future, we need to search the Bible for stories and instructions that reveal this principle to show us how to practice it ourselves. Let's take a look at a few of these verses to understand this critical principle better.
The best example of this principle of saving for the future is the story in Genesis, where God reveals Pharaoh's dream to Joseph. After interpreting the dream and delivering the bad news that a famine was coming, Joseph tells Pharaoh what he should do to save Egypt from certain destruction.
Genesis 41:34-36: - Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.
If you're familiar with this story, you know how it turns out. With Joseph in charge, the grain and food are stored during the seven plentiful years, saving not only Egypt, but according to Genesis 41:57,"…all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth."
It's easy for us to read this story and agree that saving is good because we know the end of the story. But, according to the statistics on how much Americans save, we don't seem to believe it's good for us. I wonder how many of us, had we lived in Egypt, would have grumbled that we had to save a portion instead of consuming it all?
It is not easy for us to save even in times of plenty because our sinful nature is always craving more. Proverbs 27:20 says it best, "Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied."
In my experience, I've noticed that financial problems are rarely about finances; they are heart problems. God knows the human heart and its propensity toward greed and selfishness. He provides us wisdom through his word to help us with understanding and giving us the ability to overcome greed and selfishness. Consider the following Scriptures:
Prov 13:11 - Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. Prov 21:5 - The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
When greed or unhealthy desires motivate our financial decisions, loss, and poverty are the result. The opposite is true when we manage wealth wisely and save diligently.
Proverbs 21:20 - Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.
The primary reason for the lack of saving today is consumption without restrain, which the Bible calls foolish. To be wise, you must be a saver.
Proverbs 13:7 - One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
This truth is easier to see today than in previous generations because, unlike in the past, today, a person can borrow excessively to look rich, when the truth is, they are poor. This fact is well document in the book The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy, a worthwhile read.
We are encouraged to save, but we must do it for the right reason and in the right proportion.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 - As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
Matthew 6:19 - "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
When wealth increases beyond basic needs and what's necessary to provide for our future reasonably, we can begin to depend on it more than we depend on God. A true and joy-filled life will never happen from storing up wealth or having a wasteful lifestyle. It happens when we manage money well, allowing us to enjoy what God has given us while generously sharing the surplus with others.
The Biblical story of Joseph and the famine in Egypt is a great example of t__he cause and effect of the principle of saving__, and the additional Scriptures provide us wisdom and guidance. They reveal God's intent for saving and how he wants to use it in our lives. First, God blesses us and provides us more than we need (the years of abundance). Then, if we are faithful, wise, and diligent to save a portion of our income, we will have what we need in the future (the years of famine). But not only will we have what we need, but we will also have enough to share with those in need.
Saving is rarely thought of in this way. Our culture teaches us to believe that saving is for our benefit only. We save for our retirement so that we can enjoy a life of leisure and rest. No mention is made that saving isn't only for taking care of you and your needs but also for taking care of others.
God's main reason for what he did in Egypt was to save lives, not the least being the family of Jacob (Genesis 50:20). His purpose is still the same today, saving lives. Through our faithful obedience to this principle of saving, you and I will have the ability to join God in this amazing work.
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