God has given us a great privilege by making us stewards of the resources under our control. Our mission in managing His resources is the same as it is in every other area of our lives, to maximize His glory. As we strive to wisely manage the money at our disposal, we can choose to give it, save it, or spend it. For instance, we can glorify Him by spending money to provide for our families, grow our relationships with others or invest in our children. We can glorify God by giving money to ministries that share the Gospel or to care for individuals that are struggling financially. However, we can also glorify God by setting money aside so that we have it available for future use. As we consider the idea of saving, we need to recognize that the world’s view of saving doesn’t account for our Christian mission, so we need to rebuild this concept on the wisdom of scripture.
Why We Save
Saving is simply the act of not spending money today so we can have it available to spend at a later time. Saving is virtually the opposite of debt. In using debt, we purchase and enjoy the item today in exchange for a promise to pay for it in the future. When we save, we set aside our payments now with the idea of purchasing the item later, when we have enough money to pay for it.
One of the major problems with debt is that it presumes upon the future and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring (James 4:13-16). Saving allows us to plan for the future without presuming upon it and committing income that we haven’t yet earned.
There will likely be times in our lives when our expenses are greater than our immediate income can support. If we don’t identify those needs ahead of time and set money aside to cover that shortfall, the only other funding alternative (I’m not even going to acknowledge the idea of setting up a GoFundMe page) is going to be taking on debt.
The Bible has several verses addressing the idea of saving. I want to start by looking at the following three:
- Proverbs 21:20 (NIV) – “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.”
- Proverbs 6:6-8 (NIV) – “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”
- Genesis 41:47-48 – “During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he [Joseph] gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it.”
There is great wisdom to be gained from all three of these verses. Here are a few of my takeaways:
1. Saving can be wise. It is foolish to quickly devour what God has supplied without careful consideration.
2. God illustrates the concept of saving through nature. God has given the ant the ability to know there will be a time when food is no longer available. It wisely saves food when it is plentiful in order to survive winter.
3. God provides for our needs, and sometimes He does it ahead of time. Because of Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph knew there would be seven years of famine coming. In preparation, he ordered that a portion of the grain that God had provided in the seven fat years be saved and used to build a reserve that could get the people through the seven years of famine that were still coming. This may be an extraordinary example, but one we can still learn from.
4. Our savings may help us meet the needs of others. If we continue to Genesis 41:57, we read “Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.” We might be saving with a purpose in mind, but God later reveals to us a greater use. This is why we should never be too rigid with the purpose of our savings. If we can glorify God more by giving instead of saving, we should be ready to give that money up. Perhaps the day will come when you are the one with plenty as we read about in 2 Corinthians 8:14, “Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it”(NLT).
How To Save
Here’s a list of steps to follow when it comes to saving:
1. Identify the need. Just as the ant knows it needs to store food for winter when there will not be food available, we should only save when we have identified a future need. Those needs could range from the appliance that wears out in your home to your next car, college for your children or a day when you’re no longer able to work and earn an income to provide for your family.
2. Calculate the amount you will need. The ant only saves what it needs to save for the winter. It doesn’t waste time and energy putting away more than it needs. Luke 14:28 – “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” If your next car is going to cost you $15,000 then that’s the maximum amount you need to save for that purpose. Once you reach that amount, you can look for a better use for any additional money.
When it comes to an emergency fund, you need to consider your monthly spending budget in case of a loss of income, the life expectancy of things around your house because one day they will wear out, your insurance deductibles, etc. When you look at that list of possible expenses that have no definite timeframe, use wisdom to figure out the amount you need to have set aside to be prepared. There is not a great likelihood of all things going wrong in the same year, but the chance of one or two happening in a given year is probably pretty good.
3. Save off the top of your income. If you can set up a direct deposit from your paycheck, you will be more likely to save.
4. Save it where you can’t easily get to it. If you want the money to be there in the future, you better protect it from yourself during times of weakness. You’re saving for a specific purpose, so don’t allow yourself to spend it on an impulse.
5. Don’t hoard. Hoarding takes place when we save without a purpose outside of simply having more money. It is often driven by fear or greed. When we hoard wealth, we are in great danger of losing our dependency and trust in God. He should always be our source of peace and security. Hoarding is a spiritual time bomb just waiting to go off. I’ll speak more on the issue of hoarding in a future article.
Two Types of Savings
Savings can be boiled down into two categories for the purpose of this discussion.
1. Short-term savings – These are savings that need be available to us on short notice. It’s possible we won’t need them in the near future, but they must be available if the need arises. An emergency fund is the most common example of a short-term savings account. The primary goal of short-term savings is not to generate a high rate of return, but to be liquid and easy to access.
2. Long-term savings – These are savings set aside for specific purposes more than a year or two down the road. College and retirement are two of the more common goals associated with long-term savings. The longer the timeframe, the more important our rate of return becomes. In the case of retirement, our rate of return is often a key element to achieving our savings goal.
We should also consider any potential tax benefits available for using certain types of accounts since that also helps our money accumulate faster or go farther. Since these savings are not intended for immediate use, liquidity is not a priority. We should regularly review the purpose of our savings and the amount we’re setting aside. While we have specific plans, God may show us a more important use for that money in the future.
Goal of Saving
1 Timothy 6:9 – “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.”
A Christian’s goal of saving should never be to get rich. Our motive is simply to be a good and faithful steward of God’s resources. As long as we’ve been faithful with what He’s entrusted to us, our goal has been accomplished.
1 Samuel 2:7 – “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.”
God is in charge of the results and whether we end up with wealth or nothing at all, that is up to Him and beyond our control anyway. Some of us will prosper while others face financial struggles despite being good stewards. Regardless of results, God is still our refuge and strength.
Luke 12:15 – “… for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Our identity and our security is not to be found in our possessions. We can find our comfort in knowing that God is aware of our situation and in control at all times. As we read in Romans 8:28, “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good”.
Brad Graber, CFP® has been working with clients on personal financial planning and investment issues since 1996. He invests his time mentoring and educating individuals on ways to be better stewards of the resources God has entrusted to them.