You give 10% of your income to your church and to the needy. You also save 20% of your pay for retirement, investments and for a rainy day. Is there anything wrong with that arrangement?
If you’re a Christian, there might be. Jesus was very specific on this point.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:21 NIV
We know we should save money, but it’s also a matter of degree – if too much treasure goes into savings, it could be taking our hearts with it! Not good.
That will always be a source of tension for the believer, and I think it was meant to be that way.
The Good Side of Saving Money
We can find numerous verses in the Bible supporting the idea of saving money. The book of Proverbs is full of them, so we know that saving is both good and necessary. Consider what it can do for us as believers:
1. Helps us not be a burden to others.
By having a sufficient amount of money saved, we avoid being a burden to our loved ones and to the community around us.
2. We’ll have more money to give.
The more excess money (savings) that you have, the more generous you can afford to be in helping others. There’ll always be needs and the needy in the world (Matthew 26:11), and there will always need to be people who are in a position to help.
3. Minimizes worldly stressors.
Worry is a false idol that draws our attention away from God. Having some money saved can help to reduce sources of stress, keeping our minds and our lives free to focus on our faith.
Obviously there’s a lot of good that comes from having extra money, even for a believer.
The Dark Side of Saving Money
When it comes to savings, we have to ask the question, how much is enough? That’s a tough call, but it is possible for the perpetual pursuit of having ever more money to become a personal obsession.
1. Becoming your own favorite charity.
The popular phrase in the financial world is “pay yourself first” when it comes to saving money. The word “yourself” is the operative word in the directive, putting the entire emphasis on satisfying your needs first. After paying taxes and necessary expenses, each of us have a certain amount of disposable income that we can direct to various needs. If paying ourselves becomes the priority, what does that say about us? What does it say about our faith?
2. Believing that money equals security.
It is possible to convince ourselves that the purpose for having a lot of money saved is to give ourselves “a little security” in life – that sounds less like a quest for riches, doesn’t it? But how much security can money actually provide? Is there a point at which the pursuit monetary security competes with the journey toward eternal security? Probably, and that’s something we need to think about.
3. The world calls a heavy emphasis on saving “good.”
The way of the world is all about the accumulation of money. But we have to be very wary of pursuing the things the world calls good. When everyone around us is pursuing the same goal, we can easily become swept up in that effort and lose sight of the fact that we have a different purpose in the world.
4. Neglecting needs all around you.
None of us can address all of the needs around us. But at the same time, we can neglect more than we should if we get too caught up in the climb for a bigger pile of savings.
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:17-18 NIV
It is precisely because building up wealth is so normal, so encouraged, that we need to step back and ask ourselves if our ways are too closely paralleling those of the secular world.
Why it’s Good to Give as Much as You Can
While recognizing the fact that we do need to save some money, it is also a sign of faith when we feel free to give money away, secure in the knowledge that God will provide for us.
1. It’s important to trust God rather than “pay yourself first.”
We probably don’t think about this often, but a strong emphasis on saving money could be masking a lack of faith in God. If we always need to have more money put away, it can be an indication we do not entirely trust God to provide for us. There is a dividing line here – Jesus told us that we “cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24 NIV)
2. It helps us be the hands and feet of God.
If God has blessed us with any degree of prosperity, there’s so much that we can do to be his hands and feet in the world. As Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48 NIV) Do we take that seriously, especially when it comes to money?
3. The world will know us by our deeds.
How great a witness will you be if you are a person of modest means, but one who gives generously? That combination is downright countercultural – when people see it they will have to ask why. They’ll know that there’s something different about you. If they know that you’re a Christian, your witness will be greater than any words that can come out of your mouth.
I don’t think that there’s any magic formula here, such as giving away one dollar for every dollar that you save for yourself. But is it possible to save too much, and to give too little – and all the while seeing no problem with that arrangement?
What are your thoughts on this important topic? Leave a comment!