Five Spiritually Unhealthy Motives for Saving
I heard a young woman tell a radio interviewer why she saved: she was scared. Scared of the future. Scared of having nothing. Scared to be without. Thankfully, she finally realized that fear was an ungodly motive for saving.
That conversation caused me to check my own motives for building up savings. Out of that process, I developed a list of five unhealthy motives for setting aside money for the future.
1. Insecurity. Although I promote the use of an emergency fund to my blog readers, we should be on our guard. An emergency fund can become the focus of our trust, a means of soothing our insecurities.
Jesus told us to pray that God would give us our daily bread. But in our culture we stockpile, we save, we collect — so we can feel safe. If an emergency fund is taking the place of trusting the Lord daily, something is wrong.
"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7).
2. Fear. I think of fear as insecurity on steroids. Like the young woman I heard on the radio, some people live in fear of not having enough savings — often because they've experienced a traumatic event.
Perhaps they endured poverty while growing up, or suffered a job layoff, or lived through times of financial upheaval. Now they save, not simply because it makes them feel more secure, but because they're literally afraid of what the future may hold.
Happily, there is an antidote to fear: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Psalm 23:4).
3. Pride. Some people save more than they need in hopes of being noticed or receiving special honor. After all, throughout history the rich have been honored, elevated, and recognized.
Even among believers, there is a temptation to treat the rich better than the poor. "Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" (James 2:2-4).
If you're craving the attention and status that come with wealth, that's a clear sign that God isn't at the center your life. Check your motives. Don't be like those who built the Tower of Babel because they were seeking to "make a name for [them]selves" (Genesis 11:4).
4. Greed. Associated with pride is greed — the love of accumulation, without regard for anything or anyone else. To get what it wants, greed destroys anything in its way.
"Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!" (Psalm 52:7)
5. Not deciding how much is enough. I suspect that many people have never established a "finish line" for their retirement savings. Since they've always saved, they simply continue to do so.
A savings habit can be a good thing, but we shouldn't turn off our minds when it comes to savings. Instead, at some point, perhaps annually, we should ask, "How much is enough?" When saving becomes compulsively habitual, it can become spiritually unhealthy.
"He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.'… But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'" (Luke 12:17-20).
It may sound like I am suggesting that Christians shouldn't save. But what I'm actually arguing for is saving for the right reasons. Let me suggest two right motives for saving.
• Save to avoid becoming a financial burden to the church. The church has a call and a ministry to this world that includes helping to take care of the poor. If church members save wisely for the future, the church will need to use fewer resources to take care of its own.
"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:10).
• Save to actively participate in generous giving. It may seem strange that you would save in order to give. But Scripture calls us to make provision for our families first. "[I]f anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8). By setting aside adequate savings for your family's future needs, you'll be able to continue to be a generous giver in future years.
The Bible tells us that while our actions are important, our motives are just as important, if not more so. So ask God to examine your heart — and help you save for the right reasons.
Copyright Craig Ford. Used by permission. This article appeared in a different form at ChristianPF.com.