It’s wise to have about 6 months (or more, depending on your situation) worth of your living expenses saved up in an emergency fund. Almost any financial expert will tell you this is a good idea. But is having an emergency fund a good idea for a Christian? Doesn’t that mean you’re no longer trusting in and relying on God? Let’s look at what the Bible says about this issue.
Life is uncertain. Life is difficult. We can all agree on those two facts. Having faith in God doesn’t change the truth of those statements – it only changes how we deal with the difficulty and uncertainty of life. We all know we’ll hit snags along the way, and many of these snags will have financial consequences. Cars break down, people get sick, companies downsize, and disasters happen. Only the (figuratively) blind or delusional would deny those realities.
So how should we cope with the inevitable trials of life? Proverbs provides a good reflection for this question.
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.
Proverbs 22:3 (WEB)
This verse is also found in Proverbs 27:12.
The New Living Translation says “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.” Prudence and wisdom are strongly praised throughout the Bible as gifts from God and virtues of the righteous. They are something every Christian should strive for. Here, the Bible tells us that the prudent see dangers ahead and prepare for them. They get ready to handle the inevitable trials they will face. Those who do not prepare are called “simple” – naive, dumb, stupid, or foolish. If you know trouble is ahead, you’d be a fool not to get ready to handle it the best you can.
You Don’t Know What Will Happen
You might think, “Well, I’ve got a good job and my boss likes me, so I’ll be fine.” Or, “My car is pretty new. It won’t need repairs for a long time.” Or maybe, “I’m in good shape. I shouldn’t have any medical bills until I’m old.” While the preventative measures you take may reduce your chances of running into trouble, the truth is that you just don’t know what will happen. Ecclesiastes 11:2 is often used to promote the idea of investment diversification to Christians (and that’s a logical application), but we can see how it relates to emergency funds as well.
Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
Ecclesiastes 11:2 (WEB)
This verse fits perfectly into the idea of diversification (even though it would have originally applied to agricultural practices). But the gist of it is that we should take appropriate precautions because we don’t know what will happen or what disasters may strike. An emergency fund is a very appropriate precaution against the financial difficulties or disasters we may face. Therefore, it is prudent for a Christian to have an emergency fund.
Take Care of Your Family
Without proper savings, financial troubles can be very strenuous on a family – often forcing you to make difficult choices between necessary expenses. Putting your family in a bind is neither wise nor loving, and the apostle Paul warned Christians to care for their family’s needs.
But if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:8 (WEB)
It is a testament to the wisdom and providence of God when Christians take care of their family’s needs through hard work and good judgment. We have a responsibility to provide for ourselves if we can, else we will give non-Christians a reason to criticize Christianity. It’s another stumbling block we can put in the way of others. But taking care of our families puts us in a better position to give generously when the occasion arises and makes it much easier for love to be expressed without worry, anxiety, and other unnecessary burdens.
Don’t Trust in Money
It’s clear that it is wise to prepare for emergencies ahead of time, and an emergency fund is one way a Christian can exercise prudence in this area. However, it’s important that we don’t begin to trust in our emergency funds instead of God.
He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous shall flourish as the green leaf.
Proverbs 11:28 (WEB)
We must always hope and firmly rely on God’s goodness and mercy and love to see us through the difficult times in life. Through His strength and power, we can overcome the emotional trials we will face. And through the blessings He provides and our prudent management of those blessings, we can save up to prepare for the emergencies and unexpected problems we’ll face. Trusting in God and having the wisdom to save up for the future work hand in hand to help us flourish as a green leaf.
We could try to keep our emergency funds at 2, 3, or even 5 years worth of our expenses, but time has shown that this isn’t really necessary. We can do what’s prudent and necessary (save 6-12 months of expenses as an emergency fund), or we can go overboard and have more faith in money than God. That’s the difference between trusting in riches and trusting in God. How far are you going to take the wise actions the Bible commends? Once you begin hoarding, you no longer honor God because you have become stingy and not willing to be generous. The balance is doing what is wise while still honoring the other areas of God’s plans for your finances – and the biggest aspect is generous giving.
So feel free and confident in saving up a wise amount for your emergency fund. But don’t take it so far that you begin to trust in riches instead of God.
I appreciate the balance you show in this and other posts. You definitely have one of the better Christian personal finance sites. Too many of them simply take standard conservative financial principles and dress them up with biblical language.
There is something wrong when I do not have an emergency fund, yet I have cable television, I go out to dinner, or make many other expenditures that are not nearly as prudent.
Also there is something wrong if I feel more secure because I have an emergency fund.
Thanks so much for your comments, Kevin. I really appreciate your encouragement!
Your two points summarize the article very well. We can easily go to two extremes with saving, and neither one is good. Hope to hear from you again soon!