My Sunday school class recently finished the book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan. I think it’s an excellent look at the dangers of being a lukewarm Christian, and Francis shares some valuable insights into the awesomeness of God’s love for us and how we should respond to that love.
For the most part, I thought Francis was spot on in his assessment of lukewarm Christians and how we need to be obsessed with serving God. But one particular aspect of his ideas bothered me. Specifically, this part from page 78 concerned me:
Lukewarm People do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens – they have their savings account. They don’t need God to help them – they have their retirement plan in place. They don’t genuinely seek out what life God would have them live – they have life figured and mapped out. They don’t depend on God on a daily basis – their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God.
from Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan
Francis then quotes the parable of the rich fool from Luke 12:16-21. Along with some other parts of the book, Francis seems to be hinting at the fact that Christians shouldn’t save money at all. They should be giving everything away.
Make no mistake. I firmly believe that Christians should be marked by radical generosity. But I think the flaw in Francis’ ideas is that they ignore the counsel of Scripture as a whole.
Treasures in Heaven
I think some people are quick to say Christians shouldn’t save because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19-21:
19 “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21 (WEB)
I’ve heard some comment on this passage as though Jesus is condemning anyone who saves up money. Their logic is that if you’re saving up money and not giving it away, then your heart is attached to that money rather than to God.
But think for a moment about the word “treasures”. We’d hardly use that word to talk about just enough to meet our needs. Rather, it denotes the idea of wealth – an abundance that far exceeds our needs. When we look at the whole of Jesus’ teachings about money, we see that His warnings were targeted at greed and selfishness rather than prudent money management combined with contentment.
I say this with some confidence because Jesus never contradicted Scripture. And throughout Scripture we see admonition and teaching to wisely manage our affairs while still trusting in God.
Prudence and Responsibility
Consider the numerous verses in Proverbs that commend wisdom in handling money and our affairs. Here are just a few:
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.
Proverbs 22:3 (WEB)
Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.
Proverbs 21:20 (WEB)
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways, and be wise; 7 which having no chief, overseer, or ruler, 8 provides her bread in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.
Proverbs 6:6-8 (WEB)
Additionally, the New Testament speaks to our responsibility to care for the needs of our family (including ourselves) so that we will not burden the Church.
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)
If any man or woman who believes has widows, let them relieve them, and don’t let the assembly be burdened; that it might relieve those who are widows indeed.
1 Timothy 5:16 (WEB)
11 …and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you; 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (WEB)
Clearly, we are to do what is wise and honorable so that we can provide for our family and our needs within reason. This would also include saving, since we know that the unexpected happens. Car repairs, medical expenses, job loss – they often come without warning and we should be prepared for them. That doesn’t mean we aren’t depending on God or trusting in Him. We’re simply fulfilling our responsibility to do what we ought to do.
The Danger of Saving
Despite the fact that we are encouraged to save and handle money wisely, we must still be on our guard against trusting in money. This is what Jesus was warning against. In our efforts to provide for our family, we can go overboard. We can save too much.
But the Christian who is seeking contentment in Christ and the heart of God will be concerned for the poor as well as responsible money management. That’s where our total walk with Jesus works to help us understand our true needs, meet those needs through work and saving, and generously give away as much as possible. I think Paul’s words to the Corinthians summarize the basic idea of Christian giving well:
13 For this is not that others may be eased and you distressed, 14 but for equality. Your abundance at this present time supplies their lack, that their abundance also may become a supply for your lack; that there may be equality.
2 Corinthians 8:13-14 (WEB)
The goal is not to live on the edge but to give generously from our abundance so that we can meet the needs of others. The idea is almost communistic except that it is not forced. This is the kind of giving that flows from love. We restrict our standard of living by not satisfying all of our wants so that we can show love to others through generosity. That’s the key to Jesus’ message on wealth and giving.
Do you think Christians shouldn’t save money? Why? And if not, have you ever encountered someone who felt this way? How did you approach this issue with them? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
(photo credit: Liz West)