What does the Bible say about saving money? Should Christians save money? Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” Read this chapter from Your Finances God’s Way to learn what Bible verses about saving money teach us.
Table of Contents
- We Develop the Habit of Spending or Saving Money
- The Bible’s View of Saving Money
- Avoiding Financial Regrets
- Saving Money the Right Way
- Accumulating Money Wrong Ways
- Teach Your Children About Saving Money
- Helped by God
After health-and-fitness-related New Year’s resolutions, such as exercising more, going on a diet, and losing weight, the second-most-common resolutions are financial. This would be good news, except that only 64 percent of New Year’s resolutions last longer than the first month, and only 46 percent last longer than six months. Changing is hard! As a pastor, I’ve heard many people say, “I’m going to stop this,” or “I’m going to start that,” but then nothing changes. We get into the habit of doing things one way and it’s difficult to do things differently. This is why the Bible warns us about losing good habits and developing bad ones:
- “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
- “They get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house” (1 Timothy 5:13 NIV).”
- “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
We Develop the Habit of Spending or Saving Money
Notice the word or in the subhead above. We can’t develop the habit of spending and saving money. They are mutually exclusive. Think of a plane trying to fly in two different directions. I’ve spoken with people who habitually spend money and defend their actions by talking about how much they have saved. They still develop the habit of spending money, but they’ve found a way to justify it.
For some people, spending money moves from a habit to an addiction. Consider these testimonies. Although women are in view, men can have similar problems:
Michelle feared the day her husband might discover her secret stash of credit cards, her secret post office box or the other tricks she used to hide how much money she spent shopping for herself. She said, “I make as much money as my husband and if I want a $500 suit from Ann Taylor, I deserve it and do not want to be hassled about it. So the easiest thing to do is lie.” Last year, when her husband forced her to destroy one of her credit cards, she went out and got a new one without telling him. She also said, “I do live in fear. If he discovers this new Visa, he’ll kill me.
“Men just don’t understand that shopping is our drug of choice,” even while admitting that some months her entire salary goes to paying the minimum balance on her credit cards. She added, “Walking through the door of South Coast Plaza is like walking through the gates of heaven. God made car trunks for women to hide shopping bags in.
“Shopping is my recreation. It is my way of pampering myself. When you walk into [a mall] and you see all the stores, it is like something takes over and you get caught up in it.”
Three in five women admit to hiding purchases from their husband. These women are slaves to spending money, and as I said a moment ago, men have this problem too.
The good news is all of us can change. Even if you’re the biggest spender, you can develop the habit of saving money. The same fervor you had for spending, can be turned into a fervor for saving. You can become as excited about maxing your retirement account as you used to be about buying things. You can reach the point that you view every purchase as money you are unable to save. To put it simply: As much as spending used to be your habit, saving can become your habit.
The Bible’s View of Saving Money
As negatively as the Bible speaks of debt, it speaks equally positively of saving: “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down” (Proverbs 21:20 NIV). Foolish people spend (gulp down) what they have, but wise people save (store up). Earlier I mentioned Proverbs 13:22 to condemn government debt: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” But what would this verse look like when followed? You would have people who save so much it is passed down not just to their children, but to their children’s children. In the New Testament, Paul affirmed, “Children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children” (2 Corinthians 12:14).
Folly fritters away and is unprepared for the future, but wisdom conserves and makes provision, as the ant demonstrates:
- “[An ant stores] her supplies in summer, and gathers her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:8).
- “Four things…are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise; the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer” (Proverbs 30:24-25).
Ants are “exceedingly wise” because they know how to save. Recognizing a coming need and preparing today is wise. Doing so enables us to care for ourselves, family members, friends, and neighbors. A great example of this is when Joseph stored up for a coming famine:
During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he 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. And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured…The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.Genesis 41:47-49, 53-54
What is saving if not gathering up or storing up during “plentiful years” that produce abundantly so we’re prepared when lean “years of famine” come? Because of Joseph’s efforts, “many people [were] kept alive” (Genesis 50:20).
Avoiding Financial Regrets
Sadly, despite the importance of saving:
- Sixty-nine percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, and 34 percent have no savings at all
- More than 70 percent say they would be in a difficult situation if their paycheck was delayed even one week
I tell my congregation that one of the worst things to have to say is, “I wish I could go back and do things differently.” How much better our lives would be if we never had to make this statement. On the other hand, one of the best things to be able to say is, “I’m so glad I made the decision I did.” If you ask people what their biggest regret is, many will tell you about a financial decision they made that they have never been able to recover from. Statistically, more than three in four Americans have at least one financial regret. The most common regrets are taking on too much debt and not saving early enough. I want you to avoid being part of these statistics by saving the way the Bible prescribes.
Saving Money the Right Way
Proverbs 13:11 gives us insight into how to save correctly: “Wealth gained dishonestly will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.” This encourages consistent, steady saving week after week, month after month, and year after year.
Take your mind back to the parable of the talents:
He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more…But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. But his master [said to] him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.”Matthew 25:16, 18, 26-27
By looking at what the first servant did right and the third servant did wrong, we see what we must take advantage of to save the right way. The key words are “at once” and “with interest.”
Taking Advantage of Time and Interest
The first servant knew it was important to serve the master, so he got right to putting his talents to work. Unfortunately, the third servant did not follow the first servant’s example—he buried his talent in the ground. This was a common practice in Jesus’ day, akin in our day to putting money in drawers or mattresses (where it also gains no interest). God rebuked the third servant for failing to invest the money and gain interest.
We are being poor stewards when we waste money on trivial purchases, but we are also being poor stewards when we allow money to sit for years (or decades) without growing in value. When inflation is factored in, the money is losing value. The solution is to invest as early as possible.
Time, versus money itself, is the greatest tool we have to increase the value of money. The sooner we start, the greater our return. This also means that procrastinating (like the third servant) is one of the greatest threats to making money. The longer we put off investing, the more money we lose.
Contrast Peter and Paul
Consider these examples:
- Peter is 30 years old and he invests $200 per month at 7 percent interest. When he turns 60, he will have $244,000.
- Paul is 20 years old and he invests $200 per month at 7 percent interest. When he turns 60, he will have $525,000.
Starting 10 years earlier results in more than twice as much money—a difference of $281,000. Dave Ramsey said, “The current average annual return from 1926, the year of the S&P’s inception, through 2011 is 11.69%.” Assuming the stock market continues the same pattern it has shown historically, consider these examples:
- Paul invests $2,000 per year starting at 19 years old. When he turns 26, he does not invest another penny, which means he invested $16,000 over 7 years. When he turns 65, he will have $2,288,996.
- Peter invests $2,000 per year starting at 27, the year after Brian stopped investing, and continues until he’s 65, which means he invested $78,000 over 38 years. When he turns 65, he will have $1,532,166.
The following chart illustrates the reality:
This chart demonstrates the importance of investing as soon as possible. In our younger years, it’s easy for us to assume we have plenty of time to get started and thus we’re not as careful or frugal with our money as we should be. But when we put off investing, we lose the greatest tool we have for making money: time.
Do yourself a favor and start investing as soon as possible, regardless of your age. If you are young, keep these two truths in mind: First, the money you are saving now is money for your family in the future. And second, the money you are wasting now is money you are taking away from your family in the future.
Accumulating Money Wrong Ways
Before we jump into the specific ways we should avoid accumulating money, consider this Old Testament account that encourages us to trust God will provide for us when we obey Him. I hope this gives you the motivation to avoid accumulating money in any of the following wrong ways.
Amaziah was king of the southern kingdom of Judah and he hired 100,000 mercenaries for 100 talents (about 7,500 pounds) of silver from the apostate northern kingdom of Israel:
A man of God came to [Amaziah, saying, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel”…
Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the troops of Israel?”
And the man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.”2 Chronicles 25:7, 9
Amaziah’s immediate concern was the money he would lose. We might be quick to judge him, but I remember feeling this way after I became a Christian and had to throw away compromising possessions, such as movies, music, and clothing. Sadly, my concern was, “I paid so much for all this.”
The prophet said God was able to give him “much more” than he would lose. God has no trouble providing for us when we obey Him with our finances. If you’re ever tempted to compromise financially, go to this passage. I have used it in counseling to encourage people to do what’s right with their money, even if that meant they would make less, or perhaps even lose money.
A friend of mine started DJing Christian events, but soon found himself taking increasingly worldly gigs (think foul music, drunkenness, immodest clothing, and sinful behavior) to make more money. One time he shared with me about an upcoming event, and I told him God wouldn’t want him to do it. He agreed, but then said he would be out the $1,000 he was supposed to make. I replied that the Lord was able to give him so much more. Sadly, he wasn’t willing to trust God’s provision, so he took the gig.
As is the case with so many things in the Christian life, motive is crucial. Doing the right thing (saving) the wrong way makes it the wrong thing. Let’s talk about a few of the wrong ways to save, or accumulate, money.
Avoid Gaining Money Corruptly
Proverbs 11:1 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight”1 Notice that not only is it a sin to acquire money dishonestly, it is also an abomination. Although theft most commonly comes to mind, the Bible discusses other compromising ways of gaining money. Consider these present-day examples with the accompanying verses that condemn them:
- Earning money illegally—“Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 10:2).
- Lying on tax returns—“Getting treasures by a lying tongue, is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death” (Proverbs 21:6).
- Overcharging—“One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion gathers it for him who will pity the poor” (Proverbs 28:8).
- Failing to pay workers what they are owed—“Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of [Hosts]” (James 5:4).
A bank officer approached a junior clerk and secretly asked, “If I gave you $50,000, would you help me alter the books?”
The clerk replied, “Yes, I would.”
The officer asked, “Would you do it for $100?”
The clerk replied, “No way! What do you think I am, a common thief?”
The officer said, “We have already established that you are a thief. Now we must determine the price.”
Ungodly people can be bought. Balaam is one of the best examples in Scripture. He was willing to curse Israel for Balak, the king of Moab (Numbers 22). Second Peter 2:15 says he “loved gain from wrongdoing.” The Israelites executed him for his sin (Joshua 13:22), and the New Testament strongly condemns him (Jude 11; Revelation 2:14). He serves as a sober warning to anyone who makes money corruptly.
A friend’s son wrecked the family vehicle. The father lied to the insurance company and said he was driving to save money. I thought, You’re that worried about money, but now you think you’re in a better place after lying? You’re in a worse place financially because you’ve taken yourself outside God’s will.
Imagine you are tempted to deceive the insurance company, fudge on your tax returns, shortchange someone, or step on others to get ahead. It would be better to do what’s right and experience loss: “When you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God…If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed…It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 2:20, 3:14, 17). You might be tempted to say, “I’ve already invested so much…There have been all these expenses…If I don’t do this…” Remind yourself of two truths: First, “the LORD is able to give you much more than this.” Second, anything gained corruptly should be viewed as cursed instead of blessed. Only wealth earned with integrity has God’s fingerprints on it. No amount of money is worth being able to peacefully lay your head down at night because you’re right with the Lord.
Avoid Gaining Money Quickly
Just as Proverbs 13:11 tells us how to save correctly (“whoever gathers little by little will increase it”), we’re also told how to save incorrectly: “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle.” Similarly, “He who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished…A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him” (Proverbs 28:20, 22). To most people, few things are more attractive than obtaining money swiftly. There’s a reason many advertisements use the phrase, “Get rich quick!”
The desire to obtain money quickly is fueled by impatience and often laziness. Proverbs 12:11 says, “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense” (NIV). Get-rich-quick schemes fall into the category of fantasies, so when they present themselves, they should be avoided. Beware of people who promise wealth without expecting work or risk on your part: More than a few trusting people have lost their savings in a “sure thing” that turned out to be a scam. The proper way to gain money is found in the words “work their land,” or simply put, working hard.
What about Gambling?
One of the most obvious ways people try to get rich quickly is through gambling. Not only is this a terrible stewardship of God’s money, there is also a strong potential for addiction. Casinos use many marketing tactics to entice people to risk as much money as possible. They also offer inexpensive or even free alcohol, which encourages drunkenness and decreases our decision-making ability. Everything in casinos is rigged to take money and give nothing in return, except fleeting pleasures and regret.
Lotteries, which are a form of gambling, are often participated in by people who can least afford to waste their money on them. Although the chances of winning are minuscule, the fantasy of being rich remains a great temptation for desperate people.
The proceeds from gambling or lotteries can be used in godly ways, but the ends don’t justify the means. Just because money from stealing or selling drugs could be given to God doesn’t mean we should steal or sell drugs. Similarly, just because money from gambling or lotteries can be given to God doesn’t mean we should gamble or buy lottery tickets.
Is the Stock Market Gambling?
If we define gambling as risking money with the goal of making money, the stock market can be considered gambling because there is no guarantee the money will increase in value. A friend I respect equates the stock market with gambling, so he elected to purchase gold. Others might put their money in real estate. These approaches are acceptable, but they also carry the same danger as the stock market—losing value—which means they are also a gamble. You can put your money in a savings account with little potential loss of value, but there’s also an interest rate that’s so low there’s little potential for reasonable returns.
Yet there are important differences to note between gambling at a casino and buying stocks. Foolish gamblers risk money to make it quickly, and they are not investing in any kind of equity with value. When investors buy stock, they obtain partial ownership of a company with the intent of making money over time as the company grows in value. The money is spent on something that possesses actual equity, even if there’s a possibility that equity could decrease over time.
The difference comes down to intent. If you “play” the stock market to “get rich quickly” then, yes, that is gambling. If you invest in the stock market long-term, patiently waiting for your money to grow “little-by-little,” then you are taking a biblical approach. Anything that requires “luck” above wisdom and planning should be avoided.
With this said, if you still feel convicted about investing in the stock market, do not let me lead you to violate your conscience (1 Corinthians 8:12).
Teach Your Children About Saving Money
Whether we as parents do this intentionally or not, we are training our children how to spend or save money, and we do this in two ways: First, we do this directly through our teaching; and second, we do this indirectly through our example.
We train our children through what we teach them about spending and saving. And if we aren’t teaching them to save, then we are teaching them to spend because that is their default desire. Whether it’s toys, trips, clothes—and the list goes on—kids grow up asking their parents to spend money. If we don’t teach our children to save, our lack of instruction teaches them to follow their natural propensity to spend.
Second, we train our children through our example. They watch us and learn from us. If we habitually spend money, embrace debt, fail to give, and make other poor financial decisions, we are teaching our children to do the same. If we save money, avoid debt, give, and make wise financial decisions, we are teaching our children to do the same.
Once again, Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” Parents obey this verse, not by giving their children enough money that some of it reaches the grandchildren, but by teaching their children to save. If they don’t, then no matter how much the children receive, none of it will reach the grandchildren. Solomon, the richest man to ever live, lamented, “I must leave [my wealth] to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool?” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19). Parents can help their children to not be fools by instructing them.
Invite your kids on the adventure with you. Share the vision with them. Let them know your plans to save. Make it sound attractive. Ask them for ideas. Offer some sort of inexpensive reward or celebration for when you pay off the last dollar.
Have your children open savings accounts at an early age. When they receive money, whether from allowances or gifts, have them put the money in their accounts. Family members and friends give our children money to spend for birthdays and holidays. We tell them we will double the amount if they save it instead of spending it.
Recently, a man handed each of my children a dollar when we were in front of The Dollar Tree because he wanted them to be able to buy something. I could see their excitement. Here’s how the conversation went:
My children: “He gave us a dollar! He gave us a dollar!”
Me: “This is exciting, isn’t it?”
My children: “Yes, it is!”
Me: “We can put this money in your savings accounts.”
My children without the joy they had earlier: “Are you serious?”
Me: “Yes. Do you want to spend that dollar on some worthless toy you are going to forget about by tomorrow, or do you want to put it in the bank?”
What I wanted my children to say: “We want to put it in the bank!”
What my children actually said: “We want to buy something!”
Me: “I know you do, but this is why God gave you parents, so you would not waste money on cheap toys. Now let’s go put that money in your savings accounts.”
What I wanted my children to say: “Thanks, Dad. You are so wise.”
What they actually said with disappointment: “Okay.”
If your children are anything like mine, they probably aren’t going to appreciate you making them save. That’s okay. They will appreciate it later.
Maybe you are reading this thinking, Wow, you are such a cheapskate! You wouldn’t even let your kids spend a dollar at The Dollar Tree? It is just a dollar! You’re right that it’s “just a dollar,” but I wasn’t concerned about the dollar. I was concerned with the habit that could develop. When children learn to waste a dollar when they are young, it becomes ten dollars, twenty dollars, or a hundred dollars when they are older.
You might handle the same situation differently than me. Perhaps you see this as an opportunity to teach your children to spend with discernment—to use their dollar toward something necessary (because Dollar Tree sells essentials) or something good (such as a greeting card to encourage someone) instead of on a worthless toy.
Whatever approach you take, train your children from a young age that every dollar counts. Compliment them when they make the choice to save versus spend. Show them their accounts are growing, which will get them excited. Each time we take our kids to the bank to deposit money, they love to get the receipt showing their new total. If they start saving when they are young, it can more easily become a habit when they’re older.
Helped by God
Saving—like giving, eliminating debt, and most other principles in this book—takes time and sacrifice. Keep in mind that God is for you. He wants you to make the right decisions with the money He has entrusted to you. After all, not only has God given us commands for our good, He also helps us obey those commands.
As you strive to save, be encouraged that “[God’s] divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Because finances are such a big part of “life and godliness,” we can be confident that God will empower us to be good stewards.
- See also Proverbs 16:11; 20:10, 23. The book itself opens with a stern warning against obtaining money illegally (Proverbs 1:10-19). These schemes lead to prison or even death. Amos 8:5 condemned cheating others: “Offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances.” They skimped on what was owed, overcharged, and accomplished this with dishonest scales.