Should Christians prepare financially for crisis? Here we are, living through a pandemic that most of us have never seen the likes of. I keep hearing and reading the words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘unprepared’. So many people have been out of work because their jobs can’t be done from home. I’ve read a lot of articles about the financial unpreparedness of individuals and businesses alike. A whopping almost 80% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and have no savings. Many people are living outside of their means with financing and credit cards. So when something this big that no one was expecting comes along, many people are in trouble.
This got me thinking about what God says about this type of thing. How and why should we be prepared for unexpected things? Do we just have faith and rely on Him or do we stay ready for a crisis?
Should Christians prepare financially for crisis?
Have you ever been confused about money as a Christian? I was. I stayed that way for a long time, mostly because I didn’t study the bible and find out for myself what Jesus meant by the following verses and what else the bible says about money.
This is how mass confusion about Christianity happens. I was guilty of it, many of you have probably been guilty of it at some point. We can be lazy when it comes to knowing the Word of God. We take a verse out of context and we decide what it must mean. We’re just assigning meaning left and right to everything, in a way that it can be applied to our lives at the time. Or we hear and believe what we or other people have decided it must mean. So for a long time, I thought these verses meant that God didn’t want me to save money.
Thinking back now that feels pretty silly. But hey, you don’t know what you don’t know. What’s important is that we want to learn and know that we don’t know everything, ever, and we need to keep seeking God for His wisdom. So here’s what I learned when I finally decided to go to the bible and find out what was really going on in these verses.
Seek the right reward in all you do
These verses in Matthew can be easily misconstrued if, 1. we don’t know the heart of God for us and 2. if we don’t know what else is taught about money throughout the bible. Nowhere in the bible does it say that money is bad and there is certainly nothing saying financial responsibility is bad. What matters with money, as with every single other thing in our lives when it comes to God, is where our heart is. God is interested in the posture of our hearts.
Money is not bad, the love of money is bad. Why? Because the love of money leads to the worship of money and it leads to a whole bunch of other sins. If you keep reading in this passage, verse 24 points out — you can’t serve two masters, you cannot serve both God and money. But to get to the bottom of this and find out the true posture of our hearts, we have to know what are we are really worshipping when we love money. Perceived security? Fulfillment through material wealth? Approval of others? You have to get to the root of your money issues to know where your heart is.
Where the love of money leads us
The most important point here is that we don’t want anything to pull our worship away from God, above all else. Because He’s God, first of all. But if we keep our worship pointed toward God, we will be much less likely to fall into sin. There are some other reasons why God warns us about the love of money. Sin as a whole boils down to harm of ourselves and the harm of others. God has our best interests in mind here. Have you heard/read 1 Peter 4:8?
Why does love cover a multitude of sins? Perhaps because, ultimately, love is the point. If you’re loving others, you likely will not be hurting others. You will have their best interests in mind, as God does and as Jesus did when He went to the cross for us. The whole point is love. So when we sin, when we take our eyes off of worship of God and start worshiping other things, we take our eyes off of love.
The love of money specifically can lead to many other sins and a life of grief and destruction. If you love money more than God, you might be willing to do anything to get it — lie, cheat, steal, mislead. That love creates greed, coveting, malice, and more. So God’s guidance is pointed away from that because that’s not what He wants for us.
What the bible says about money
A big portion of our lives revolve around making, spending, saving, and hopefully giving money. There isn’t an easy way around this in the world we live in. So our relationship with money needs to be addressed because it will have a massive impact on our lives, not only spiritually, but especially spiritually. One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the years is that God wants us to be obedient in every aspect of our lives. We can’t compartmentalize anything away from our faith. Our relationship with God should intervene in everything we think, know, and do.
- the job of supervising or taking care of something
God gave us everything we have. From the planet we’re living on to every little thing we use every day to make it through life. God allowed us to have these things but none of it is actually ours to do with as we please.
One of our responsibilities as Christians is to take care of what God gives us. That’s called stewardship. It’s basically like if you are given a department to be in charge of at your job. You do your best to take care of it and you don’t make decisions for that department as if it’s actually your department. You’re going to make decisions on behalf of who it belongs to. You make decisions that you know the owner would approve of for that department. That’s basically how we should view every area of our lives as Christians. So what does it take to be a good steward of your money?
Stewardship of our money usually brings to mind the 10% that we’re supposed to tithe…and that’s about it. A lot of Christians believe that is where their responsibility to God begins and ends when it comes to their money. I was one of those Christians and I was taught that by other Christians. To clarify, no one ever actually came out and said that to me. But their actions pointed to that and they never said anything to the contrary. Giving really is the most important thing you can do with your money. But it has been the only topic of financial guidance I’ve ever received in church my whole life. So, for the sake of time and space here, I’m going to assume that we all have the tithing part down pat already.
Going back to Matthew 6:19-21, how do those verses confuse people? How did they confuse me? The same way so many other very Instagram-able verses confuse people — they are taken out of context and/or they are not viewed from the eye of the entire teaching of the bible. You see, not everything in the bible is as straightforward as “thou shall not murder.” These verses do say not to store up treasures on earth. Earthly treasures could be money, possessions, or any kind of wealth. But again, it’s about the posture of your heart. And how do we know this? Because He goes on to say that you cannot devote yourself to more than one thing/person and God is the only one who should have our devotion. Period. It’s about what your heart treasures.
So what does that mean for savings? To get to that, first we have to look at what the Bible says about debt and spending.
Debt and spending
Debt and spending are out of control in America. Expert marketing is constantly putting things in our faces to remind us what’s available and what we don’t have. They play on our sinful nature’s tendency toward discontentment. Debt is normalized. Most people whole-heartedly believe that borrowing money is just part of life — it’s just what you do to get what you “need.” It hasn’t just become a part of the “American dream,” it is what finances the American dream. Borrowing money is the only way the large majority of people can continue to acquire the new things that make them appear to have it all together by the standards of our society.
So what does the Bible say about this? Two verses stand out to me on this topic. First, about debt.
If you study every part of the bible that mentions money, debt itself does not seem to be a sin, just as making and spending money is not a sin. But again, it’s the use of debt that is not something to be taken lightly. The Bible says that lending and borrowing should be avoided if possible. It says if you must lend, not to charge interest (Exodus 22:25). I wish someone would tell our creditors that, don’t you? And if you must borrow, make sure you pay it back (Romans 13:8). When we borrow money we are a slave to the lender until it is returned. God doesn’t want us living like slaves. His intention for us is to live abundant lives.
That was Jesus talking. I think this one sentence sums up all we Americans need to know about money and stuff. He said our lives are not about all the stuff we can get. We are missing the point if we believe that. He didn’t say possessions are bad or that you can’t have things. But He did say that’s not where life is. I don’t know about you, but I want life. Do you want to be chained to debt and discontentment or waste? I don’t. I want the life that Jesus says is available if we worship Him, not money and possessions (or anything else).
Back to saving
Now that we know, broadly, what not to do, let’s look at what we should do. We have a responsibility to use our money wisely, not to let our money rule over us. If we are worshiping God over money, our money will simply be a tool for us. This tool will allow us to provide for ourselves and our families and to help other people. 1 Timothy 5:8 says we are responsible for providing for our families. So making money is a must because that’s how families are provided for these days (Proverbs 6:6-8 warns against being lazy). But what about saving money?
In this passage (short story even shorter), Pharaoh has been having some crazy dreams. He brings Joseph out of prison to interpret his dreams. Joseph lets him know that his interpretation for Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s dreams are from God and, according to God, this is what he should do. So, this advice it straight from God. Save now while you can because circumstances will not always be favorable. Hello pandemic of 2020. Who says the Bible can’t teach us anything applicable to our lives today?
So, clearly, being prepared is not just a good idea, it’s a God idea. Saving money for an emergency doesn’t mean we don’t have faith that God will provide for our needs. It’s actually more like just realizing that God is providing for those needs in our time of abundance or in better, easier times. Remember, God already knows what’s coming in the future. And if we steward what God provides well, then when the hard, bad times come we will still have what we need. God isn’t just our provider, He is also our teacher. He wants us to make wise decisions, He gives us opportunities to learn.
To sum up what we’ve learned so far — we need to work to make money, spend responsibly and avoid debt, and save money for the future. In order to do that, we need budgeting. Budgeting is a dirty word to some people. Even more than saving, for some. Personally, I love making a budget because I love planning things, anything! When it comes to living by that budget though, let’s just say I tend to fall a little short.
A budget is a mighty, mighty tool if you will use it. And if you want to be a good steward of your money, it’s completely necessary to have a plan.
I’ve seen this play out both ways in my life. I am here to tell you this is true. In Dave Ramsey’s “Zero Based Budget,” he says you have to tell every dollar where to go. Every single dollar. There’s no doing whatever with whatever is left over after the bills are paid. Every dollar gets a job. Why? Because if it doesn’t, then that money will disappear much faster than you intended and you lose the chance to use it to pay off debt, save for hard times, help others, etc. Having a plan (budget) is the key to financial stewardship.
The story of the three boats
Have you heard this story? This is not in the bible, just FYI, but it’s a great illustration for how many of us live. I’m paraphrasing here, but you’ll get the idea. There was a man floating alone in the ocean without a life jacket. A boat comes along and tries to save him but he refuses. He says he’s putting his faith in the Lord. So the boat leaves. Two more boats come along and he sends them both on their way, telling them he’s waiting on God to save him. Naturally, he ends up drowning. Then when he gets to heaven’s gates, he asks God why he didn’t save him and God replies, “I sent three boats!”
I didn’t cover all of the passages about money from the bible, there are many more. A lot are just a reiteration of the ones I shared. But from these, we can get a pretty good picture of what we should be doing with what God provides. It boils down to living intentionally, living on purpose. That is the key to good stewardship of any of our blessings. Before we can do that, we have to learn to recognize when God is providing what we need and not live recklessly with his provisions.
As Christians we live by faith that God will provide and we prepare for the future with what He has provided. We don’t want to be like the man waiting for God to save him in his time of crisis. He thought God failed him because he didn’t recognize God’s provision when He sent it.