Many Christian financial consultants wisely counsel people to budget and save for predictable large purchases rather than be caught unprepared and go into debt.
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.—Proverbs 6:6–8
Indeed, Scripture teaches us to be wise in our financial planning.
Yet, one of the strongest rebukes in the Bible was actually spoken by God to a man who would appear to be wisely planning for the future.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?—Luke 12:16–20
Why the rebuke? The following verse explains: “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
This farmer may have been skilled in his planning, but he was also selfish. His financial strategy was all about him and all for temporal benefit.
We all face the temptation in budgeting to focus on self. And only the Holy Spirit can help us discern if our personal financial planning is selfish or wise. But from this foolish farmer, we can see four earmarks of selfish financial planning:
- Self-will: He considered “What shall I do?” not “What would the Lord have me do?” Selfish financial planning centers around making ourselves comfortable. Spirit-led financial planning centers around discerning God’s will for the resources which He has entrusted to us.
- Self-exaltation: He boasted, “I have no room where to bestow my fruits.” He included no thanks or acknowledgement to the God who had provided. Selfish financial planning is like that. It congratulates self for present success and so naturally looks to self for continued success. Spirit-led financial planning thanks God for what He has provided and looks to Him for continued provision.
- Self-trust: When finding a solution, the farmer said “This will I do.” His trust was in himself. Even so, selfish financial planning today looks to our ability to crunch numbers and rearrange line items. Spirit-led financial planning may be frugal and use forethought, but it ultimately trusts in God.
- Self-sufficiency: This farmer understood that when you are your only provider, you must hoard for the future. Thus, he said, “I will pull down my barns and build greater.” Selfish financial planning hoards in self-sufficiency. Spirit-led financial planning generously gives in God-sufficiency!
At first glance, it may seem that this farmer was simply exercising wisdom in his financial planning. After all, Scripture does teach that it is wise to prepare for the future by saving in the present.
Yet the overriding motive in all of our lives—including how we handle our finances—must be to glorify God, not ourselves. And the overriding basis on which we make our decisions must be faith.
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.—James 4:13–15
Christians who follow wise biblical financial principles will not only budget and save, but they will sacrifice and give!
After all, we are not only investing here—we are laying up treasures for eternity!
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.—Matthew 6:20–21