I’ve been a natural “saver” all my life. When I was a child, I could never eat the last of something, whether it was the last popsicle or the last pop tart. (I might want it later, I reasoned.) I rationed my Halloween candy with religious zeal. I made necklaces with Lisa Frank beads, which always came in assorted packs of plain beads and extra-pretty beads. I only used one of those extra-pretty beads per necklace, figuring I’d be able to make more necklaces in the future if I saved them up. As I got older, I started saving money, stashing it in hidden places around my room. I saved memories, too, in the forms of notes and ticket stubs and journal entries. And now, I have my savings account.
I was talking with a friend this week who expressed some of his frustrations with various churches he has attended. Many of these churches and pastors, he argues, simply enable church members to live their American lifestyles of making money and tithing their 10 percent, which in turn enables the pastoral staff to continue encouraging and affirming their ways of life. As this friend voiced his concerns and questions to me, I found some of my own questions resurfacing in my mind. This is one of the biggest, and probably oversimplified, questions I am asking:
Are savings accounts godly?
I have a savings account. And it’s going to come in extremely handy next year when I am a graduate student without a full-time job. But what if I didn’t have one? What if I had given all that I had to the poor instead of direct depositing it into an extra bank account? It’s scary to trust God to provide something out of nothing, but God still provides in some crazy ways. Would it have been better, more godly, for me to have given all this money away and trusted God to provide as my needs arose?
As with expendable income, how are savings accounts honoring to God? Do I honor him by making sure I can take care of myself for three solid months should I lose my job? Is a higher interest rate more honoring to God than a lower one? Is staying out of debt honoring to God? Is living off of more than I need honoring to God?
Is there a better way? What if I lived quite simply and gave the rest away? What if an emergency happened? What if I never saved enough for a down payment on a house? What if I never bought brand new clothes?
There are no easy answers here. I know wealthy people whose hospitality is astounding. My own family lived with a host family for a year in Georgia; they never could have opened their home to us if they hadn’t had nine bedrooms. But I’m guessing the majority of the people I know, especially myself, are not keen on giving up Starbucks, new clothes, and dinners out, much less living without a savings account. Clearly, all things are given to us by God; even when life is moving along swimmingly and I am living in plenty, God is my provider and a Father who cares for my needs. But I have to wonder if my faith would be different, deeper, if I lived such a way that I did not keep anything beyond what I needed to live. Maybe that sort of life is living in plenty.