“My Retirement Plan Is Heaven” Is Both Bad Theology And Bad Finance
Three Great Reasons for Christians to Save and Invest Their Money
I’ve run into more than one Christian that has told me their “retirement plan is heaven.” On the surface this sounds like a highly spiritual answer to a biblical question. In reality, this shows a lack of understanding of biblical financial principles.
Saving for emergencies and retirement is not a lack of faith in God. Accumulating assets for our medical care and basic needs when we are older is not a sin. In order to properly address this, however, we must first understand some simple biblical truths.
A recent article highlights a number of biblical principles for saving and investing. I found it well-written. Three of the principles listed include the detriment of debt, the biblical nature of saving for our future, and how wise investing is good.
Let’s just cut to the chase right now and admit that people have too much debt. Between mortgages, second mortgages, home equity lines of credit, multiple car payments, multiple credit cards, and student loans, people have too much debt. Debt is indeed a form of bondage (Prov. 22:7). Beyond the fact that we become the servant of another when we incur debt, we miss out on other opportunities.
By having debt, the money we pay each month towards those debts cannot be used for better opportunities. When we compound our debts, we are not only making principle payments, we are making interest payments. Those interest payments add up and reduce our purchasing power and opportunities. Furthermore, debt will ensure we have to work longer and have less to save.
Debt is often the result of impatience, lack of planning, or even covetousness. When we impatiently spend money we don’t have rather than patiently saving, our lack of patience results in paying more than necessary for items. When we fail to plan for life’s inevitable emergencies and unknowns, we will put our family into panic and chaos when we have to incur debt to cover a loss, accident, or emergency. And our attempts to keep up with what society says defines happiness or necessity will undoubtedly bring about debt.
It’s no secret that most Americans have little to no savings. I’ve written previously on the inability of many Americans to cover even a small $400 emergency. This reality shows that many people do not prioritize saving. If you asked the average person to stop getting coffee at Starbucks daily, end their Netflix subscription, or take their lunch to work with them, you will be met with looks of disgust and shock. Clearly something isn’t right.
If you are unable to cover a relatively minor emergency costing $400, you are not financially healthy. And covering this expense with a credit card doesn’t count. Having the ability to pay for expenses with cash, not incurring debt, is essential if you intend to retire, bless others, or serve God’s Kingdom on earth. The article mentioned above comments on how saving actually honors God:
“Saving honors God because it rightly values money as a gift that he has given to us (James 1:16–17). Instead of unplanned, impulsive, or foolish spending, wise saving demonstrates the importance of stewarding his gifts (Luke 12:47–48).Proper stewardship will put you in a better position to help with important needs as they arise (Eph. 4:28). You can respond more quickly and perhaps in a more significant way (Prov. 3:27).”
Maybe if the church of Jesus did better at saving, we would do better at serving. John Piper recently answered a questionin which he affirmed working with a financial planner to prepare for a “retirement” aimed at serving. It’s counter-cultural to think this way, but very biblical.
Investing wisely is right and good. Let’s dispel the myth that properly investing is the same as gambling at a casino. One (casino) is pure chance with no logic, wisdom, or rationale to guide it. The other (investing), if done properly, is based on data, has reason and logic as guiding principles and inevitably results in growth of assets.
Is it possible to lose money in the stock market? Of course. This doesn’t mean it’s gambling. This means that the market is a machine that cannot be predicted. But by utilizing years of market data losses can be mitigated through a diverse allocation of investments. This means investing is not gambling, but utilizing a strategic method of growing assets.
Let’s consider for a moment the parable of the talents. In this parable we see a servant being commended for growing the money he was given; while another servant is condemned for simply tucking his money away safely. If we utilize the principles in this parable we will learn to be shrewd investors of the resources God has given us.
Some people think retirement is the goal of saving and investing. I don’t necessarily agree with that philosophy. I would suggest the goal of saving and investing are different but connected:
The goal of saving is to be prepared for emergencies or sudden opportunities. Being able to cover an unplanned expense, a medical bill, a car repair, or some other emergency without incurring debt is the goal of saving. The goal of investing is to have the ability to bless others and have options for when we are older. Instead of working for a company earning a paycheck when I am older, I hope to be able to choose where I utilize my talents while serving others for the glory of God.
There’s plenty of wrong reasons to save and invest; worry, greed, jealousy. This doesn’t mean that it is not good and right to be a wise steward of our resources by saving and investing. Reducing debt, saving, and investing wisely can result in bringing glory to God as we uses the resources He’s given us for His Kingdom.
Originally published on Townhall Finance.
Nathan Cherry is the son of a preacher. He’s enjoyed a full ministry experience and has had the privilege of leading a praise band for nearly a decade. Nathan went to Liberty University where he earned an Associates degree in Biblical Studies. He then moved to West Virginia to serve at a church with his father and brother. At Trinity Theological Seminary he earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Biblical Studies.