How Can Christians Find A Right Saving Balance?

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In response to the post what does the bible teach about saving money a reader left a comment and asked :

We must find the right – God pleasing – balance of saving.”
How would you know what that is?
If I save to maintain the same lifestyle (based on my income) that I want in retirement that I have in my working years, that would be different for each person.
Who gets to decide (judge) what is hoarding and what is just shrewd financial management?

I thought this was a fantastic question – one that would be best answered in a new post.  Who gets to decide what is hoarding and what is shrewd financial management?

I know this answer is going to frustrate many of you.  In many ways it frustrates me.  I’ve spent a short 30+ years trying to discover the answer to that question, but unfortunately my answer is as vague and obscure as it has always been.  There is, quite simply, no final, definitive, pat, or standardized way to answer the question.

Four Keys to Helping You Find The Balance Between Saving and Hoarding

1.  Remember, you are not God’s standard.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3 NIV)

The Christian community is one of accountability.  It is important that we are accountable to each other in our actions.  However, accountability can cross a fine line and become judgment.  That is a dangerous line to cross.  Perhaps I have tended to be too judgmental of those who own or have more than myself.  My job is not to monitor the saving habits of others, but to be a faithful steward with what I have been entrusted with.

I could chastise a fellow Canadian or American for owning a BMW or having a million dollars.  But, a fellow third world citizen could just as easily condemn me for owning a computer.  And, their neighbor might question why they own a pair of shoes.

My financial situation is not God’s standard of saving and hoarding.  In other words, I cannot say that if someone has more stuff than me they are hoarding.  Nor can I say that if someone has less than me they must be squandering their money.

Who ultimately gets to judge?

The decision is one of proportion – proportionate to our income, proportionate to our call, proportionate to our faith, proportionate to our joy, and proportionate to our giftedness.

Fortunately for all of us, just before I was getting ready to publish this post I found the following quote recorded in Devotional Classics. Elizabeth O’Connor writes:

Proportionate to what?  Proportionate to the accumulated wealth of one’s family?  Proportionate to one’s income and the demands upon it, which vary from family to family?  Proportionate to one’s sense of security and the degree of anxiety with which one lives?  Proportionate to the keenness of our awareness of those who suffer?  Proportionate to our sense of justice and of God’s ownership of all wealth?  Proportionate to our sense of stewardship for those who follow after us?  And so on, and so forth.  The answer of course, is in proportion to all of these things.

In other words, we are better off focusing on our own knowable selves than being consumed with the unknowable factors in the lives of others. 

2.  Recognize your God given limitations.

Speaking directly in reference to third world ministry, missiologist Paul Hiebert wrote, “there are limits to our ability to identify with another culture … we must identify as closely as we can with a culture, but not at the expense of our sanity and ministry.”

Hibert recognizes that we each have a different relationship with our ‘stuff’. 

Some families stay at home and avoid the restaurant to save money.  They absolutely love the experience.  Another family eats out often because cooking is a burden and a chore.  Is one family more spiritual than another?  Absolutely not.  Each are acting in accordance with their limitations.

Do we need to stretch and grow?  Of course.  But, at the same time we do need to realize that God has not created us all alike.

You might be able to give up restaurants for the sake of another, but you won’t give up your DVD’s.  Our spending joys are not sinful unless taken to extremes.  See spending money and guilt.

3.  What gives you joy?

I think the key to this question – what is the right saving balance? – revolves around this very important word: joy.

Mother Teresa, by all legendary accounts, was an amazing woman.  While she lived in the slums of Calcutta she lived life with joy.  Her poverty was not a burden.  It was not something worthy of spiritual reward.  She noticed her call, recognized her passions, and lived a life that completely overflowed with joy.  You can read part of an interview with Mother Teresa at the bottom of my post on characteristics of the wealthy, poor, and middle class

Dave Ramsey, on the other hand, is a man who is passionate about helping people build wealth.  He is happy to teach you how to become a millionaire.  He seems to have little burden or guilt associated with the wealth and often attributes his wealth as a blessing to God.  He also recognizes his passions and lives a life that is, in his own words, better than he deserves.

4.  Check your motives.

You might have some completely unhealthy reasons for saving.  You might save out of fear or greed.  You can also have some completely unhealthy reasons for hoarding.  You might hoard out of fear or greed.  Ultimately, your motivations drastically impact the end result.

Saving becomes hoarding when you do it out of unhealthy motivations.

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How do you find the balance between saving and hoarding?  How would you answer the question – how do you know where the balance is?


  1. jarthurford says

    As I read, I thought about hoarding in a more general sense. Hoarding stuff has become a major problem to over 2 million Americans. It is seen by as an illness related to little or no activity in one part of the brain. Perhaps looking at extreme hoarders can provide some perspective to those who haven’t been diagnosed as hoarders. Often they exhibit exaggerated fears and find safety in having things around them. Sooner or later it impacts their health and their safety.

    Without doing the research, I wonder if it would be helpful to ask myself the following relative to my saving:
    1. Has my saving impacted my providing for my families needs? We periodically hear of a family living in destitute poverty, only to learn after the death, perhaps of the father that he had squirreled away tens or hundreds of thousands. While I may not be that extreme, it could still be keeping me from meeting real physical needs (i.e food, clothing, shelter) of my spouse or children.
    2. Does my need to save take such a primary role that it prohibits my giving to God and to others?
    3. If I’m honest, do my savings fill the role of providing the true source of any joy and security I might feel?

    If the answer is yes, then I think I need to reevaluate my saving. It might also be that we need at least spiritual and perhaps medical counseling too in order to find balance.

    • Craig says

      Hmmm. Never knew there was a ‘hoarding’ condition. I guess this is yet another reasons to put out fundamentalism aside.
      I like question #2 “Does my need to save take such a primary role that it prohibits my giving to God and to others?”
      Thanks for your comment.

      • says

        djinnYou are misreading the chart. Specifically the last item reefrs to tax rate, the per centage of income that goes in taxesSimply put, the bottom quintile earns 9.8% of income and they pay 13.0% of their income in taxes.The top quintile earns 45.0% of the income and pays 34.5% of that amount in taxes.Now I do NOT want anyone to assume this justifies the Rush Limbaughs who want us to shed tears for the poor wealthy people. Specifically1. These figures do not deal with real income. The income for the wealthy is growing and the income for the poor is declining. The middle class is starting to lose members to the upper lower class and struggling to stay even.2. Job Growth under the Bush years: .28%, the lowest figure of the 10 Presidents since WWII. The tax cut did not create jobs.3. There is a concerted attempt to reduce the wages and benefits for the working class: Get rid of unions and thus lower wages, greater share of medical costs or eliminate health benefits for workers, lessen social security, privatise medicare, eliminate medicaid. All this while calling for less taxes for the wealthy.4. The new jobs that are created are in the main low paying service jobs. The good, high paying jobs are going overseas

      • says

        i have a horrible fenelig im gonna end up like this, ive still got things in my room from when i was 5/6 i dont wanna get rid of anything and i attach a time and place to each thing as a reason not to get rid of it,,,, does that make me a hoarder?

    • says

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    • says

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  2. says

    Great article once again, Craig! I really struggle with #1. It’s hard for me to look at Christians driving BMWs and not think it’s such a waste of money. But in the same sense I “waste” a lot of money on unnecessary things, too.

    I think we still need to avoid using that as an excuse to spend whatever we want on luxuries for ourselves while the poor suffer. BUT I also realize I need to focus primarily on what I can do and not on what others should do. As we walk in the Spirit, God will lead us all to a life of sacrificial generosity that will please Him. My focus should be on how I can spur myself and my brothers and sisters in Christ to focus on living in the Spirit instead of being so quick to judge. God can still be working even if I can’t see it yet.
    .-= Paul Williams @ Provident Planning´s last blog ..Merry Christmas! =-.

    • Craig says

      I guess ultimately the greatest example we can offer is our own lives. There is no better way to teach. Thanks for your comment.

      • says

        djinn, those US tax rate figures only go thrgouh 2007 there have been additional payroll tax cuts since then. There is one notable difference, however the figures you cite are for all households, and the ones I cited are for four person households. It is the four person households (i.e. with two children) who don’t pay any net federal taxes at half percentile incomes or lower. Households without dependent children pay more, raising the average in the lower quintiles up a few percentage points.As far as other taxes go, I have a question for you. Is there any reason to tax income before it is spent? People who save their income instead of consuming it are doing the world a favor those resources that they could have spent on outlandish homes, cars, and boats are instead financing investment and job creation. Often at considerable risk.So if you have someone who earns a lot of money on paper, but lives an ordinary, frugal lifestyle, why should he pay taxes on net income instead of net consumption? Until he or she spends it, it is essentially on loan to the rest of the world.

  3. Scott Ferguson says

    GREAT article! As one who has always worked for charities, I have struggled with this often. And yet as one who works in fundraising for these charities, I have also learned that many people in those BMW’s are extremely generous to the poor, to the needy, and to many organizations and individuals. And sometimes in very big ways. And often in quiet. So my question always remains, how generous am I?

    • Craig says

      You are in a unique position because you actually see and experience people’s generosity on a daily basis. Thanks for reminding us that driving a BMW does not mean you are a greedy person.
      BTW, are you going to take me for a drive in your BMW when I come back to NA for furlough?

      • says

        I do have a fondness for London but I rlleay want to have more than a fondness for the place. I want to love it. Sadly, I just know deep down that I don’t love London anymore. I can’t go back and settle there. I’m an Angeleno boy now. My heart belongs here. I won’t even consider another city at this point; not anytime soon anyway. I got an interesting job offer in Washington D.C. but just couldn’t bring myself to leave Los Angeles.I’m probably missing out on a whole lot. This year, for sure, would have been a great time to be in London, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympics, Chelsea winning the Champions’ League and so on. Oh well! I still have my EU passport and birth certificate ( Newham’s finest, yeah!’). So if the U.S. implodes in the next 30 years or China takes over, the Land of my birth will still be obliged to let me back

      • says

        toxic links aren’t the responsibility of the misratneet linker. I think that just like the American Car industry, the companies that engaged in bad link policy should suffer and let the strong and quality linkers have a chance to get out of the shade of these decrepit giants.

    • Craig says

      You are in a unique positon because you actually see and experience people’s generosity on a daily basis. Thanks for reminding us that driving a BMW does not mean you are a greedy person.
      BTW, are you going to take me for a drive in your BMW when I come back to NA for furlough?

      • says

        Howard,Why Laughter Curve Dan? Clearly government inmcoe due to taxes is zero at both 0% & 100% tax rates now fill in the resulting curve. What else could it be?It’s a laugh because it assumes that if taxes are 100% no one will have an incentive to work. That depends, of course, on what the worker receives back from that 100%. Just saying. The assumption is bad. Obviously 0% taxes equal 0% revenue. However, 100% taxes do actually bring in revenue. It’s a laugh also because taxes were ultra high after World War II (that generation actually felt responsible and actually paid their bills. But then again, that generation was not yet influenced by Ayn Rand’s selfishness), which produced enough revenue for the government to provide the services for the poor while also massively expanding our infrastructure (the freeway was built in the 1950s), AND paying off our war debts. Not only that, but during that very time of high taxation (and high government revenue), the economy was amazingly strong, the best it has ever been in American history. So yes, the Laffer Curve is pure ideological bunk and not worth except to wipe my butt of with it.

      • says

        11/08/2012 – 11:13 AM lol! I’m one with my big feet to. And I do have a few friends my hehigt who have an easier time shopping with their size 10s and 11s. I’m just glad that the shoe selection is better than what it was when I was in HS. The only choices I had were what Payless had to offer! At least we have a lot of on online options now, but I think shoe companies need to start making some of those other cute shoes in larger sizes. I think it’s hilarious that people are still surprised that some women have big feet. Maybe we hide them so well they don’t realize that their are tons of women who have large feet, short and tall.

    • says

      Hoarder’s crack me up,I know it’s a serious ctniiodon,but it’s kind of funny if you think about it.They hate to get rid of anything,I love the show’s like this too,I’d buy a box set if they have one.To put on top of my huge mountain of stuff,does that make me a hoarder? lol!

  4. paul stewart says

    is saving money not against the teachings of Christ?

    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    • says

      I don’t think that one passage you mention gives a comprehensive answer to this discussion. To save means to keep money. When Jesus sent his disciples to town they had money – they must have saved it until they spent it.
      Saving is not the problem, but hoarding is.

      • says

        Rachel D McCoy 11/08/2012 – 8:08 AM I just don’t understand pelope and their comments, but I embrace my BEAUTIFUL BIG FEET!I do have a couple of 5’11 and over friends with smaller feet. I have a friend, who is 6’1, she wears a size 7.5 shoe (very weird), 6’0 friend wears a size 10, two other friends that wears a size 8 & the other wears a 8.5.FYI, I do get a little upset when I go into Nordstrom Rack and see all those cute shoes in a size 10: but I just SHASHAY OVER TO LOVELY GORGEOUS SIZE 12s w/A SMILE!

    • says

      I don’t see how he distinguished bweeten taxes and revenue, Devyn. Taxes ARE revenue. The government, as an entity, requires income in order to function. That income is revenue. That income, that revenue, comes from taxes (for the most part). Trying to say that taxes are not revenue is not understanding both revenue and taxes. His argument isn’t that taxes are not revenue, but that by streamlining the tax code, you increase revenue, or in other words, you maximize the efficiency of the taxes collected by the government. His argument is that you don’t have to raise the tax rate in order to increase the revenue into the government. I highly doubt Derek Thompson has argued that taxes are not revenue. On a slight tangent, quite well that the size of the government has shrunk under Obama. I gotta say, Obama seems to be quite a conservative guy in his policies .taking on the individual mandate (a conservative idea), shrinking the size of the government (a conservative idea they have not practiced it well in the last 40 years). One would think Obama was elected by Republican voters or something. It certainly tells you how far to the right today’s Republicans have shifted. I am amazed you guys on the right don’t see this.

  5. Marie says

    I liked this article very much. It was extremely helpful to read how our giving should be attached to the joy we experience. Have you ever had someone give you something with a sour look? You would have prefered not to get it.

    The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver.
    When we give cheerfully – He is pleased.
    If we give over the grace that we have – we do not do it in the right way.

    I think the best way is to be grateful and ask the Lord to constantly enlarge our heart.
    There is a reason that Jesus was annointed with joy above all His fellows.
    He gave everything – but as He did – He looked to the joy set before Him.

  6. says

    Hoarding is a very deep emotional mtneal health issue in some people, it can relate to the loss of someone dear to them, the fear of being alone, lots of things, it is very real and is noted in every anxiety/despression/ literature around, it can also be related to OCD but not necessarily all the time If thse pple had broken arms in these clips maybe you could understand better its real and its true and sad at the same time I know !!

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