Editor’s note: I wrote this article a long time ago (August). I’ve never been closer to pulling an article off my posting schedule (I’m writing this within three hours of posting time). In some posts, like this one, I try to challenge your thinking without necessarily dictating an action for you. I’m trying to challenge traditional thinking in light of the gospel. If your thinking was stimulated, then this article is a success.
The reason I feel increasingly uncomfortable with this post is because if people (without consideration of their specific situation) followed the tenants in this post it could be very detrimental to their personal financial situation. What this post may mean to you is determined by your debt level, how long you’ve been investing, and how much you have saved. Providing for your family is necessary so that you do not become a burden to the church. If you have not saved enough for retirement it is quite acceptable to save more than you give.
Think about this post as a challenge to the status quo, not an action I’m advising every Christian to go out and follow. Ultimately I decided to publish the post because I’m trusting my readers are mature enough to get new information, evaluate it, and apply it to their own lives in a way that honors God.
In a two part article I asked the question Is it Biblical to Save for Retirement. I agree with the fundamentals of that article. It is appropriate for Christians to save. It is a blessing to both families and churches when we save. However, I am reconsidering the question how much should I contributed towards retirement.
The probing question is –
Should I be saving more for my future retirement than I am currently contributing to God’s present work of the Kingdom of God?
photo by Mykl Roventine
How we frame a question gets us halfway to the answer so I want to point out the six words I intentionally put in comparison:
Group #1: My vs God’s
Group #2: Future vs. Present
Group #3: Retirement vs. Kingdom of God
My Vs. God’s
In some ways Group #1 could misrepresent reality. It depends on your understanding of retirement. Are you saving for yourself as a means to an end, or are you saving for yourself in order to:
Provide for your family
Remove yourself as a burden to the church
Help others in need.
Depending on your theological understanding of retirement, it may or may not ultimately be for yourself.
Future Vs. Present
Group #2 is the most challenging word group for me. One of the key differences between the wealthy and the poor is their view of money. For the poor, money is for today because money is a tool of survival. For the rich, money is a resource used to be invested and grown. Thus, money is for tomorrow. As Christians we know our future is unknown. James writes:
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:14-15 NIV)
Granted, James is not talking about ignoring tomorrow, but he does want to acknowledge that ‘tomorrow’ is God’s decision – not our own.
There is an immediacy to the presentation of the gospel.
He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Luke 10:2 NIV)
Said another way, the harvest is ready. Fruit and agricultural harvesting is time sensitive; if you delay, the fruit will be lost. There is much evangelistic work to be done today and my disproportionate focus on tomorrow may have negative implications for today.
There is an immediacy to the issues of poverty.
Bread for the World reports:
1.02 billion people across the world are hungry.
Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes–one child every five seconds.
Why focus sole on my tomorrow when the ‘today’ of so many has an immediate need?
Retirement vs. Kingdom of God
Again, I’m putting these two items against each other so the differences are highlighted. As I said regarding group #1, these two things are not necessarily pitted against each other depending on your mindset as to the reason and function of retirements savings. In fact, I would say the Kingdom of God can be advanced by Christians who are responsible with their finances. In fact, if I misappropriate my funds today I may hinder the work of the Kingdom of God by becoming a burden to the church.
What is the solution?
After dealing honestly with this issue my conclusion (a personal decision for myself) is that I cannot continue to contribute more to tomorrow’s retirement than I do to today’s work in the kingdom of God.
Coming into 2010 my wife and I made some adjustments to what I thought was a lack of balance between our giving and my saving for retirement. I felt like at the least those two amounts should be equal. So we now give as much as we save for retirement. This was not a decision made by guilt or legalism. But, because of our relationship with God we felt compelled by the love of Christ to make a change.
Most financial advisors suggest we save 10 – 15% of our income towards retirement. Many Christians give 10% while ministers and others suggest we give even more. You’ll need to find your right saving balance.
Lord willing, God will open the door in the future that our giving will far exceed my saving, but as for today in my financial situation I want to ensure that at the very least I am not giving more to retirement then I am to God’s Kingdom Work.
Editor’s note: I wrote this article a long time ago (August). However, I didn’t realize that it would be posted so closely to other “counter cultural” posts. In many posts, like this one, I try to challenge our thinking without dictating action for you. I figure there are a lot of sources out there that will give you the best financial advice only. I’m trying to balance that by challenging traditional thinking in light of the gospel. If your thinking was stimulated, then this article is a success.
Anyone else have thoughts about the relationship between retirement dollars and giving dollars? Any reflections?