GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)--Once again, Americans are spending everything they make -- and then some. The U.S. Commerce Department reports that the 2006 savings rate was a negative 1 percent. This means that Americans either dipped into their savings or borrowed to finance purchases.
Furthermore, the 2006 figure was even lower than the 2005 -0.4 percent and was the poorest showing since the -1.5 percent savings rate in 1933 during the Great Depression.
Could it be that some Christians think that when a person saves funds, he or she eliminates the need to live by faith? If so, they have arrived at a false conclusion, because saving is not another word for hoarding.
There is definitely a great difference between saving and hoarding. Actually, saving involves faith, but hoarding eliminates faith. So, it's best to ask God for the wisdom to understand the difference, and the willingness to be willing to honor Him by handling your money biblically.
Go Ask An Ant?
In Proverbs 6:6 8, the Bible uses an ant as a good example of saving. "Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise. Without leader, administrator, or ruler, it prepares its provisions in summer; it gathers its food during harvest."
It seems that, somehow, within the ant colony, God has designed these creatures so they are able to calculate very accurately what they'll need to get through the winter; they then gather and store that amount during the summer and autumn.
In fact, that's a good description of "saving": Looking forward to a future need, then putting aside whatever is necessary to meet that upcoming requirement so you won't have to borrow.
Attitude Versus Amount
You must understand that the difference between saving and hoarding is attitude, not amount. In today's society, when we measure what we're putting aside against the biblical standard, there's no doubt that we could conclude that many of us are hoarding.
A serious question that American Christians need to ask themselves is, "How much is enough?" Many believers have bought into the world's mindset concerning finances and have ignored God's clear biblical principles.
As Christians, God commands us to "not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2). The way we handle resources should reveal our trust in God. Even our American currency reminds us that it should be "In God we trust," and that we shouldn't simply trust in the currency on which that statement is printed.
But We're Not Ants
We're not ants, so where do we place our savings? Before answering the "where" question, you should determine (1) your specific purpose for saving the money and (2) the sort of risk level you can handle. It's important to understand that although there are certain similarities between savings and investments, there are also great differences. But we won't go into that now, because we're talking about savings.
There are some simple guides we can mention about savings.
(1) A savings account might be the safest place to store surplus funds, but it yields the lowest interest rate.
(2) Certificates of deposit (CDs) yield a slightly higher rate than savings accounts. CDs and Treasury notes are two of the safest investment vehicles, but they also return relatively low yields.
(3) Money market funds may provide somewhat higher returns than either CDs or savings accounts. There are small risks involved with money market accounts. However, as long as they are with a strong company the risk should be minimal.
Always keep in mind that the higher the return on your savings, the greater the risk. Consider that if you'll need all or part of the money soon, a savings or money market account might be best, because CDs could tie up your money for at least 90 days. And, with CDs there are penalties for early withdrawal of funds.
Plan With Purpose
Don't save just for the sake of saving something. Instead, have a plan and save with purpose. Also, prayerfully think about designating some of your surplus money for helping someone in need in your church.
Yes, there is a difference between saving and hoarding. Saving involves faith because it represents good stewardship, but hoarding eliminates faith in God and it ignores faithful stewardship.
Remember, always pray and ask God for the wisdom to handle the provision He has given you. And, be sure your savings have a purpose that reflects biblical stewardship so that you'll avoid hoarding.
Be sensible, and don't jump on the downward savings trend. Instead, "Go to the ant.... Observe its ways and become wise."
(c) Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.