In my quiet time with the Lord this morning, I read through Proverbs 21. I was struck by the contrast in verses 17 and 20:
(17) Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich
(20) The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but the foolish man devours all he has.
It is the wise that “store up” “choice” feed and olive oil. The Hebrew word for “store up” is usually translated “grazing place, stopping place, settlement”. The sense is that it is a place of restful dwelling. In this context, the word becomes a restful, quiet place where choice goods are retained. The Hebrew word for “choice” has a sense of that which is desired, worth having or seeking. The intensity of this word seems to be strong, so a fuller translation would carry a sense of that which is deeply desired or intensely sought after. The wise put that which is highly valuable in a restful, quiet place and they do not exhaust their valued treasures. They maintain a storehouse for the future.
It is a natural tendency to live at a level that consumes all you have. Our culture teaches us that satisfaction comes from self-indulgence, from spending our hard-earned wealth on ourselves. Saving is not a high virtue in our society and is one of the reasons we’re deteriorating as a country. Living on less means reducing one’s standard of living in some way so that one can save for the future. Living a life of self-indulgent pleasure leads to poverty. In the long run, those who most love good times and consumable goods associated with wealth will not be able to afford them. By contrast, those who show restraint in the amount of time and money they invest in pleasure will have the means to attain them.
Most Christians, let alone most Americans, have a nearly non-existent Biblical theology of saving. Most don’t even tithe, giving perhaps 2% a year to the Lord’s work. If most Christians learned to live on less, the church would be strengthened and purified in several key ways:
- Over time, Christians would develop stronger financial situations. Their reduced of debt (due to decreased spending) would enable them to be more available for direct calls to vocational ministry
- As a result of not being driven by the world’s thinking, they would sin less – being led, instead, by the Spirit of God in their spending habits.
- As a result of having more in savings, they are able to give more to those in need
- We find contentment in what we have, not in what we hope to attain
When you think about it, first-world problems of self-indulgence lead to poverty, stress, debt and general uncertainty about the future. We all have much more than we could ever possibly need, yet we continue to spend more on ourselves. Disciples of Jesus Christ are called to a counter-culture life in which we live on less than we earn, give away more than most and yet find ourselves in better financial positions than most as well.
As Christian Business owners, we recognize our businesses are no exception. Creating profit is tantamount to living on less. Businesses that spend all they have will not be able to weather those times when they experience revenue fluctuations. It is the wise who store up valuable treasures for the future.
But remember, our trust should never be in our savings. While saving and storing up should be characteristic of the Christian, our trust for the future should only be placed in the person of Jesus Christ, who has promised to meet our needs, not all of our wants.
Bill English, CEO