As a Christian personal finance blogger I know that people are searching for advice on what to do with their money, and a lot of them want to know what the Bible has to say about those financial topics.
I wrote an article a while back that brought together 120+ bible verses about money, and categorized them by topic, essentially trying to give a picture of how God wants us to view money.
Among the topics covered in those verses were wealth, contentment, giving, greed, debt, worry, and depending on God's provision in our lives.
One topic that was covered briefly, but that I'd like to cover in more depth in this post, is what the Bible talks about in regards to setting goals, saving and investing, and managing risk.
Wealth: Don't let It Become An Idol
Before we get too far, I think it's important to realize that the pursuit of wealth without good reason, and without a heart for Christ will only lead to disappointment.
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Proverbs 23:4-5
Wealth and money can quickly become idols in our lives, and if we allow it to take a central place in our lives, it will try to take the place of God. Don't let that happen. Make sure that you're seeking to create wealth for good reasons, to take care of your family, to help others and give, and to help bring others to Christ.
So what does the Bible have to say about investing and planning for the future?
Establish Written Goals
Ron Blue made an appearance recently on a Yahoo Finance show talking about how the Bible can inform our finances and investing. He made several points about how the Bible can help us to improve our finances, and then gave several lessons that we can apply to our financial lives.
First, he said that the Bible suggests that we plan ahead, and that we make written goals and plans for the future.
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. -Proverbs 21:5
Without written goals, and knowing where you're eventually wanting to go and do with your money, your wealth building will essentially be without purpose. Write down your goals, and revisit them on a regular basis to stay on track.
Save And Invest First, Then Spend
His second point was to make sure to save and invest first, before you start spending your money on other things.
Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. -Proverbs 24:27
He who is impulsive exalts folly Proverbs 14:29
The Bible talks about getting your fields in order before you build your house. In other words, think and act long term before you start spending large amounts of money on things. Don't be impulsive and spend first, and then try to save later. Save and invest first, and don't even consider that money to be there and considered for spending.
Think Long Term
It's important to think long term if you want to reach your goals and be successful in the long run. Plan ahead for a rainy day, not just for today.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? -Luke 14:28
A wise man thinks ahead; a fool doesn’t, and even brags about it! Proverbs 13:16
Think about your goals, and what those time horizons might mean for your saving and investing. Saving for your kids college costs, and have a 15 year time horizon? Plan accordingly. Saving for retirement and have another 30 years? Set your plan according to those long term timelines, not on what you feel like spending that day.
Diversify Your Holdings
The Bible stresses the importance of diversifying your holdings, and making sure you don't place too much risk in one basket.
Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. -Ecclesiastes 11:2, 11:6
Even in Biblical times it paid to diversify your holdings and your risk. You don't always know what ventures will succeed, no matter how good they look on the surface. While in our days we're not investing in ships and grain as the man in the verse, we still want to make sure to diversify our holdings, and minimize our risk were one of our investments to fail.
Risk: Know How Much You Can Afford
Be aware of just how much risk you can afford to take on in your situation, and be wary of something that seems too good to be true, because often it is.
I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. Ecclesiastes 5:13-14
If you're close to retirement and you can't afford to lose any of your investments, you may want to think about moving into safer, but lower yield investments. Have a longer time horizon and you can afford to risk more? You can think about investing in some higher risk stocks, but never more than you can afford to lose.
Focus On Christ First, The Rest Will Follow
With all the focus on money in our lives, it's important to take a step back and remember where to keep the focus in the long run. Not on your money, but on God.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Our true wealth lies in Christ, and in putting our hope in Him. In first Timothy it talks about how we are to rely on Him, and how we are to be rich in good deeds – and to be generous.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19
For me, this is why it pays to plan ahead for retirement. Not only so I can take care of myself and my family in the long run, but also so that I can give back to others and be generous and be a living example of Christ's love.
Do you think the Bible has good things to say about planning ahead, saving and investing? What verses do you think we should add to the list?