"Stressed Out" part 8:
Saving Up for Times of Famine
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 17, 2007

 

Main Passage: Genesis 41:47-51 (NLT)

 

Two weeks ago, we talked about the dangers of going into debt. We looked at how you become enslaved to your creditor, how you’re not able to help others out as much as you’d like to, and how by going into debt you’re actually telling God that you don’t trust Him to provide for you.

Last week, we talked about some practical ideas to get out of debt… we talked about developing a plan and what that plan would look like, we talked about knowing what you’re getting into before you buy something, and we talked about how giving your tithe of 10% to God first actually helps you get out of debt because God makes it possible for you to live much better on the remaining 90% than you ever did before on the 100%.

But you know, getting out of debt is one thing. Staying out of debt is another. And the Bible has some practical things to say about that, too. Particularly on the topic of saving.

Many of you already know the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. If not, you can read about him for yourself starting in Genesis chapter 37, and going through to the end of the book. He’s one of my favorite people in the Old Testament.

Chris already read a passage for you from Genesis 41. But just to give you some of the background of what’s going on there in chapter 41…

Joseph was a Hebrew boy… one of 12 brothers… what was given preferential treatment by his father. And so his older brothers became resentful of him, and even learned to hate him. Until one day when they seized the opportunity to attack Joseph. And then they took him and sold him as a slave to a caravan heading for Egypt.

Well, once in Egypt, Joseph worked as a slave… right up until he was accused as a crime he didn’t commit and was thrown into prison. And while he was there, it was revealed that God had given him the ability to interpret dreams. So two years later, when Pharaoh had a dream that greatly disturbed him, and no one else could help, he was told about Joseph and Joseph was brought before him.

And Joseph explained to Pharaoh that the dream meant that Egypt was about to experience a time of great prosperity… and that it would last for seven years. But then the bad news. After those seven years of prosperity, there would come seven years of famine.

And then Joseph proceeded to make some suggestions to Pharaoh on how to prepare for this famine…

Genesis 41:33-36 (NLT)
“Therefore, Pharaoh should find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh should appoint supervisors over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years. Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.”

Well, Joseph impressed Pharaoh so much with these suggestions that Pharaoh put him in charge of the country. Joseph was second in command only to Pharaoh. And so it came to Joseph to decide what to do during these next fourteen years.

And what did he decide to do? Well, he decided to follow his own advice. And so he saved 20% of all the crops during the seven years so that there would be enough to get them through the time of famine. And that’s exactly what happened. And as a result, not only Egypt but the surrounding countries as well were saved when the famine came.

That was on a national scale. But we can learn from that example how to handle our personal finances, as well. We can learn about how to save up for times of famine in our own lives. Because they’re going to come. You will experience times when money is tight. And if you’re not prepared, you’re setting yourself up for constant debt and ongoing tension.

So let’s take a look at what Joseph teaches us about saving…

 

What the Bible Says about Saving:

 

1. Save during times of prosperity

You know, contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to spend everything you make. You’re under no legal or ethical obligation to do so. So instead of spending it all, save some of it. Save it for an emergency. Save it for retirement. Save it to pass on to your children.

Proverbs 21:20 (NLT)
The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

Why do the wise have wealth and luxury? Because they don’t spend everything. They save some of it.

Think about Joseph. What did he do in times of prosperity? What could he have done? Well, he could have just enjoyed the prosperity and used up everything he gained. He could have wasted it.

But that’s not what he did, is it? No, instead he took 20% of the prosperity and saved it for a later time. Because he knew that even though the country was enjoying a particularly prosperous time, that things would not always be that way. Tough times were coming. And so Joseph saved up so they’d be ready when those times came.

Going back to the suggestions that Joseph gave to Pharaoh, Joseph said…

Genesis 41:35 (NLT)
“Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities.”

Underline that phrase there, “Store it away, and guard it.” What’s he doing there? He’s saving it. And not only is he saving it, but he’s guarding it. He’s not going to let it be stolen, and he’s not going to use it himself for any purpose other than what it’s intended for.

Now take a look at this verse. Centuries before this Proverb was even written down, Joseph was living it out…

[after first sentence – “In other words, you see that tough times are coming and so you save up so that you’re ready for them.”]

Proverbs 27:12 (NLT)
A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

So follow Joseph’s example and save up for times of danger… times of famine.

But even beyond that, there are other reasons to save up, too. Maybe you want to retire someday. Or at least cut back on how much you have to work. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability to do that financially?

And what about the next generation?

Proverbs 13:22 (NLT)
Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren…

But do you know what you need to do in order to leave an inheritance? Well, I suppose you have to die. That’s one thing. But you also need to save while you’re still here. You can’t spend everything you get. You’ve got to put some of it away and hold onto it so you can pass it on to your children and even to your children’s children.

So how do you do this? How do you save? How much should you save?

Well, there’s a pretty wide range of opinion on this. Joseph saved 20%. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all put that much away? But Joseph knew that he had only seven years of prosperity to save up for seven years of famine. He had extremes on both ends. Extreme prosperity followed by extreme famine. So I’m not convinced that this is necessarily a mandate for everyone to save 20%. But I do believe it’s a mandate for everyone to save something.

If you can save 20%, then great. If not, maybe a good idea for you would be to follow the 10-10-80 principle. Give God 10% of your income, put 10% into savings, and live on the other 80%. 10-10-80. That’s a good target to aim for. And for some… maybe you’re particularly well off or you have a specific gift for giving or you want to increase your nest egg… perhaps you’d choose to live on less than the 80% in order to direct more into the other two. But 10-10-80’s a pretty good place to start.

Because you see, God isn’t just interested in how you handle that first 10% of your money. He’s interested in how you handle all of it. Yes, He expects you to give to Him that tithe of 10%. But beyond that, the Bible instructs us to put some into savings, and it shows us how to use the rest of it as wise managers of the money God has entrusted to us. Something like two thirds of the parables of Jesus deal with money. And the Bible as a whole has more to say about how we handle money than it does about almost any other subject.

So don’t just waste your money frivolously. Give it, invest it, and spend it wisely. I like John Wesley’s advice…

“Gain all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”
~ John Wesley

That’s some pretty good advice. Use your money the way God intends for you to use it, and that includes saving some of it.

 

2. Use what you’ve saved when needed

The key word there is “needed”. Going out for that lobster dinner is not a need; it’s a desire. And there is a difference. You shouldn’t be digging into your savings to pay for that kind of thing. I flip through the Future Shop flyer every Friday and I see all kinds of things that I’d like to have. But those are desires. Do I need them? No. So if I can’t afford them, I don’t buy them.

“There are two ways to get enough: One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
~ G.K. Chesterton

So we’ve got to learn to tell the difference between what is a need and what is a desire. Because we tend to use those terms interchangeably today. And when we start to believe all our desires are actually needs, we end up spending uncontrollably and we’re left with nothing for when real needs arise.

Proverbs 10:15 (NLT)
The wealth of the rich is their fortress; the poverty of the poor is their destruction.

When real needs do arise, you need to have some wealth to handle them. Otherwise, you’re heading for destruction.

And don’t be fooled: There will be lean times. And it’s then that you’ll be glad you have something saved up. Because we’re not talking about untouchable money. We’re talking about money that’s reserved for the famine. And when that time comes, it’s there to use.

Look at Joseph.

Genesis 41:56 (NLT)
So with severe famine everywhere, Joseph opened up the storehouses and distributed grain to the Egyptians…

Joseph had saved up grain for seven years, and in all that time, he never withdrew from what he was saving. But when the time came that it was needed, he opened up the doors and used the grain. He had been saving, but not just for the sake of saving. He was saving so that there would be enough food to sustain the population when the famine came.

How stupid would it have been for Joseph to save all that grain, and when the famine came to decide that they had worked too hard and too long to save all that grain and so there was no way they were going to dig into it now? How stupid would it have been to let the whole country starve while he was hoarding all that grain in the storehouses?

No, Joseph was smarter than that. He knew he was saving for a reason. So when the time came, he wasn’t afraid to use it… for himself and for others.

Now, we don’t normally talk about saving up for a famine; we talk about saving for a rainy day. Same idea. So basically, I’m saying save up for a rainy day. And be smart enough to know when it’s raining. That’s when you make use of what you’ve saved. You don’t want to hold onto it so tightly that you forget what it’s for. You don’t want to hoard it. You don’t want to cling to it so tightly that it doesn’t help you or others in those times.

Ecclesiastes 5:13 (NLT)
Hoarding riches harms the saver.

So save money, yes, but don’t hoard it. And when it’s needed… when you’ve been saving for a purpose and that purpose presents itself… use it wisely.

 

3. Earn a profit on your savings

Back to Joseph. Joseph had saved up grain for the time of famine, and then the famine came. So what did Joseph do with the grain?

Genesis 41:57 (NLT)
And people from all around came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph…

Underline the words “to buy grain”. People paid for the grain. Joseph was selling it for a profit. Now, I certainly don’t get the impression that Joseph was gouging the people. And no one complained that Joseph was taking advantage of them. They were just happy that the grain was available for them to buy. And so Joseph made an honest profit on it for Pharaoh.

[See Matthew 25:14-30]

Jesus talked about earning a profit, too. He told a story about a wealthy man who was going away on a journey, and so he called three of his servants together and entrusted them with some of his money.

To the first servant, he gave five bags of silver. That servant took those five bags, went out and invested it, and earned five more bags of silver for his employer.

One of the other servants was given two bags of silver, he went out and invested it, and he made two more bags of silver.

But the third servant was only given one bag of silver. And he was so afraid of investing it poorly and losing it, that he buried it in the ground so nothing would happen to it.

Well, when the employer returned home, the servants each came to him and reported to him what they had done with the money. And for the first two servants, the employer was full of praise. He told them, “Well done! You’ve done an awesome job. I gave you some of my money, and you proved yourself to be faithful and wise in how you handled it. And so I’m going to give you a promotion. I’m going to entrust you with more responsibilities. Well done. Let’s celebrate.”

But when that third servant came, he had to explain that he had been afraid of losing the money. And so he hid it in the ground. And then he gave back to the employer exactly how much he had been given.

But the employer was not impressed. This is what he said…

Matthew 25:26-27 (NLT)
“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’”

And then he fired the servant and threw him out of the house.

Now, that story that Jesus told tells us to take whatever God has blessed us with and to use it… not hide it away. If you have some talent, then put it to use for God’s glory. If you have some influence, don’t squander it… use it wisely. And if you’ve been blessed with some money, then use it the way God wants you to use it. And that includes investing it and making a profit.

Yes, you can go too far and start to act selfishly and do things out of greed, but that’s not what Jesus is talking about. He’s talking about just being wise in how you handle your money. It makes sense to invest it wisely and honestly and turn a profit.

Proverbs 13:11 (NLT)
Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.

And isn’t that what investments do? They grow over time. So don’t be afraid to invest and earn a profit.

 

4. Place your trust in God, not money

With all this talk about being financially secure, it’s important to remember that your security is not in finances. It is God who blesses you with financial gain and it’s in Him that you should place your trust.

Mark 8:36 (NLT)
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

You know, it’s kind of a Catch-22. God wants to bless you, and often times He wants to bless you financially. But the danger is, all too often when people are blessed financially they take their eyes off of the Blesser and focus on the blessing.

The great thing about Joseph is that he never fell into that trap. He always maintained his trust in God. In times of prosperity, he trusted in God. In times of famine, he trusted in God. And even when they came through the famine and Joseph was given a lot of credit for allowing that to happen, he didn’t let it go to his head… he maintained his trust in God.

In fact, during those years of famine, his brothers who had initially sold him into slavery came to Egypt looking for help themselves. And they came face to face with this brother they had sold into slavery years earlier and had since assumed dead. But instead of seeking retribution, Joseph forgave them. And years later, Joseph told them…

Genesis 50:20 (NLT)
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

Joseph never allowed his wealth or his position to distract him from placing his trust in God and God alone. Through all the events of his life, he saw God’s hand at work. And he knew where his trust needed to be placed.

1 Timothy 6:17 (NLT)
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.

And Jesus put it even more succinctly when He said…

Luke 12:21 (NLT)
“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

 

So there you have it. We’ve taken the past two months to talk about stress. And over the past three weeks, we’ve talked about one of the greatest sources of stress: money.

So as we wrap this up, let me ask you:

How are you going to manage your money?
Are you going to continuously battle with debt, or are you going to develop a plan to get out of debt and stay out of debt?
Are you going to honour God with your money… by giving Him the 10% that He expects, and by using the remaining 90% wisely, too?
Are you going to be financially prepared for the future? For emergencies and tough times that you may encounter yourself? For opportunities that may arise for you to help others? For your retirement and for passing on to your children? Or will you use everything that comes in so that when the famine comes, you have nothing left?
And as important as money is in our lives, will you maintain your trust solely in God? He promises to provide for your needs, He’s the source of every blessing, and the Bible tells us every perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17). Do you believe that?

You know, money is a big part of our lives. And just like every other area of our lives, God wants to guide us in how to use it to the fullest. But ultimately, the choice is ours. Will we trust Him with our money? Will we trust Him with our lives?

 

 

 

 

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