"Stressed Out" part 8:
Saving Up for Times of Famine
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 17, 2007
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
[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
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
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:
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
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?