Letter Re: Questions on Saving, Interest, and Preparation Versus Hoarding,

Monday, Apr 17, 2006

 I offer the following discussion (and answers, I hope) for Christians.
Proposition/assumptions: Good financial planning and even seeming ‘common sense’ dictates that we plan our income and expenditures wisely so as to have the ability to withstand a crisis.  This plan makes sense on an intuitive level, and also can be argued quite easily that as a Christian we have a duty to provide for the life and livelihood of our dependents; and that this provision includes saving money and goods for the event of hard times.  Or does it?
Our Christian duty is also unquestionably to be charitable and to avoid the sin of covetousness/greed.  First, some definitions:

Covet (verb: to covet): to wish, long, or crave for something, especially the property of another person
Greed: excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves (syn. Avarice: a more religious term, one of the Seven Deadly Sins)
Charity: (one of the Three Theological Virtues), meaning loving kindness towards others; it is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. In its most extreme form charity can be self-sacrificial. Charity is one conventional English translation of the Greek term agapeAgape to the early Christians meant that inner bond of blessed union which united the individual with divinity, and mankind with their fellowmen. Till our eyes are fully opened, "there abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" (1 Cor 13).  Charity is commonly understood to mean ‘giving to the needy’.
Reflections:  Is there gray area?  Where is it?  Is saving the necessary substantial sum for a child’s college education acceptable?  Is having six months living expenses in the bank acceptable?  Is a year’s worth of food storage acceptable?  Can I save for economic downturns without knowing with certainty that they will come?  Can I save for them knowing for certain that they WILL come, but not for certain that it will result in my inability to provide for my family?
What amount of saving is acceptable?  Where does it become ‘hoarding’?  Is the sin of greed more one of quantity, or one of attitude?
If any amount of saving is acceptable, how much?  Is it acceptable to save excluding  charity until the acceptable amount is reached?  Or are we obliged to give to charity while saving toward that amount?
It is generally accepted that Christians must lend without charging interest; but in what circumstances?  All without exception?  Toward family members?  To other Christians?  Can we earn interest on investments?  Is an interest-earning savings account acceptable? 
Can we earn interest in excess of the rate of inflation without sin?
Can we sell our home for a profit if we do not need a larger home to accommodate our own immediate needs? 
And some rhetorical questions, not meant to insult; but to add more facets for discussion: Does God always provide for his faithful?  Historically, have Christians been safe from starvation through economic hard times?   Is not saving and preparing for disaster a simple reality of living in the temporal world The Almighty has placed us into?  Is saving a function of ‘giving to Caesar’, which is considered acceptable as long as we also give to God? - C.P., MD

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