Shrewd money: it doesn’t go “poof!”

One of the perennial problems with saving up money (assuming one is in the blessed position to do so), is where to keep it so that its both “safe” and generates a good return. This is good stewardship, and not worldliness — the issue of sin is always at the root a heart issue and not an accounting one. But the current very volatile market conditions more then ever underscore the fact that nothing is particularly “safe”. The question “where should one put one’s savings?” doesn’t have a simple answer. Safe as a bank? [insert chuckle...] Safe as gold? [um, what about thieves?] Safe as houses? [insert crazy (American) laughter]…

So what is a Christian to do with his long-term wealth savings? I would suggest that distributism is a good investment option to consider. The idea is based somewhat loosely on the shrewd manager in Jesus parable and on the fact that it is trivial to steal ten thousand rand from one person, but it is rather more difficult to steal ten rand each from one thousand people. In other words a good way to save is to be as shrewd as the wicked manager in Jesus parable (Luke 16:1-13) and make the money disappear in such a way that one gains many friends, or blesses some folks in some way. A great example of this would be buying a few tons of open pollinated mielie seed, or fifty bicycles, or one hundred hoes, or educational kit, or a few cases of bibles and shipping them to your friends in Malawi to distribute to Christians in need. Once this is distributed it is next to impossible to steal all of it. The saving is then going into the ground as seed in many scattered fields.

A variation closer to home is to pay off your Christian brother’s home loan. Why? Well one interesting thing about a bank collapse is that all the savings go “poof!”, but everyone still has to repay their loans! As some friends experienced with Saambou some years ago — their savings were gone and salaries that month were paid into that black-hole never to be recovered, but their bond/mortgage still had to be paid! So one way to “save” shrewdly is to help pay off debts which are then gone, and can’t be lost or stolen nearly as easily as savings. Depending on how you structure it your friend can continue paying you back, but even if can’t pay you back for some reason or you free him from the debt straight, he is at least not burdened by debt to a financial institution, and you are no worse off. Also because he is not indebted to a bank (with its lawyers) he is not a direct financial burden to you which he might have been in bad times, he may be even in a position to repay you later, or to help/bless someone else. This calls for a measure of wisdom of course, its is not “saving” in this sense nor kingdom building to give your money to a fool. We are not to subsidise laziness, or hubris, or hedonism, but still our churches are supposed to be producing mature men and as such it should be producing people who would be good solid “receivers”.

There are tons of other options, micro-loans, educational sponsorships, church planting, bible translations, missionaries work, medical supplies, community medical aid, food relief… some more direct (to the people), others more indirect (less possibility of actual relationship building), but all are some form of sowing. Those that are more directly sowing into people’s lives are the most likely to bear fruit in a time of need — the shrewd manager didn’t just take money down to the local market and throw it in the air. And Jesus specifically says we should make friends with our money (Luke 16:9).

This whole idea is admittedly thin on the withdrawal side. Essentially one is giving up a fairly strong legal claim on the money to “save” it from being stolen or lost entirely, and this to ensure some kingdom productivity out of it before that could happen, but there is no explicit way to get cash back in a hurry. I don’t know exactly what to do about that, except to note that many intangible good things are still yours — you have friendship bonds you never had before, you have people who have directly benefited by your largesse and this counts for something, at least a warm welcome. Perhaps more than that: business opportunities, safe shelter, or a helping hand in some way in return. Of course it might just disappear all together, but again this is a calculated risk, and one that has no bitterness in it, rather at least one blessing (the blessing of giving) and perhaps it even has two (the added blessing of receiving) or even three blessings (the further blessing of kingdom building). And what a wonderful blessing it is to see the kingdom of God grow a little stronger!

It gives me the heebie-jeebies to think of all the money rich Christians have locked up in investments, a big chunk of it has already been lost (2008 financial melt-down). Another big chunk of it will almost certainly be lost of the next couple of years without doing anyone any good. Its just sitting there like seed stored in a highly flammable haystack while the land lies fallow. It can disappear in a heart-beat. God can dismantle our financial system in less than one day and then its gone, “poof!”. There isn’t any getting it back, and worse: it has been fruitless, barren.

A disclaimer is in order here — I don’t believe that all one’s savings should be of this sort, it’s worth saving for the medical bills, the next car, education, etc. I am talking about long term saving, the money that typically goes toward second or third properties or the share market or long term deposits. Spare a thought for all the kingdom’s fallow ground. And don’t forget those suited thieves in the bank and in the government! Don’t trust them with too much, its better to cast at least some of it on the water. It may come back. The money that goes “poof!” won’t.

May God thrice bless bless you!

About Anthony Caetano

Christian husband & father. Also an IT person but that doesn't come into this site much at all. Not on facebook or twitter, probably never will be. You can email me at my firstname at this domain.
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2 Responses to Shrewd money: it doesn’t go “poof!”

  1. Carel Lotz says:

    Ant

    Just to clarify – do you agree with paying back your own debt first as being a good strategy as well? Of course this shouldn’t prevent your from helping others as everything we own is His.

  2. Yip, that would definitely be first priority. I am specifically musing here about the next stage of financial life — the “post-debt stage”, which (God willing) should happen this year (net debt: so cash investments-debts > 0, not necessarily completely debt free). How does one invest wisely and Christianly? I do not believe in end-less accumulation — I love the Crown Ministries idea of a wealth limit at which one just stops accumulating…
    Then does one help other (wise) Christians to achieve debt-freedom? Start their own businesses? Engage in Christian lending/micro-lending? Does one donate primarily anonymously (like I do now) — or in a way that makes friends?

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