Economics according to Jesus #2 – total savings and generosity


money signs

Piles of cash and generosity

Yesterday I posted on the paradox of thrift, which is the economic phenomenon of an increase in the savings ratio of the average person during recession (an attitude which exacerbates the effect of the economic downturn.) Today I’m going to consider the total savings pot in the UK, the amount which is currently squirreled away, and how it compares to two generations ago.

According to Lloyds Bank, the total UK savings pot stands at £4.1 trillion (that’s £4,100,000,000,000). This figure is more than quadruple (464%) the real value of savings which were held in the UK in 1959. The average household now has over £150,000 put away for a rainy day. This figure includes pension savings and loose cash (money which can be accessed easily) which totals £1.15 trillion.  Many households have no savings and so the average household with savings must have far more than £150,000 stashed away.  So we are saving more than ever before, but why?  I’m not sure, but probably has something to do with loving or trusting money, not God.

There is a problem with the saving mindset.  Saving prompts us to want the most from those savings we own.  We chase the highest interest rate or the biggest dividend the highest yield from property investments.  But this attitude of “I want more” only fuels the squirrell instinct.

I am not bashing people who put money on deposit.  Having money on deposit is not a bad thing, because someone else can borrow it and put it to work (Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ Luke 19:22).  But the bible never talks about savers or savings, only about borrowers and lenders (more on debt tomorrow). Indeed, Jesus openly mocks the person who piles up posessions:

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
Luke 12:18-20

Saving is something we do for ourselves, lending is something we do for others. The practice looks the same but the attitude of the heart is different. If I lend someone money, at an agreed rate of interest, without usery, I can do it with the attitude wanting their good. If I save for myself, I will want to exact as much interest as I can.  If I invest in a company, I can do it because that company produces something useful for other people.  If I invest for the biggest capital gain or dividend the investment is only for me.

Once I have saved a pile of cash, what happens when I have saved more than I need or more than I can spend?  The attitude of seeking the highest interest rate militates against generosity.  God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).  The hoarding of money is not good for others, which is why the Trinitarian God, who is chiefly concerned for the good of others, encourages generosity.

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