Does the Bible say anything about saving for retirement?
The concept of saving for retirement did not exist in biblical times. There is no mention of 401(k)s, IRAs, or stocks in Scripture. Nonetheless, the Bible has a lot to say about both taking care of ourselves and handling our money. [Please note that this article will focus on saving as the issue of retirement itself has been covered in our article "What is a Christian perspective on retirement?"]
When it comes to taking care of ourselves, God encourages us to be wise and to work hard (2 Thessalonians 3:6–15). He wants us to make wise decisions that set us up for success rather than failure. In addition, He wants us to work hard so that we can provide for our needs and the needs of others. He does not approve of people who are foolish and lazy. But there does come a time when our work will no longer produce income. Preparing for that time by saving now can be part of what it means to work to provide for our needs.
One of the ways we can provide for ourselves is saving money or resources. Many of the Proverbs affirm good stewardship of money (Proverbs 10:4–5; 21:20). Proverbs 6:6–8 describes how even ants toil in the summer in order to prepare for the winter. Joseph planned ahead and filled the store houses of Egypt so that they were prepared when a famine came (Genesis 41). While the Israelites were in the desert God provided them manna to collect and eat every day, except the Sabbath because they were not supposed to do any work that day. Therefore, the wise followed God's instruction to collect enough manna on Friday to feed them for two days instead of one (Exodus 16). There are many examples of people saving throughout the Bible.
However, Jesus reminds us that we should not be worried about what the future holds because God will provide for us (Matthew 6:25–34). God's intention is not for us to save for retirement out of anxiety. Our resources are also not meant purely for our own wellbeing, either in the present or the future (2 Corinthians 8:1–15; 9:6–15). Rather, God desires that we use the resources He has blessed us with wisely so as to accomplish His plans here on earth. This includes giving generously as well as saving wisely.
Often our savings is motivated by fear or pride or selfishness. All of these motivations are rooted in the idea that we do not need God. Yet the truth is that our wealth does not come from the work of our own hands, but as a blessing from God. In Luke 12 Jesus tells a parable of a foolish rich man who already had more than enough stored for his future and chose to store his recent abundant harvest so that he could have a comfortable life. Jesus says the man will lose his life and then his wealth will be pointless. He was not saying that it was bad the man was saving, but rather that he was saving for the wrong reasons. God does desire to bless us for our own wellbeing, but He also wants us to pay it forward and use our blessing to help others. Ultimately He owns everything; we are called to steward the resources with which He entrusts us to further His kingdom purposes. "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his deed" (Proverbs 19:17).
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