Money/Savings: Why Your Savings Account Can’t Save you

Pastor Jeff Struecker

We are now in week two of a three-week sermon series, just getting really honest with each other and honest with ourselves about money. And what we’re going to talk about today is your savings account. Now, let me explain to you a little bit about the origin, about the beginning of our church, because if you’re relatively new to us, we started this church about a year and a half ago when 20 people came together and started to seek the Lord and pray for our community. 

And then less than a year ago (literally less than a year ago) we started our Sunday morning services. Now, I’m just going to tell you right up front, it takes a truck load of money to do the stuff that we’re doing.

People that were connected to our church started giving. And then I started going to some folks who love Jesus and want to see the gospel spread to the edges of the globe and asked them to make some donations. And God just gave us favor. Some families were really generous to write some big checks to be able to buy the equipment we use. When we started our Sunday services, we started collecting up an offering. Every penny that came in that offering plate, we put in the bank for months. That’s not an exaggeration. We raised money so that we could put money in the bank for a problem that might come up in the future.

We raised money so that we didn’t need to pay a tithe for the first several months of this church so that we could put that money in the bank and we could save it for a rainy day. You guys know what I’m talking about, right? For our church, our size, this is a ton of money, but by God’s grace, we were able to put in the bank and wait for a rainy day, about $50,000. And we’ve been sitting on that money because God in heaven alone knows the challenges and the crises that may come around the future. 

We just decided, we’re going to make sure that we’re not spending money as fast as it’s coming in and then not ready for a crisis. Now, I’m going to tell you guys a secret. It’s an open secret. Every Sunday, when I walk into this room, my stress level is through the roof because the equipment that we use to broadcast our services, the video and the sound, was never made to talk to one another. It’s actually highly problematic. More than once in the past months, people watching from home had video, but no audio, audio but no video or no audio or video at all. We’ve called the world’s experts on this problem, literally.

They said, “Yeah, you got a problem with your equipment.” Listen to how gracious our God is. You got a problem with your equipment, and it’s an expensive problem. If you want to fix this problem, you’re going to need to write a check for about $50,000. Now that invoice just came in about a week ago, and I was sitting there thinking, “God, only you could have possibly known on January 26th of last year, when we started doing Sunday services, that the coronavirus would happen, that people would start to worship at their house, that we would need to buy live stream equipment that I never even expected to buy for years… Only you would know, God, that we would need $52,000 of money in order to fix this constant streaming problem that we have.”

I’m telling you this as a way of explaining what it looks like when God’s people just plan and prepare with money. Did you know that Jesus really points his finger in our chest and says, “Hey, you need to be ready for what’s coming around the corner. And if you don’t prepare today, you’re not going to be ready when it comes around the corner”? 

In fact, he gives a very specific example of this. It’s found in Luke chapter 14. Jesus is talking to crowds about money, and he makes this statement, starting in verse 28:

Luke 14:28-30 (CSB) “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

Jesus is talking about planning. He’s talking about preparing. Some of you are just very natural planners. Others, not so much. Some of you, when it comes to money, are savers. Some of you, when it comes to money, are spenders. And by the way, I’m going to talk to both categories of people. But what we’re going to do is, we’re just going to talk honestly for a moment about the money that’s in your savings account, about your net worth. 

When we talk about saving money today, I want you to understand where I’m going to go with this sermon right up front. So here it is in one very short, very simple sentence: Save money. Yes, do what Jesus said and prepare and count the cost ahead of time. Save money, but don’t expect your savings account to ultimately save you, because it can’t do that.

Save, but don’t expect savings to save you!

Today, we’re going to talk about the people who just blow through money as fast as they get it. We’re also going to talk about the people who hoard money, and both extremes look for money to do something for them that it’s just not intended to do, that it was never built to do. 

Maybe you find yourself in one of these extremes, but chances are, everybody is probably somewhere in the middle, although your natural inclination is probably more to one side than the other.

I’m just going to try to be blunt and honest with everybody today. We’re going to start with those people that just blow through money. I know people like this, because I see them all the time when I go to the drive-thru ATM, and they’re in the car in front of me hitting buttons and checking the bank account and checking the balance. Then they pull their card back out, but nothing comes out of the ATM because there’s nothing in the checking account to draw from when they need to draw from it. These are folks (the first group of people we’re looking at) that have this zero balance in their account. And a zero balance in your accounts, says a lot about you.

A $0 balance in savings says a lot about you:

Now, it’s not necessarily bad. It’s not better to have a whole lot of money or worse to have no money in there, but I do want to caution you about why you may have a zero balance in your checking account. I think it really boils down to two broad reasons why some people have no money when they need it. 

a. Selfish

The first is because they’re selfish. Now, I may not be talking to you personally, but chances are, you know somebody like this, that as soon as they get in a bad way, they don’t have what they need to take care of themselves because they’ve blown through every penny of a paycheck as soon as it comes in. The subtitle for this sermon series is “Going From Stimulus (meaning you’re living paycheck to paycheck, and then something bad happens and you need a government stimulus check to bail you out) to being on solid financial ground. 

And anybody who’s ever lived under the massive stress of debt, not knowing if I’m going to have enough money to make it through the month; I’ve got more month than I’ve got money… Most times, anybody who’s ever lived under that kind of stress, you would do whatever you can to get out from that kind of stress. 

So, when I say selfish, if you’re accessing this service today from Germany or India or South Africa, maybe this doesn’t mean anything to you, but in the United States, when the economy got rough as a result of the COVID, the government started to send out stimulus checks almost to every citizen in America.

Basically, the stimulus check is, “Hey, we want to help stimulate (that’s why it’s called stimulus) the economy. Here’s some money, free money. You don’t ever have to pay this money back.” And then people go put the money in their checking account and go rush out and buy the latest gadget with that money. 

And they think to themselves, You know what? It’s free money. I don’t ever have to pay that money back. I don’t have to worry about it. The government just gave me free money. But the truth is, somebody is going to have to pay that money back.

When the government wrote those trillion dollar checks and put that money into the national treasury or the national debt, what the government just said is, You may not have to pay that back, but your children are going to. Your grandchildren are going to pay it back, and they’re going to pay it back in taxes. So go out and spend. Spend it all right now. Just go out and stimulate the economy. 

And I think sometimes people have a zero balance in their checking account because they’re blowing through money as soon as it comes in, and they have no discipline. If that’s you, we want to help you. In fact, today, we’re going to give you a tool, a program, to help you start to put some money away for an emergency or for a rainy day. Some people may be just a little bit selfish, and that’s why they’re blowing through money as soon as it comes in. They’re not ready when the emergency happens. 

b. Shortsighted

But if we’re honest, others are just plain shortsighted. All they can see is the needs that are in front of them. And most of us have some real, pressing financial needs. So the money comes in, and I spend it on that financial need. Then more money comes in, and I spend it on that need. And I can never get out of this cycle of spending money on the financial need, because I haven’t been able to do the hard work of giving up something in order to put a little bit away for a rainy day, in order to put a little bit away for a crisis. And the people who blow through money as soon as it comes in (It doesn’t matter if it’s because of selfishness or short-sightedness) are not ready for a disaster. 

The Bible just makes it clear that disasters will happen. They even happened to churches, and you need to prepare today before that disaster happens. Listen to what Ecclesiastes chapter 11 says about disasters. They’re going to happen to all of us from time to time. It says this: 

Ecc 11:2 (NRSV) Divide your means seven ways, or even eight, for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.

For you don’t know when a global pandemic will shut down the world’s economy; you don’t know what disaster may happen on earth. So prepare today before the disasters happen. 

I’m not going to wear you out with statistics, but if you live in another country, maybe your country is better at putting the money away for a disaster than the United States, because let me give you some disturbing statistics (slide shown). Those first four blocks on the left show how much money people put away in personal savings for 40 years in America. If you were to average those 40 years out, on average, Americans put away about 11% of their total income.

They put it in the bank and say, “I don’t know what disaster is coming, but I want to be ready when that disaster happens.” And then starting in 1990 or so, we started blowing through money fast and putting almost nothing away. And that 11% dropped down to 7%. Actually, if you were to take one year out of this chart, it would be lower than 7%. 7% of the money that the typical American makes, they set aside for disaster. The other 93% gets spent as soon as it comes in, which just may be where you live right now.

It, unfortunately, is the world that you live in, but don’t stay there, because here’s what happened in the last two years: Americans were averaging about 7% of their personal income going into savings until April 2020. In April 2020, that number shot from 7% to 33%. In April 2020, people said, “Oh, I’d better put money away. I’d better put a lot of money away so that I’m ready for a disaster.” -because maybe like me in April, your paycheck got cut by 30% because your business was feeling the impact of the virus. 

What people did in April was too late, because here are the unemployment numbers: People were putting away just a few dollars for months before April of last year, because unemployment was at record lows. And then in April of last year, unemployment rose to one of the highest levels in history in America.

Do you see the insanity? You can’t start putting money away when unemployment goes to the highest levels in history. It’s too late at that point. You were too shortsighted or perhaps too selfish, and now it’s too late. If you didn’t prepare ahead of time when you started to build the tower, all you’re going to be able to afford is the foundation, and people are going to laugh at you because you didn’t prepare for the difficult times, the disasters, the rainy days.

For some of you, maybe in April you were under this massive weight of stress saying, “How are we going to pay the bills?” -because we were spending every penny that was coming in as soon as it was coming in on bills and debt. Some people err on this side of the equation, on this extreme. They’ve got nothing prepared for a rainy day, and when the disaster happens, they’re not ready. Others are on the opposite side of the extreme. Other people hope that my money is going to be able to buy me out of any problem that happens to me in life.

A $_,000,000 balance in savings won’t satisfy you:

They’re the kind of people with a lot of zeros in the bank account. Maybe you don’t have that many zeros in your bank account, but they are the folks that put a whole lot of money in the bank hoping that that money is going to be able to take care of them, that money’s going to make them feel safe when disaster strikes. And that can also be a problem. You see, the book of Proverbs in chapter 23, puts it this way: 

Prov 23:4-5 (NLT) Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.

Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. And here’s why: Be wise enough to know when to quit putting money in the bank account and trying to get rich because in the blink of an eye, wealth will disappear. I’ll give you a visual. The writer of Proverbs says it will sprout wings, and your bank account will fly away like an eagle and all of the hope and all of the trust that you put in that savings account to buy you out of a problem in the future, may ultimately let you down.

a. Chasing Status

It may not be able to deliver what you were hoping all of those zeros in the bank account could deliver. Did you know that people that lean to this extreme also have a couple of issues that typically will lead to this enormous savings account and believing that money will buy me out of the problems in life? Here’s one of the first ways that people will have this unhealthy relationship with money:

They’re actually chasing status. In fact, Rachel Cruz, the financial guru, asked this question, “Let’s say that you want that new dress, that new car, that new house, or that new motorcycle. There’s nothing wrong with wanting that stuff. Let’s say that you’re working really hard and that you’re putting money away for that new dress, new house, new car, new motorcycle.” 

Rachel Cruz asked the question, “Why do you really want that thing? Are you wanting that thing because of the joy that it can bring you, or are you actually desiring that house, that car, that dress, that motorcycle because of the remarks that people are going to put on your Instagram account when they see those pictures?”

She asked the question about your luxury vacation. “If nobody in the world would ever see the pictures, if nobody in the world would ever know that you went on that luxury vacation, would you still go on that luxury vacation? If the answer is not resoundingly yes, then perhaps all you’re doing is just chasing the social status. ‘I want this new car because I want my neighbors to think I’m better than them. I want this awesome vacation because I want people to be jealous about my lifestyle on social media.’”

b. Looking for Security

I think some people are just spending and saving because they want the social status that comes along with it. It’s very subtle, but it’s also very dangerous. And then she said, “Maybe that’s not you. Maybe you’re not chasing after social status. Maybe for you, all of that money in the bank account represents something even as dangerous. Maybe you’re looking for security from it. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, If I had enough money in the bank account, no matter what happens to me next in life, I’m good. I’ve got enough money that I can take care of it because I’ve got this huge net worth, this huge amount of personal wealth.” 

Maybe for some, it’s social status, maybe for others, it’s security. In both cases, it’s dangerous because in both cases, it can become an idol. Our hearts can quickly start to look to money to do something for us that it was never supposed to do. We’ll blow through that money as soon as we can, because we lack discipline, we lack delayed gratification, and we’re looking for our life to be better because of the money that’s coming in. 

Or sometimes we’ll put it all away, and we’ll become a money miser like the Scrooge, because we want to be able to buy our way out of every problem. When that happens, your heart has started to worship a false god. In fact, the great British novelist, Henry Feldman, once said it this way: “When you make money your God, it will plague you like the devil for the rest of your life.”

Sometimes we’re going to ask money to do something for us that it was never intended to do. We’re looking for money to give us meaning in life. We’re looking for money to make us feel good about ourselves. We’re looking at our bank account, our net worth, our savings account to make us feel secure and to make us feel safe. 

By this point, you’ve probably already figured it out. We’re not really talking about money, are we? We’re actually talking about motivation. What really motivates you? You see, the way that you relate to money, your relationship with money can be very healthy or very unhealthy. And the truth is, the way that we, even Christians, the way that we spend our time and the way that we spend our money, shouts to everybody who knows you, what’s really, really important to you. 

So if you’re spending it all on you as soon as it comes in, and you’re not saving up for a rainy day, you may be unable to handle that disaster when it comes around the corner. But don’t go all the way across the road and fall into the other ditch and save and plan and prepare like nothing can ever happen to me in the future, because there’s no amount of money that can buy you the cure for cancer when you sit in a doctor’s office and they say, “I’m sorry, but the test results just came back and it’s terminal.” 

It doesn’t matter how many zeros are in your bank account when you get that diagnosis. And I really believe what Jesus is calling his people to do is, we are supposed to live differently. I think it’s natural for people who are not changed by the gospel to expect something of money, to ask for money to do something for them that it just can never do.

Their hearts are naturally inclined to worship something, and if they’re not worshiping Jesus, then it can easily become their net worth. But for us that have been redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ, money is supposed to be in its proper place. 

So, I’m not saying don’t save. I’m not telling you don’t spend. I’m telling you, don’t look to money as your god. Don’t let it define your identity. Don’t let it become your source of self-worth. That is called the sin of idolatry, and in our world, most people don’t bow down and worship a stone or a golden image. What do we worship? It’s the bank statement at the end of the month. What we will tend to worship is the toys that are in the driveway or that are in the living room. Those can quickly become our source of identity, our source of satisfaction. 

Maybe you are on one of those two extremes. Maybe you’re not living on that extreme, but you know that your heart is pulled toward that extreme of $0 in the bank account or lots of zeros in the bank account. In either case, you have an unhealthy relationship with money.

Today is just a warning from the Lord to put money back in its proper place. Maybe for some of you, you would say, “I’m going to get my bank account back into perspective.” The best way that I could describe this was a sermon point made by Dr. King. And when Dr. King was talking about money and wealth and property and possessions, he said this: “Property is intended to serve life. No matter how much we’re surrounded, how much we surround it with rights and respects, it has no personal being. Money, bank account, savings, property cannot do for you something that it’s never intended to do.” 

Then read how he finishes this statement. He says, “It is part of the earth man walks on; it’s not the man himself.” Don’t let your property, your personal net worth, become your identity.