Main Bible Passage: Genesis 41:25-36
One of the biggest causes of financial stress that many face is the lack of savings. When a person is living from paycheck to paycheck there is very little margin for unexpected circumstances and this can create anxiety and worry. The Bible speaks about the topic of saving for the future, and it strikes a wise balance between two extremes. Some passages, such as Proverbs 21:20 and Proverbs 6:6-8 are very positive about the idea of saving. They recognise that by making wise choices now and delaying gratification, future financial stress can be alleviated. Other passages, such as Luke 12:13-21, strike a note of caution against hoarding. There is an appropriate degree to which we should save for tomorrow, whilst still enjoying ourselves and giving generously in the present.
In the primary passage, Joseph is presenting a plan to Pharaoh for ensuring future provision for the nation through hard times. The principles that we see in these verses also apply to individual planning for financial provision.
Tomorrow is in God’s hands. The story of Joseph is about God working things for good, even in the context of evil human decisions. God has sovereignly guided Joseph to this point to put him in the perfect position to save many from famine. Whilst future financial situations may cause worry, it is important to recognise and have faith in God’s sovereign hand, in addition to planning wisely and diligently.
There will be times of plenty and times of need. In Pharaoh’s dream, there would be seven years of plenty that were represented by seven fat cows, and seven years of famine represented by thin cows. Whilst we don’t have the exact timescales mapped out so precisely, we will all face ‘fat cow years’ and ‘thin cow years’ at different points in life. These can depend on many factors, including season of life, particular big expenses, national or global economic climate, unexpected challenges or opportunities, and personal choices.
Use the fat cow years to prepare for the thin cow years. In the story, Joseph did not allow the nation to spend all they had in the years of plenty. Instead, they put 20% of their income aside to use in times of need. Using times of plenty to prepare for the times of need can involve saving (and taking advantage of compound interest) and working on income sources (including upskilling, training, and developing passive income sources).
When thin cow years come, use what you have saved. This is where the principles here differ from hoarding. There will be times when the savings are needed, and the grain the Egyptians saved in their years of plenty was what they needed to survive in the years of famine.