Most of us have heard of Murphy’s Law: the idea that if something can go wrong, it will.
Some may see this as a pessimistic view of life. And while it certainly can be, I think there’s benefit in viewing Murphy’s Law instead as a word of caution. Nothing lasts forever. If you’re a homeowner, you’ve probably already experienced this with kitchen appliances, or perhaps something larger like a furnace, air conditioner, or roof. Most of us have experienced Murphy’s Law with our motor vehicles, and some of us have even experienced this unfortunate reality in our bodies. In addition to other consequences, each of these can have a significantly negative impact on our finances.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a countdown timer for each major expense? We could just look at our furnace, vehicle, or other major expenditures in life and know exactly when we would need the money to fix or replace them. While no such timer exists, there is something we can do instead: plan ahead.
Do you have an emergency fund? Let’s consider a few verses to learn what the Bible says about saving for a rainy day.
“In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” – Proverbs 21:20
We see here that the wise are described as those who store up for their future needs, while the foolish consume all they have.
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its way and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” – Proverbs 6:6-8
The ants are commended because they’re thinking ahead while food is plentiful and preparing for a time when it will be scarce. Unplanned expenditures don’t come as predicably as winter, yet they do eventually come for everyone. God declares that the ants are a good example of preparing for a lean time during times of plenty.
“But if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” –1 Timothy 5:8
The Bible clearly states here that providing for our own household is part of the Christian life. It is not optional if we have any ability to do it. Providing for our family includes planning for the unexpected.
When unexpected expenses come, there are a few ways we can pay for them. We could borrow the money using a credit card or other type of loan, but this costs more—often a lot more—in the long run because of the interest. Cash saved up before an emergency is the most affordable (and least stressful) option. Wouldn’t it be nice to say, “I’m ready for you, Murphy. You can’t bring me down!” instead of, “Murphy, I beg you, please leave me alone!”
Let’s look at another verse.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” – 1 Timothy 6:10
Is it wrong to have money in the bank? In and of itself, no. Many of God’s people in the Bible were blessed with riches: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Job, and many, many more. Some of them were extremely wealthy because of God’s blessing.
So, what does this verse mean, then? Let’s consider two key words: love and coveted.
God doesn’t want us to rely on money to the point that we develop a selfish, idolatrous attitude toward it. If ever we find ourselves doing that, we must fall on our knees and ask God to change our hearts. He will do this! But nothing in this verse should discourage us from setting aside money for emergencies, saving for a large purchase or to help someone in need, or even accumulating some wealth to later support God’s work in a significant way. A lot of good can be done with money.
Steps to Establishing an Emergency Fund
Many financial experts suggest everyone have 3-6 months of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund. You may already have this. If so, great job! You can encourage others to do the same. If not, here are some steps that can help get you there.
- Make a spending plan (budget). Include money for your emergency fund in your budget. Sticking to the budget can be difficult, but don’t give up. Keep at it.
- Identify sources of unnecessary spending. Anything you spend at a gas station other than gas is likely unnecessary. Cut back on eating out. Feed your emergency fund with this money instead. You don’t have to do this forever—just until your emergency fund is filled. You may decide to keep it up, though, as you think of other ways you would rather spend that money once the emergency fund is filled.
- “Pay yourself first,” as they say. After returning your tithe and offerings to God, let your next money move be setting aside a specified amount for your emergency fund. Don’t wait to see if there is any extra money left at the end of the month; there never will be.
- Dump every extra dollar you get from tax returns, stimulus checks, etc. into your emergency fund. There are probably 100 things you can think of to spend this extra money on. Believe me, I know. I have usually spent those checks a dozen times in my mind. Instead, plan to give all—or at least most—of that money to your emergency fund if it isn’t funded yet.
We all want to be financially healthy, and this takes self-control. The good news is that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). God has the best life planned for you, and He can get you there. Millions of people have done it, and with God’s help so can you.
What are you going to do today if you don’t have an emergency fund that can handle a few major expenses? Will you turn things around, or will you keep doing the same thing: hoping that a surprise expense never shows up? I have never met a person who regretted the short term sacrifices they made to fill their emergency fund. You won’t regret it, either, especially when Murphy calls again.