Today I had an email from our energy supplier to tell me that a new statement was available online. Earlier this year we changed from one of the main suppliers to a smaller one that seeks to use more renewable energy while at the same time actually being cheaper than some of the main ones. That seemed like a good deal.
I checked online and looked at our usage (partly estimated because we haven’t been with them a year) on a clever chart which showed how our Direct Debit related to our projected annual costs. At the moment, in the summer months, our energy usage is much lower than it will be in the winter. We use less gas because there is no need for the heating to be on. We use less electricity because it is lighter for longer.
At the moment we are in credit with the energy supplier (and they are paying good interest on that credit – better than my bank!). During the summer we will no doubt build up a lot of credit, which we will then use up in the winter. I am hoping that at the end of the year it will all balance out. It seems reminiscent to me of Joseph’s advice to Pharaoh in the Bible – to store up food in the years of plenty ready for the years of famine.
Our consumer culture seems to discourage that approach. If we have the resources then the ubiquitous advertisements will urge and entice us to spend it on newer versions of what we already have, or on new things that we don’t have. If we don’t have the resources then that’s okay, stick it on your credit card and pay it back later. If you can’t get a credit card or you have already maxed it out, no problem – take a so-called payday loan and repay it at iniquitous interest rates that bear no relation to the actual cost of borrowing.
Buy now, spend now, live for the moment – don’t worry about the future.
This is the moment where the preacher really lays into the culture. Get ready. Brace yourself…
Luke 12:16-21 New International Version – UK
16 And [Jesus] told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”
18 ‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”
Hold on, is Jesus actually endorsing the consumerist approach here? Is he really suggesting that saving and planning for the future is wrong and pointless?
He was actually parodying the ‘more, more, more’ mindset that is behind our consumerist lifestyle: the part of us that responds willing to the enticing adverts. I missed off the last line of what Jesus said in that parable – this is the actual ending:
20 ‘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?”
21 ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God.’
And a little later on Luke tells us that Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It’s not that prudent planning for the future is wrong. What is wrong is a dependence on ourselves, our resources and our plans and a failure to recognise that there is a God-dimension to all of this. Our Father in heaven wants us to acknowledge and rely on him for our daily bread. He wants us to recognise how valuable we are to him and how much he is looking out for us. He wants us to realise that living a comfortable lifestyle is not the aim and purpose of life: he created us for eternity with him that will surpass anything we can imagine.
Saving and planning for the future is not bad. Living within our means is not wrong. In fact they are commendable and worthy approaches to life. But if that’s the limit of our forward thinking we are investing in the wrong things.
Be blessed, be a blessing