Are You a Spender, Saver, or Steward?

Like the Colossians, we typically express a “Jesus and …” mentality by thinking that in order to be happy and secure, we need other things in addition to obedience to Jesus.

We don’t reject Jesus, of course. After all, we’re good Christian folk. Jesus is important to us, and we depend on him for eternal salvation. But to really make life work, we think we need other things as well.

And the primary place we express this “Jesus and …” mentality is in relation to money.

I read a book recently called God and Money that was written by two friends, Gregory Baumer and John Corntines, who became Christians at Harvard Business School. Coming to Christ changed everything about the way they thought about money. In the book, they say that people tend to have one of three different relationships to money:


Spenders believe money’s greatest value is adding enjoyment today, so they spend their money to maximum enjoyment in the moment. They may save some (if they are disciplined and responsible), but they don’t enjoy saving. For them, money is primarily about adding pleasure in the moment.

Spenders maximize value today.


By contrast, savers think that money’s greatest value is providing security. Thus, they strive to limit consumption, focusing instead on increased wealth accumulation over time. They will spend some—sometimes a lot—for luxuries of the moment, but this doesn’t fill their love cup like it does the spenders.

Whereas spenders view money as a tool for pleasure today, savers view money as a tool of security—or flexibility—for tomorrow.


(You’ve been around the block to know that when you see a list of three options, the third one is always the good one, right? Bear with me.)

In contrast to the first two groups, stewards see money as only a temporary gift of God to be used for the purposes of God. Sure, they use some money to provide for their own needs, and they save responsibly for the future, but—here’s the thing—they intentionally limit both consumption and wealth-building, focusing instead of giving the most money they can to blessing other people through the kingdom of God.

If spenders are thinking of today, and savers are thinking of tomorrow, stewards are thinking of eternity.

So, do you already know which one you are? I found myself in there right away (and no, my heart doesn’t naturally lean toward “steward”).

If you’re feeling stuck, take this quiz (also from God and Money) to help make it clear. I’ll even give the answer key up front: “1” corresponds to Spender; “2” corresponds to Saver; “3” corresponds to Steward:

Which of these excites you more?

  1. A four-star vacation across Europe.
  2. Maxing out all retirement accounts for the year.
  3. Dinner with your pastor, who expresses heartfelt thanks for your sacrificial support of a successfully launched, new ministry.

When you were a child, what was your tendency with new money you received?

  1. To buy new toys or spend on experiences as soon as you got it.
  2. To save it in a piggy bank or savings account.
  3. To spend on or give to others, your church, or charities.

You hear about a man who, at 70, has managed his middle-class income through meager living and careful savings, with a current net worth of $8 million. Your first thought is:

  1. What a waste! Spending it would have been more fun!
  2. Wow, he really did well. I hope I can do that, too.
  3. He may have missed some key opportunities to experience the joy of generosity.

Success looks like:

  1. Experiencing great food and travel, living comfortably, and driving a luxury car.
  2. Retiring at 50.
  3. Extending payoff of your mortgage and forgoing some luxuries in order to sponsor a missionary family.

Your annual bonus is twice as much as you thought it would be. What do you first think?

  1. I’m headed out shopping/on a vacation.
  2. I’m putting this on the mortgage!
  3. I can’t wait to give a chunk of this away.

The spending in my life is:

  1. Effortless—I love it.
  2. Bothersome—I wish I could spend less.
  3. Controlled—I feel good about the way it’s managed.

The saving in my life is:

  1. Bothersome—It’s an inconvenience that gets in the way of having fun.
  2. Effortless—I love building wealth.
  3. Purposeful—I have healthy and reasonable goals toward which I’m carefully working. Beyond that, I plan to give all excess away.

The giving in my life is:

  1. Obligatory.
  2. Formulaic.
  3. Joyfully overflowing.

Stewards use some of their money to take care of their needs, and it brings some joy to their lives. And yes, they even save for the future. But stewards limit both their spending and saving because they find satisfaction and security in Christ.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2) means you look at money as neither satisfaction (spender) nor security (saver), because Christ is both of those things for you. Look instead at your money as a temporary tool given to you by God to be used for the purposes of his kingdom.