Where Is Your Fortress?
- Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Who provides for your family after you die — yourself or God?
The typical life insurance interview makes two assumptions: First, that your death may come accidentally or prematurely. For a sovereign God, there are no accidents. "Not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father; are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 10:29). Neither is there "premature" death. If He knows the number of hairs on our head, He knows the number of days in our lives. Indeed, before birth He ordained the number of our days (Psalm 139:16).
The second premise is that only the husband is capable of providing for the family after death, through either assets or insurance. No credit is given to God who lives on after you and can take care of your family through the surviving spouse, another mate, work opportunities, good health, and much more.
This is not to negate all uses of life insurance but to give perspective. My concern is that if we operate from fear in our life insurance planning, forgetting God, we are assuming responsibilities beyond what He intends. In trying to do this, we are vulnerable to two common mistakes. First, overbuying. When selecting an insurance amount, many times we provide an amount sufficient that the surviving spouse would never have to work again. In some cases, we insure for an even better standard of living than our family currently maintains. It may make sense to provide a level of insurance that would allow Mom to stay at home while children are young. But insuring to a lifetime "work-free" level wastes assets that would be better spent on what should be financial priorities (like debt repayment). And second, we transfer our confidence from God to insurance. The first is harmful, the latter fatal.
In his excellent book "Money, Possessions, and Eternity," Randy Alcorn asks, "But where does God fit into all this? The greatest danger in insurance is that it so easily undermines our sense of dependency on God. Is insurance a God-given means of provision, or is it in reality a theological end-run that makes trust obsolete and God unnecessary?"
Many of us are like the rich young ruler of Jesus' time — our wealth, which includes insurance, is our true fortress. "A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination" (Proverbs 18:11). But this fortress is imaginary, for no matter how much one has in retirement accounts or in insurance, those who make riches their protection discover no rest for their souls. There is never "enough."
I believe this is part of the reason that hoarding riches is called "a great evil" and "vanity" in Ecclesiastes 5:13. Since it makes us proud and independent of God, yet ultimately doesn't protect us nor give rest for the soul, what better description is there? On the other hand, consider King David: "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken" (Psalm 62:1-2). He wasn't secure because of his position as King. His security came through confidence in God's keeping power.
Today we have much "Christianized" secular financial planning. The veneer is thin and beneath it we find that Christians insure and accumulate with the same motives and in the same ways non-Christians do. Christ says there should be a difference (Matthew 6:32). Sound Mind Investing's Insurance Page provides practical help on the best use of life insurance, evaluating policies and companies, etc. But, our greatest need is to place our hope and confidence in God alone. Faith in God, which comes through focusing on His promises, is the greatest stabilizer against the emotions of greed and fear that undermine our investment and insurance decisions (Hebrews 11:24-26).
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