Is hoarding sinful?

Question

Is hoarding sinful?

Answer

Thanks for your question.

I wouldn’t think that all hoarding is sinful. Some hoarding might be considered necessary. For example, in Genesis 41:49 we're told "Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.” Some people collect magazines and read them again many years later. This helps in increasing their knowledge and is great for understanding history. Through the years I personally have collected many Bible resources to help in answering questions. This is good.

On the other hand, anything can become a sinful obsession. Consider Jesus’s parable about grain storage in Luke 12:16-21:

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Storing grain is a subject in both Genesis and Luke, but each reveals different intent or motive(s) of the collectors — one for the good of others, and the other for self-preservation and leaving God out of the picture. Jesus also says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19). But he does instruct us to hoard up things in heaven to glorify God (Matt. 6:20). So, knowing the intent of the heart is essential to understand this issue.

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).

Sinful hoarding is a type of lust. It is part of the fallen human nature. All of us suffer from a serious and deadly weakness of the spirit and body. Our human tendency is to want things. We naturally trust in things rather than in the living God and, unsurprisingly, look for security in the material world. In the Old Testament, for instance, the Israelites were given manna and quail (Exod. 16) — a wonderful blessing from God — and were to only collect as much as they could eat in one day (Exod. 16:4). However, there was one day a week where they were supposed to collect twice as much so they wouldn’t have to work on the Sabbath (Exod. 16:5). This was proper hoarding. But in a serious lapse of faith, some of the Israelites stored up manna rather than trusting God for his daily provision (Exod. 16:20). Some even attempted to collect manna on the Sabbath (Exod. 16:27-28). This clearly illustrates the tendency of human nature not to trust in God, but in material things.

Basically, the Bible teaches that there are two types of hoarding. One is sinful and the other isn’t. When considering this issue, we always need to weigh our own hearts and ask God to reveal our motives to us (Psa. 139:23-24).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).