Getting A Handle On Debt

Ours is a debt-ridden society. Statistics tell us that 40 percent of American families will spend more money than they earn this year. The average American household has 13 credit cards and carries an average debt of $5800 from month-to-month. One out of every one hundred Americans will file for bankruptcy this year.

It may surprise you that the Bible has a great deal to say about money. Scripture mentions saving (cf. Luke 12:15-21), lending (Deut. 23:19ff), spending (Luke 16:1-13), giving (Matt. 6:1-4), investing (Matt. 6:19-21), and even wasting our financial resources (Mk. 14:4). When it comes to financial debts, the following propositions will help the Christian have a greater understanding of God’s will.

We are stewards of God’s blessings, including our finances — The Bible clearly states that ultimately, God owns everything (cf. Ps. 50:10-12), and that we bring nothing into this world and take nothing with us when we leave (Job 1:21). Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that God has certain expectations concerning how we are to use the blessings with which He has entrusted us (1 Pet. 4:10). On Judgment Day, one of the books the Lord opens may well be our pocketbook (cf. Rev. 20:12)!

Debt, in and of itself, is not necessarily sinful — Experience teaches that every time money changes hands, someone goes into debt. Employers have the financial obligation to pay their employees (cf. Col. 4:1). According to Jesus Himself, citizens are obligated (debtors) to lawfully pay taxes to the government (Matt. 22:15-22; Rom. 13:6). Thus, debt, in and of itself, is not necessarily sinful. However, this principle does not give us license to be poor stewards where our finances are concerned!

Poor stewardship is sinful — The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) illustrates this point succinctly. A Master (God) leaves his servants each with a sum of money. Later, he returns to “settle accounts” (Matt. 25:19). Two of the servants had been good stewards. However, one had been, “wicked and lazy” (v.26). What was the sin of the latter? He had failed to keep his master’s intentions in mind when choosing what to do with his trust! God wants us to realize that He will, “settle accounts” with us one day (2 Cor. 5:10), and that includes an examination of our financial stewardship!

Only God can truly satisfy — More money and more “things” will never bring true contentment, joy, and satisfaction into our lives. In fact, quite the opposite is true (1 Tim. 6:5-19)! Money can buy houses, but not homes. It can buy medicine, but not health. It can buy the “good life,” but not eternal life! Only God can truly satisfy (Ps. 16:11; 37:4).

Some questions to consider before voluntarily incurring financial debt:

How might this purchase significantly change my lifestyle and priorities (Matt. 6:33)?

Does this purchase manifest the fruit of the Spirit in my life — especially self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?

Am I doing justice to my present creditors, or am I irresponsibly taking on excessive debt before properly fulfilling other financial obligations (Rom. 13:8)?

Will this purchase help me to glorify God, and if so, how (1 Cor. 10:31)?

If Jesus returned today, would I be ashamed of my stewardship regarding this purchase (Acts 17:30-31)? —JB