I am encouraged when I see believers focused on deleveraging. My book Money, goods and eternity has a whole chapter on debt. my little book Managing God’s Money has some chapters related to debt. I also speak briefly about the debt in The treasure principle and again in my new book Giving is the good life.
According to CreditCards.com, the average American has credit card debt of $5,111. Just over 40% of Americans carry month-to-month credit card debt, continue to spend more than they earn, and remain in financial bondage. The average student graduates from college with $36,510 in student loans, and some with much more.
Those who pursue the “good life” routinely go into debt, but psychologists attest that a debt-financed lifestyle leads to depression, anxiety, resentment, stress, denial, anger, to frustration, regret, shame, embarrassment and fear. (It doesn’t sound like a very good life after all.)
If we take God’s Word seriously, we should avoid going into debt when we can, since “the borrower is the servant of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7, NLT). And since Jesus tells us that we cannot serve both God and money, we should ask ourselves, before incurring a debt, How will this affect my ability to give generously?
In rare cases, for example, when we buy a house at a reasonable price which may be a good long-term investment, we should only borrow enough to allow us to make affordable payments and pay off the debt sooner. possible. Countless people end up spending more on a home than they can afford, then regret for years “not being able to afford to give”.
We must learn to say no to many of our desires in order to say yes to obedience, freedom and generosity – and the happiness that God brings us through them.
While it’s best not to get into debt initially, I’m all for people working to get out of debt. My only concern is that I see believers whose sole purpose in doing this is to have more money to spend on themselves. It’s not that planning for the future and going on vacation are inherently bad. The problem arises when the end result is that these debt-free believers become more efficient materialists rather than devoted hearts sold to the kingdom of God.
I’ve even heard teachings within the Christian community, including personal finance advice, that encourage people not to give until they’ve paid off their debts. This is not an eternity-oriented, kingdom-centered counsel!
When we give, God is pleased and will honor our efforts to repay our debts. God says that when his people give him tithes and freewill offerings, he will “open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so many blessings that there will not be enough room to store them” (Malachi 3:10, NIV) . Even if you don’t believe this passage applies to New Testament Christians, these words of Jesus certainly do: “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). Isn’t that exactly what people who want to get out of debt need?
So my advice to those in debt who want to get out of it is this: be a generous giver. And, at the same time, work to get out of debt so that you can invest in the kingdom of God with the money that is released. Yes, it will not always be easy and it will take wisdom. But that’s exactly what God promises to give us when we ask (James 1:5). We should desire to become wise stewards and generous givers, rather than selfish guardians.