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God's Money and You Part 10: Debt

By Pastor Philip Howle
web posted October 17, 2012

RELIGION – Last week we solved the problem of poverty in America and this week we solve the debt crisis! We are pretty good are we not! Now as we talk about debt, we are speaking to just about everyone, me included. The question for us is how should we view debt? Is debt a problem? Is debt indicative of a deeper spiritual problem?

Here is the reality of debt (These came from a past sermon and I have forgotten sources, sorry). Since 1945, consumer debt in the United States has multiplied thirty-one times. The IRS says that it calculates that the average filer spends ten times more paying interest on debts than he gives to charitable causes. People can’t give because interest on their debt is killing them. The average credit card debt per household with a credit card is about $7,300. When you think about the interest compounding on this monthly it gets ugly.

If the majority of professing Christians were not overwhelmed by debt, then hundreds of millions of dollars would be freed up for God’s Kingdom. The family unit would be stronger since financial pressure caused by debt is a major factor in most divorces. Debt in all forms of home mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards all seem normal to us, but in fact debt is an aberration that evokes severe warnings from God’s Word.

Debt had changed in recent times.  One hundred years ago, debt was regarded as an earned privilege. It was reserved for people starting new businesses or farmers who faced hardship such as their crops being devastated by a tornado. Now, debt is seen as a right that must be given to everyone. Borrowing and spending money that people don’t have is just a part of life. So here is the catch, why do banks and credit companies repeatedly beg me to borrow from them, listing dozens of ways I could use the money? You know the answer; they want you to borrow because they will make money off your debt.  Why does your credit card statement show a payment due of only $59 on a $3,800 balance?

Because the less you pay now, the more you have to pay later. If most people paid the full amount each month, lenders would go out of business.

But the issue for the Christian is this: How can we be fully free to serve God when we’re serving human creditors? Randy Alcorn says that “Our debt-centered economy is like those electronic bug zappers. They emit a light attractive to insects that blissfully fly right into the trap.“That’s a cool-looking TV. And what a great sale! I don’t have any cash. No problem… Here’s my MasterCard.” Zap!”
Let me say that the Bible does not forbid debt, but it does issue strong cautions concerning it. The Bible makes it clear that debt is servitude: “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). We are commended in 1 Corinthians 7:23 that “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters” God says borrowers put themselves in servitude to lenders; then he tells us we should be slaves only to Him, not men.
Isn’t that a powerful warning against going into debt?
In the Old Testament people would sale themselves into slavery to pay off a debt (Deuteronomy 15:12). In a time of famine in Israel, the taking on of debt was regarded as an act of great despair. People cried, “‘We have mortgaged our fields, vineyards, and homes to get food during the famine.’ And others said, ‘We have had to borrow money on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes. We belong to the same family as those who are wealthy, and our children are just like theirs. Yet we must sell our children into slavery just to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to do anything about it, for our fields and vineyards are already mortgaged to others’” (Nehemiah 5:3-5). The thrust of this passage is that such things as mortgaging land and homes would never be done under normal circumstances.

Another verse that needs consideration is Romans 13:8. The NASB translates Romans 13:8, “Owe nothing to anyone.”  This would appear to prohibit debt. However the  NIV reads, “Let no debt remain outstanding.” This seems to allow debt but only if it is paid off as soon as possible. The Great Baptist Pastor Charles Spurgeon believed that Romans 13:8 prohibits debt altogether. I am not a fan of this view, as the Bible does give guidelines about lending and even encourages lending under certain circumstances.

We should be seeing that unless there’s an overwhelming need to borrow, it’s unwise for God’s children to put themselves under the curse of indebtedness. We look more at the spiritual causes and some solutions to the debt problem next week.

Pastor Phillip

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