“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, ESV)
When you turn on the television, listen to ads on the radio, or turn the page in your favorite magazine, everything shouts, “You need the next best thing to make you happy”. So many people go into debt because purchasing new things gives them a feeling of power and control over their lives. It gives them a good feeling because they have the security of possessions.
We are also looking at others and constantly comparing our lives to theirs, what material possessions they have, and thinking, “I must have that, too!” There’s a bumper sticker that sums up this kind of thinking: “He that dies with the most toys wins.” We are searching for happiness in all the wrong places.
We are given the commandment in Exodus 20:17 (NLT), “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor”. Even though we don’t really have oxen or donkeys, this still applies today. Just think about all the cell phones, cars, clothes, or the 75-inch television screens.
To get out of debt, we need to find our happiness and joy from God. Psalms 37:4 (NLT) says, “Take delight in the lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire.” The Bible has a lot to say about being happy. It doesn’t say, “Happy are they who live in big houses and drive fancy cars or has the best new cell phone”. What the Bible does say is, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire.”
Your happiness will last only a little while on earth; the real happiness is in eternity with God. In Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV), Jesus tells us, “ Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither mother nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be too.” Where are you trying to find happiness in your life? Do you have a toy box full of toys and the debt that goes with it? Are you ready to look to God to get out of debt?
Have you ever thought about what the effects of being in debt causes to individuals and families? Effects of stress, health issues, marital problems, domestic violence, suicide and depression, just to name a few. Statistics show that the number one reason couples file for divorce is financial issues. In a recent American Psychological Association study of more than 3,000 adults, it was found that money and finances were the top sources of stress.
You may not consider the weight of that debt hanging over your head could cause feelings of depression, suicidal thoughts, or anger, but it does. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner and, unfortunately, money is the instigator in many situations that end up in domestic violence.
There is good reason God does not want us to be in a position where we are engulfed in debt. Not only does debt come with an extremely high emotional cost and can cause many problems in the family, but it also puts someone other than God in the place of being our master. “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7, NLT). When we are focused more on money and what we owe, it takes our thoughts and time away from God and the real purpose we have been created: to worship God and to help grow His Heavenly Kingdom.
Job 31:24-25, 28 (NIV) put it this way: "If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’ if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained… then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.”
Jesus warned us in Matthew 6:24 (NIV): “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” When we are more focused on the debts we owe, and the negative feelings and actions that may come from these debts, we are taking our focus off God and our family.
Has money been at the root of any family issues? Are you ready to give those problems over the God and allow Him to be the master of your life?
If you want to get out of debt, you first must give to God and then yourself. Start tithing 10% and saving 10%. There many people who don’t give much of anything to God. Why not? They’ll say, “I can’t afford to. I’ve got debts to pay!” They don’t understand how tithing and saving will help get them out of debt. But if you wait until you pay off all your bills, you will never save, and you will never tithe.
Math has always been a difficult subject for me: numbers, formulas, and budgeting are very hard to grasp. But what I do know about math is that 2 + 5 = 7, at least in my mind (and on the math tests I took in grade school). God’s math is much different than ours. His math is 2 + 5 = 5000, with a remainder of 12.
In John, Chapter Six, one little boy was willing to share his small lunch of two fish and five loaves of bread. This little boy didn’t stop to think that he should probably just keep it because he needed it for himself or his family. Instead, he gladly gave it to Jesus. The little boy did not know the miracle that was about to take place; he was just happy to share.
When we are stuck on looking at what we owe and what little we have, we are withholding from God because we just can’t get past our earthly thinking. When we are in debt, we need God’s help. That means we need to do it God’s way. The fact is, whatever area we want God to bless; we have to put Him first. You want God to bless your finances? You better put Him first in your finances. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). God owns everything in this world. It isn’t that He needs your money; He wants your trust and for you to realize you need Him.
What is keeping you from giving God the first fruits? Do you trust Him with your finances?
Through the Gospels, we read of Jesus and His disciples traveling for three years to preach, heal, and share the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Have you ever stopped to wonder how they were able to fund this ministry? None of them worked; they had left their fishing nets and jobs to follow Jesus. The generosity of others made an eternal difference.
Luke 8:1-3 (ESV) tells us, “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages proclaiming and bringing the Good News of the Kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.”
The Gospels report two occasions where Jesus miraculously provided food for 5000 people and 4000 people respectively, which leads us to believe that He could have probably continued to miraculously provide for His followers and Himself throughout the three years. But that was not God’s plan; and it would have removed the opportunity and necessity for others to be a part of His ministry. God wants to provide for people through people. God created us to glorify Him and to do His works (Ephesians 2:10). God wants us to use the resources He has given us to help expand His Kingdom, not our material wishes. When we are using our resources for material goods that we do not need, and going into unnecessary debt, we are not being good stewards. God wants to use you to grow His Kingdom. Just like Mary, Joanna, and Susanna had the opportunity to be a part of Jesus’ ministry 2000 years ago, you also have that same opportunity now. What eternity-impacting ministries is God calling you to support with your resources?
We don’t own anything we possess. It all belongs to God, so we must learn to be good stewards of God’s possessions. As good stewards, we need to know that it is not God’s will for us to be in debt; therefore we should do whatever is necessary to get out of debt. Here are some step-by-step guidelines gathered from many different Christian scholars to help you start on the journey of getting out of debt.
The first step is to admit to God there is a problem and committing yourself to removing debt from your life. Don’t just settle with the fact that debt is normal. Nobody just drifts out of debt. You must be intentional and start with a commitment. It isn’t easy and it will take discipline and perseverance. The Bible says, "Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't get discouraged and give up" (Galatians 6:9, TLB).
Prepare a budget and stick with it. You need a written plan and then set a goal to be completely out of debt. Deuteronomy 15:1 (NIV), God commanded His people, “At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts.” It may take longer, but the idea is to set a goal.
Accept your condition and focus on changing you instead of changing your condition. What are some areas that you can cut back in, like eating out, no longer subscribing to cable or satellite television, or buying clothes that you need instead of want? A lot of times, we buy “things” that we really don’t need and we subscribe to services we could live without.
Using the tools that God has given you: Quiet Time, reading His Word, and prayer. If there is something big you really want, stop and pray about it for several weeks. Ask God if it is what He wants for you. So many times, we jump right into a big purchase without consulting God.
Be faithful in your tithes, even though your earthly thinking is that tithing will not help you pay off your creditors. But God tells us it works. In Malachi 3:10 (ESV), God declares, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
Are you ready to start the challenge? What is holding you back from getting out of debt? There is no better time than today!