"A Slave No Longer"
(Freedom from Debt)
Psalm 37:21; Romans 13:8-14
Pastor Tom Millner
SpiritSong Worship Center
July 18, 2010
Last week we established that God owns everything. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and never transferred title! If God created and owns everything, He controls everything as well. Since God owns and controls everything, He will provide for our needs. Because He provides for our needs, our response back to Him in love is to be good stewards of what He gives us to manage. Today we talk about managing debt.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say it's a sin to have debt. Having debt is not a sin. The Bible does discourage debt, however, often because debt can be the consequence of sin. We're indebted to someone when we have borrowed money or possessions that have an agreed upon value. In ancient times, debt was literally a form of slavery. One person was enslaved to the other for a specified period of time until the agreed upon debt had been repaid. We're appalled at such an idea today, but just look at how many of us have lost the freedom to spend and save what we earn because we are enslaved to the bills for debts past. Proverbs 22: 7 reaffirms this notion; "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."
Debt in the Old Testament was often described as the consequence of disobedience. As Moses was instructing the Israelites as to keeping the Law in the new land, he speaks in Deuteronomy 28 of the multiples of "curses" that would be the consequence of disobedience to the Law of God. Deuteronomy 28:15 opens the assertion with "If you do not obey the Lord your God…." Then verse 43 picks up "The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher…he will lend to you, but you will not lend to him…" Conversely, freedom from debt was described as the "reward" for obedience. Looking again at Deuteronomy 28, verses 1-2 begin; "If you fully obey the Lord your God…all these blessings will come upon you…" The verse 12 states: "You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none." What is significant here in both instances is not so much the debt, but the importance of commitment to obedience to God's Law of love.
Furthermore, debt presumes on the future! The last time I checked, fortune telling is not one of the spiritual gifts! Getting into debt presumes that we will be in a financial situation that will afford the payback. James 4:13-15 states: "You who say, 'Today or tomorrow, we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and also do this or that.'"
The Bible instructs us to pay back our debt. Romans 13:8 states "Let no debt remain outstanding…" Psalm 37:21 states: "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.
Why is it so easy for us to get into debt?
- Ignorance: We lack the knowledge to handle money God's way. This is not a sin, it's simply ignorance. I've often stated that ignorance does not have to be terminal…it's curable.
- Poor planning and discipline: In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Alice was asked where she was going by the Mad Hatter. "I don't know," she replied. He responded; "That's OK if you don't know where you're going – you'll wind up somewhere!" Without a budget or plan for spending and saving, many people go beyond their income and have more month than the end of their money. James 4:13 tells us "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."
- Self-Gratification: We live in a world of instant gratification. We want what we want when we want it. We believe the lie that "if only this, that, or the other possession, experience, event could happen for me, then my life would be more complete, whole, sound." Peace and satisfaction cannot be found in earthly possessions or experiences. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." Scripture tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the "things" we need will be added.
- Unexpected events in our lives: In the event of job loss, death, unexpected emergencies and the like, are often reasons why we incur debt. Debt may be considered a necessity to get through the event.
Let's look at some ways we can get out of debt! (Psalm 37:21 says "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously."
- Go to God in prayer, seeking His help and guidance. This step is vital to keep us out of debt as well. If God owns everything, is in control of everything and will provide for our needs, why wouldn't we seek His guidance with everything? 2 Kings 4:1-7 tells of a widow who was threatened with losing her children to her deceased husband's creditor. She asked Elisha for help. Elisha asks her what she owns now. She said "only a little oil." Then Elisha told her to go a borrow empty jars from her friends and neighbors, close herself in her house with her sons and begin to pour oil into the jars. She did as she was told and there was enough oil to fill all of the empty jars. She then went and sold the oil and satisfied her dead husband's debt. You see, God has ways beyond our means and He means for us to access them!
- Start giving routinely! This sounds counter intuitive, but scripture tells us to honor God first with what we have. In Malachi 3:8-10 we read where putting God first is full of rewards. "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' 'In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'"
- Don't acquire new debt! Stop borrowing money. Every time you swipe that credit card, you are borrowing from someone else!
- Establish a budget. Make a plan and work the plan.
- Make a list of your assets. Proverbs 27:23 tells us "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds…" Within some of your assets may be resources that you could sell that would reduce your debt.
- List everything that you owe. Having a written figure in front of you gives hard evidence for you to work with.
- Create a debt repayment schedule. Again, Psalm 37:21 reads "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously." Contact your creditors if you payments are higher than your income after tithing and saving. Most of them are willing to work with you as long as you communicate and follow through. A good strategy is to pay off the smallest debts with the highest interest rates first. Once that dept is paid off, take that payment and add it to another one to pay it off faster.
- Investigate ways to earn extra income. Getting a second job (part time) may be an option for getting out and staying out of debt.
- Live radically – reduce spending! Think and act differently about your way of living. Romans 12:1-2 reminds us "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."
- Keep the faith – don't give up. Stay faithful to Him…He has been faithful to you!
Remember, debt is not a sin. The Bible doesn't speak to when debt is acceptable, however. Home mortgages, business loans, education loans (all which promise to give a return) are within the realm of reason. Just remember three rules:
- Make debt the exception rather than the rule.
- Repay as soon as possible.
- Create a plan.
Matthew 6:33 tells us from the words of Jesus: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." God wants us to honor Him first and foremost – with our time, talent and tithes –not because of what we will get back, but because we have already been given!
A tax assessor came one day to a poor Christian to determine the amount of taxes he would have to pay. The following conversation took place:
"What property do you possess?" asked the assessor.
"I am a very wealthy man," replied the Christian.
"List your possessions, please," the assessor instructed.
The Christian said:
"First, I have everlasting life, John 3:16
Second, I have a mansion in heaven, John 14:2
Third, I have peace that passes all understanding, Philippians 4:7
Fourth, I have joy unspeakable, 1 Peter 1:8
Fifth, I have divine love which never fails, 1 Corinthians 13:8
Sixth, I have a faithful spouse, Proverbs 31:10
Seventh, I have healthy, happy obedient children, Exodus 20:12
Eighth, I have true, loyal friends, Proverbs 18:24
Ninth, I have songs in the night, Psalms 42:8
Tenth, I have a crown of life, James 1:12
The tax assessor closed his book, and said, "Truly you are a very rich man, but your property is not subject to taxation."
Real treasure is found in the debt that has been paid through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ!