Many studies indicate that tens of millions of Americans are actually in debt. It is a problem not just for the government to solve but also for every individual. The government may do everything it can to lower the prices of goods, bring down the rate of monthly mortgages, help lower interest rates, etc. But in the end, debt is something that is up to an individual.
Debt is not necessarily bad; there are kinds of debt where it is the wisest and the best available option to take. For example, let’s say a person has an income of $7000 a month and savings of only $100,000, and he wants to buy a $540,000 house (the best and most practical house he can find) for his family. Indeed, even with his savings, he can’t afford to buy a house. That is why some people turn to loans, which is a form of debt, to be able to buy a house. The person can pay or save for a house’s down payment and then apply for a house loan from a bank that will pay for the house. Depending on their arrangement, the person then pays back the bank monthly until he fully pays his debt to the bank with interest.
In this case, debt is not necessarily bad. The person can still pay off his monthly debt or mortgage, given his monthly income.
An example of bad debt is knowing that you can’t afford something despite your income but you still buy it. Most of the time, what people buy even though they can’t afford them are luxury goods or items that they don’t need, but because they have them, they give them some brand or identity in which they place their security.
Regardless of whether a debt is good or not, debt is something that a person should get out of as soon as possible. So, if the person in the example got a salary increase or a new, better job, it would be wise to pay off his loan as soon as he could. If you still have a debt you need to pay, it is not wise to buy the latest iPhone or items that are not necessarily needed.
What does God say about debt?
While the Bible does not explicitly talk about debt or getting out of debt, it addresses how we should manage our finances. The Bible talks about something more profound and the root of every bad debt, the heart. No matter what amount of financial literacy or strategy one can learn to get out of debt that is just dealing with the tip of the iceberg. The root of the problem is not being dealt with, which is the heart.
A person is in bad debt because there are some heart issues. It could be that a person’s sense of identity or security is not in Christ (more so if he or she is not a Christian) but in the clothes or other items he or she has. It may also be that a person’s heart is not content, whereas it should be content in Christ. He or she is not satisfied with what he or she has and wants more even if he or she cannot afford it financially.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Though unrelated at first glance to debt, repentance plays a significant role in getting out of debt. If you once recklessly used your money, and now you have repented, you desire to honor God and glorify Him with the way you use your money. One way is by using your money not to fill your wardrobe with luxurious clothes that you don’t need but by partnering with missionaries or blessing others in need. Using your money in a God-honoring way means being a good steward of it and making it grow with whatever godly means there is—starting a business, investing, etc.
Money is a great tool to expand God’s kingdom. We can and should use the finances that God has blessed us with to expand His kingdom. While indeed God has blessed us with our money to fill our needs, it’s important that we use it for His purposes rather than indulging ourselves in buying things we don’t need.
Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase
Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase
He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
[1 Corinthians 10:31]
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men
Another biblical truth that does not directly speak about debt but indirectly addresses it is that our life here on earth is temporary. For those in Christ, this earth is not our natural home, and our lifespan here is short compared to our eternal future with God. While there is nothing wrong with desiring to have good things in life, we should not be consumed by this. The Bible teaches us that we are pilgrims here because our real home and citizenship are in heaven.
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul
[1 Peter 2:11]
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
[2 Corinthians 5:1]
How can I stop being broke?
One of the practical things you can do to stop being broke is to exercise self-control. Just because you crave to buy something does not mean that you are bound to your desires. Even if you want a particular item that’s wrong for you, you can exercise self-control and not buy it, knowing it is not financially wise. It is written in the Bible that self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit in us.
He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
[2 Timothy 1:7]
Another practical thing you can do when considering whether to buy something is check your heart. It may be that something has already become an idol, and that is why you pour your financial resources into that thing even if you don’t have to.
As you check your heart, check if you may have been motivated by greed or discontentment. We should always meditate on the truth that Christ is our greatest treasure and that even if we don’t have the latest gadgets or the best clothes, we are content in Christ.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Also, make sure that you don’t conform to the patterns of this world. People get into debt because they buy things to stay relevant with what the world says is relevant. However, as Christians, we don’t conform to what the world says and don’t give in to the pressure to buy the things we don’t need only to stay relevant.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Last, ask God for wisdom on how to handle your finances wisely. All the finances you have belong to God because God, Who is the Creator of the universe, owns everything in the universe. Just as we take good care of something that other people lend us, we should also take good care of the money that God gives us. We should ask God for wisdom as to how we can wisely be good stewards of our finances.
The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
What to do when financially stressed?
Getting out of debt can be stressful in a way but it is a good start that you are trying to get yourself out of debt. It can be stressful because, at most times, you will find yourself wondering how you are going to pay for your debt with the income that you have. However, you should not rely on yourself but on God whenever you are stressed—financially and in any other situation. Whenever you find yourself not knowing what to do, you don’t rely on human wisdom but on the wisdom that comes from God. That is why we come to God in prayer in humility and acknowledge that we are dependent on Him. With that, we cast all our anxieties and concerns regarding our debts onto God, knowing that He cares for us and will help us as we try to get out of debt.
That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
[1 Peter 5:6-7]
Despite all your anxieties and worries, you must know that Christ is your peace. The kind of peace we have in Christ is a shalom kind of peace. It means being complete and whole no matter what circumstance we may face. Another reason you can have peace despite the stress you have as you find your way out of debt is that God is sovereign. Peace in Christ is not peace because everything is calm; instead, it is a peace that we have despite being in a storm.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
One of the names of God is Jehovah Jireh. It means “The LORD will provide.” If God could provide the perfect sacrifice for our sins, how much more will He provide the things you need as you try to get out of debt? Remember that everything comes from the LORD; everything that you were able to eat up until now was all His sustenance and provision in your life. As mentioned before, God cares about you. You are not alone as you try to get out of debt. The LORD is the One Who helps you and the One Who provides for you. God provides for us, but that does not warrant being reckless and unwise regarding our spending habits.
Whenever you find yourself stressed or worried as you pay off your debt, the best response that you can have is to pray to God. Coming to God should be our first response and not our last resort. Here is an example of how you can pray as you get out of debt:
Heavenly Father, You are the God of wisdom and the One Who provides. I pray for the finances I need to pay off my debt. I also pray for open doors or opportunities so I can earn more income to pay off my debt. Give me the grace to always exercise self-control in my spending and never conform to this world’s patterns. Let the meditation of my heart always be pleasing to You, and greed shall always be far from me. Remind me that my identity and security are not with my things but with who I am in Christ. Give me the wisdom I need to handle my finances well, use it for Your glory, and pay off my debt as soon as I can. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
There is nothing wrong with desiring a nice car, a big house, or a branded item but not at the expense of mismanaging our finances. We also must keep in mind that in the end, Christ is our greatest treasure and that in Him we are complete and satisfied. Our identity is secured in Christ even if we don’t have branded clothes, high-end cars, or nice houses. Those worldly things don’t compare to the heavenly treasures in heaven.