As far back as 3000 years ago, the Bible told us that it is YOUR responsibility not to get into debt.. I Samuel Olekanma is debt Free as I have never Borrowed money till date thanks to God Almighty …
SLAVERY vs. FREEDOM
Christian economist Larry Burkett tells us that, in 1929, 95 percent of homes were bought for cash and only 5 percent were mortgaged. Today those figures are completely reversed with 95 percent of homes being mortgaged! Before 1945, practically no cars were financed â€” it was considered unthinkable, even immoral. But our post-Christian culture has shifted in its attitude toward debt; and, in typical fashion, the church has aped the world. If you are an average American household, in addition to having a mortgage and a car loan, you have seven active credit cards with an average outstanding balance of $2,000 per card. We spend nearly every cent we have; and when there isn’t enough, the credit card becomes our lifesaver. And for the 72 percent of people who don’t pay off their credit card balances every month, the debt begins to buildâ€¦ the monster begins to grow.
It’s no wonder, then, to see the popular bumper sticker that says: “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” We read it and laugh, because we don’t know how else to deal with what has become an enslaving beast in our life.
But fathers, Christ calls us to be free men. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (Gal. 5:1), free to serve Him in our homes, free to be available to our families, free to disciple our sons and daughters. Yet how can we effectively disciple our children when our thoughts, our emotions, and our energies are being devoured daily by this beast of debt? How shall we escape? Jesus points the way when He declares, “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). So in this article we want to explore the truth about debt-free living.
DISCIPLINE THE KEY TO GODLY MANHOOD
Recognize first that debt-free living is just one of what we might call “the disciplines of a patriarch,” the spiritual attitudes, appetites and activities of godly manhood. For example, devout men in Scripture and history have always been characterized by spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, witnessing, Bible study and generous giving. They have likewise been marked by the moral disciplines of purity, integrity, humility and obedience. Further, godly men have been faithful in family disciplines like selflessness, leadership, discipleship and servanthood. And finally patriarchs have persevered in the economic disciplines of work, time management, wise spending, and debt freedom.
All of these disciplines have one common root, and that root â€” that key to godly manhood â€” is discipline itself. It takes discipline to be a man of obedience, a man of integrity, a man of leadership and a man of debt freedom. Therefore, Paul exhorts in 1 Timothy 4:7, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” There is no other path to godliness apart from discipline. As much as we would like, it can’t be whipped up like instant pudding. In fact, the word Paul used is the Greek word “gymnazo” from which we get gymnastics and gymnasium. So it takes the daily, sustained training of an athlete, saying YES to God and NO to self, no matter how you feel at the time, until the old desires and patterns have been replaced by the new practice of debt-free living. In a word, God is calling for some “spiritual sweat,” some strenuous toil on our part to get out of debt and to stay out of debt. I invite you, then, to accompany me into God’s gymnasium for a little “sanctified sweating” as we examine what the Bible says about debt.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT DEBT
There are literally scores of books on the market dealing with debt, many of them from Christian authors, and most of them have some practical merit. But as far as I have found, none of them gives a comprehensive view of what the Bible says about debt. So the average Christian is left in doubt whether to consider debt as a sin, as unwise, as a risky but permissible venture or as a positively smart way to leverage your money. What exactly does the Bible say?
While most Christians today treat debt as part of the normal Christian lifestyle, it is foreboding to observe that, out of more than 50 passages which speak directly about debt â€” and more than 20 that refer indirectly to debt â€” there are no positive or even neutral references. They are all extremely negative! Moreover, the free use of debt has not been the historic position of the church until we entered the post-Christian era of the twentieth century. These facts should motivate any serious Christian to investigate carefully the topic of debt to be sure that we are pleasing Christ and protecting our family.
Now since we can’t analyze more than 70 Scripture passages in the space we have, we’ll survey some of the representative verses in order to derive the foundational, biblical principles about debt, borrowing and lending. And I hope you will be sufficiently stimulated after this inquiry to use your own concordance to verify these truths so that they will become deeply held convictions for you and your family.
Ultimately, what we find in God’s Word are seven basic debt principles established early in the Mosaic Law, continued throughout the remainder of the Old Testament and confirmed in the New Testament as an unchanging ethical rule. Let’s look now at a few Scriptures and then summarize the principles found in them. (Be sure to read the rest of this article with your Bible open so that God can speak directly to your heart through His Word.)
REPRESENTATIVE PASSAGES ON DEBT
Exodus 22:25-27 â€” “If you lend money to my peopleâ€¦”. We notice in this primary reference to debt three key concepts: First, debt for God’s people is discussed only in connection with the poor, or destitute, who must borrow in order to survive. In fact, the only collateral they have may be the clothing on their back. Second, these destitute brethren were to borrow only from fellow-believers whose motive was to be compassionate. And third, in keeping with this gracious attitude, these survival loans were to be lent at no interest, not profiting from the hardship of a brother.
Leviticus 25:35-37 â€” Here again we observe the same three key concepts as before: debt was allowed only in cases of true poverty, only from a fellow believer and only at no interest. The reference in verse 36 to “usurious interest” in the New American Standard Bible is better translated “no usury or increase,” as rendered in the King James Version. The Hebrew word for “usury” refers not to excessive interest but to any interest at all charged on a money loan. And the term “increase” speaks of an increased amount of food in payment for a food loan. Verse 37 actually explains these two terms in context: “You shall not give him your silver (or money) at interest nor your food for gain.”
Deuteronomy 15:1-12 â€” In addition to the first three debt principles we discovered in Exodus and Leviticus, here in Deuteronomy we encounter a fourth principle, namely that debts were to last no longer than seven years: “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts.” A fifth principle contained in Deuteronomy 15:12 is that debt brings about a decrease in a man’s freedom and productivity for God, even to the point of slavery. Finally, the sixth debt principle, found in verse six, is that having a surplus to lend to the pagans is a blessing from God for obedience to His principles for living: “For the Lord your God shall bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrowâ€¦.”
Deuteronomy 28:12-13, 43-45 â€” Now we uncover the seventh and last debt principle. In verses 12-13 of Deuteronomy 28, Moses repeats principle number six: God’s promise of blessing for obedience. But what if God’s people are disobedient to His principles for living? The consequence, God explains in verses 43-45, will be the curse of having to borrow from the pagans: “He shall lend to youâ€¦ he shall be the head and you shall be the tail. So all these curses shall come on youâ€¦ because you would not obey the Lord your Godâ€¦.”
Here, then, in these four primary passages from the Pentateuch are the seven basic principles which God established to govern debt, borrowing and lending. Now to see how these principles continued throughout the remainder of the Old Testament and then were confirmed in the New Testament, let’s analyze two passages from the Proverbs, two from the Gospels and two from the New Testament epistles.
Proverbs 6:1-5 â€” “My son, if you have become suretyâ€¦.” Surety is sharing responsibility with another for his debt. It’s when you guarantee that, should a borrower fail to pay his debt, you will be responsible for it. Today, this would be involved in “co-signing” for a loan and in most partnerships. So Solomon, using the vivid imagery of an animal caught in a trap, urges us to get free from this potential liability as quickly and urgently as a speedy gazelle or a bird who loves freedom rather than bondage. Don’t even rest your eyes until you are loosed from such an encumbrance. Now if this is true for potential liability, then how much more so ought to be the urgency of our release from the present liability of debt.
Proverbs 22:7 â€” “…the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” In applying this pivotal verse to a twentieth-century, western culture like the United States where physical slavery is not practiced, a borrower is still a “slave” to the lender in that, like a slave, he has become dependent on the lender; and also like a slave, he is no longer entirely free to do as he chooses. Gary North, in his book Honest Money, puts it this way: “God wants his people to be mobile. If a new opportunity to serve Him comes along, we are to be ‘ready to walk.’ If we are in debt, how can we walk into a lower-paying form of service? God wants us to be able to exercise dominion. If we are given an opportunity to start a new business or get a better education, how can we do this if we are tied to debt? We serve the lender primarily, not God” (p. 144). Debt also frequently makes us a mental and emotional slave to the lender.
But all that has been said thus far is from the Old Testament. What do Christ and the Apostles have to say about borrowing? Do they eliminate or do they verify the Old Testament debt principles? In Luke’s telling of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says the following about lending.
Luke 6:34-36 â€” “…love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” Jesus takes the Old Testament debt laws and applies them even more broadly. Under His Kingship, we are to lend our surplus not only to a Christian brother, but even to a needy enemy. And in addition to expecting no interest in return, we are to “expect nothing in return,” not even the principle if the man is truly unable to repay it. This idea is hinted all the way back in Proverbs 19:17 which says, “He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He (God) will repay him for his good deed.” In other words, the gain to the biblical lender is the blessing that comes from God. A few chapters later in Luke 16, our Lord verifies the slavery involved in borrowing. In a context of teaching about the burden of debt, we read the following familiar verse.
Luke 16:13 â€” “No servant can serve two mastersâ€¦. You cannot serve God and mammon.” You remember from Proverbs 22:7 how Solomon declared, “the borrower is servant to the lender.” In other words, the lender is the borrower’s master. Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters. We can’t serve both God and a pagan creditor because their values and priorities are opposite to each other. Do you think if God wants you to go serve Him on the mission field that your creditor is somehow going to cancel your debt to accommodate that? Of course not! His priority is for your interest payments to send him and his family to Hawaii for two weeks. Let me conclude our Scripture survey with the Apostle Paul’s brief references to debt which only reiterate what we have learned to this point.
Colossians 2:14 â€” In his allusion to Calvary, Paul says that Christ’s death on our behalf made full payment for our “certificate of debt,” that is, our record of sins that put us in debt to God. Here we see that the burden of debt is used as an analogy to teach about the burden of sin. Finally, we come to perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible about borrowing.
Romans 13:7-10 â€” “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” In the context of paying taxes and keeping the Ten Commandments, Paul commands the believer in the strongest possible way known in the Greek language, to literally “owe no man anything, no nothing at all.” The meaning is this: When you pay up all your dues, whether public taxes or private debts, then and only then are you most free to fulfill your debt of love toward one another, “to love your neighbor as yourself.” Friends, it can be shown time and again that when a Christian becomes indebted for reasons other than true poverty, it is generally because he doesn’t love his neighbor as himself. Then the debt enslaves him in regard to his time, his talents, and his energies so that he is no longer free to love and serve his neighbors. This is so obvious with men who must work overtime or a second job in order to pay their debts or, worse yet, send their wives out to work because of their debts. In both cases, the man’s closest neighbors â€” his own children â€” are being robbed of his love.
SEVEN BIBLICAL DEBT PRINCIPLES
Let’s review now the seven basic debt principles established in the Old Testament and confirmed in the New as God’s unchanging ethical rule.
(1) Borrowing is allowed only to sustain life (i.e., borrowing for basic food, clothing and shelter). This appears to be an application of the “higher law principle” in Scripture where a lesser law, the law against debt, is overruled by a higher law, the law of sustaining life. Professor Hebden Taylor agrees in his book Economics, Money and Banking: “Compared with the economic exploitation of the surrounding pagan civilizations of the ancient Near East, the biblical laws regarding debt stand out like a beacon in the night, calling God’s people to a true understanding ofâ€¦ freedom. According to God’s law, debt is only to be contracted in emergencies” (p. 54). But just how poor must a man be in order to borrow for the necessities of life? In Scripture there were two degrees of poverty described â€” poor and destitute. The poor man’s privation resulted in serious discomfort for him and his family â€” living, as they say, “from hand to mouth.” Worse yet, the destitute man’s poverty actually threatened life itself through starvation or exposure due to a lack of food or coverings (Deut. 24:12; 1Tim. 6:8). Either of these â€” poor or destitute â€” allowed for cautious borrowing. But who are the poor believers to borrow from?
(2) Borrowing is allowed only from a fellow believer. Because indebtedness puts a Christian in a position of subservience and vulnerability, he may borrow only from a fellow believer whose values and priorities are guided by Scripture. This, of course, implies that we who are blessed with a surplus must be willing to invest it in truly needy brothers, whose poverty is due to poor circumstances (such as injustice or calamity) rather than poor character (like laziness or frivolity). This demands a genuine “loving of your neighbor as yourself.” Why?
(3) Borrowing is allowed only at no interest. Believers are not to profit from a brother’s hardship and misery; this would be exploitation. Instead a real spirit of compassion and charity must motivate such a loan. A poor person who has to borrow for the basic necessities of life will have a difficult time paying back the debt itself, let alone any interest.
(4) Borrowing is allowed only for less than seven years. This law concerning the Sabbatical year allowed a periodic release from debts and slavery so that families could rebuild their lives without plunging deeper and deeper into poverty. It’s interesting that even our current bankruptcy laws permit a similar release once every seven years, though they may not follow Scripture in other ways.
(5) Borrowing is consistently linked with sin and slavery, and therefore is carefully regulated by the Word of God. Debt in Scripture is like divorce; it is not sanctioned by God but it is regulated to prevent further injury which would come through endless slavery. Though debt is always linked with sin, it may not be due to one’s personal sin but may be the result of oppression, fraud, war, disease or natural disaster. Still, in one way or another, debt is the product of sin, even if only the sin of Adam (the cause of natural disasters).
(6) Having a surplus to lend to the pagans is described as a blessing from God for obedience to His principles for living. Lending to unbelievers, either directly or indirectly through interest-bearing investments, is a God-given means of dominion in the earth. As Jesus explained in the Parable of the Talents, “you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest” (Matt. 25:27).
(7) Having to borrow from the pagans is described as a curse from God for disobedience (by someone, not always the borrower) to His principles for living. Debt was therefore one of the indicators of being outside of God’s moral will. The Old Testament prophets tell us that Israel violated God’s debt principles which, in part, led to her captivity (2 Chron. 36:21; Ezek. 22:12). And most Christians today are equally as guilty. But borrowing has not historically been the position of the church.
HISTORICAL VIEW OF DEBT
Although the church has always flirted with compromise â€” and the snare of debt is no exception â€” nevertheless, the most orthodox Christians throughout church history have kept God’s debt laws, while the more liberal have resorted to “legal fiction” as the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. Think of church history in three general eras: the Ancient Church (A.D. 30-600), the Medieval Church (A.D. 600-1550), and the Modern Church (A.D. 1550-present).
The Church Fathers and Councils of the Ancient Church spoke with clear unanimity on the prohibition of borrowing. Basil, Chrysostom, Clement, Tertullian, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine and others all spoke vigorously against debt. According to S. C. Mooney in Usury: Destroyer of Nations, the Council of Elvira (A.D. 300) characteristically stated: “If it is discovered that any of the clergy accepts interest on the loan of moneyâ€¦ he is to be degraded and fasting is to be imposed on him. If it is proved that someone, even a layman, has accepted interestâ€¦ if he persists in his wickedness, he is to be ejected from the church” (p. 35).
In the Medieval Church of A.D. 789, Charlemagne’s civil laws, the Capitularies, repeatedly prohibited the making of loans at interest: “that each and all are forbidden to give anything on usury” (Mooney, p. 40). Also typical of this period is the third Lateran Council of 1179 ordaining that “manifest usurers shall not be admitted to communion” (Mooney, p. 43).
Beginning the Modern era, the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 asked the question, “What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?” To which it answers, “Not only theft and robberyâ€¦ but also all wicked tricks and devicesâ€¦ such as unjust weights and usuryâ€¦.” Martin Luther likewise spoke against usury with an eloquence and outrage that rivaled the early church fathers. And though Calvin took a less conservative view, the English puritans and the Continental reformers were uncompromising on the subject of debt (Mooney, p. 50). Surely we are all familiar with Charles Spurgeon of the last century. Here is what he wrote in his treatise on debt:
He is both a fool and a rascal who has a quarter coming in, and on the strength of it spends five dollars which does not belong to him. â€¦Scripture says, “Owe no many anything,” which does not mean pay your debts, but never have any to pay. My opinion is, that those who break this law ought to be turned out of the Christian church.
Finally, C. H. Mackintosh in 1864 taught, “‘Owe no man anything’ is a precept so plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err thereinâ€¦ What right have I, before God and man, to wear a coat or hat not paid for? What right have I to order a ton of coal, a pound of tea, or a joint of meat, if I have not the money to pay for it? It may be said, what are we to do? The answer is plain to an upright mind and a tender conscience, we are to do without rather than go into debt.”
Even with such a passionate biblical and historical testimony against borrowing, men have still sought justification for their indebtedness, particularly since about 1950. At least seven popular excuses have arisen.
SEVEN POPULAR EXCUSES FOR DEBT
(1) “Debt freedom is simply a suggestion or guideline from Scripture, not a command or requirement.” To put it another way, biblical principles are merely God’s suggestions which we have liberty to ignore. This modern attitude that God’s principles are non-binding comes from a low and liberal view of the inspiration and authority of the Bible. When God breathed out His Word, He gave us His moral will which every Christ-loving believer should desire to do. And since God’s principles are the fundamental truths by which He has ordered His creation, they are applicable to all peoples in all cultures. The only permissible occasion for borrowing, God says, is an interest-free loan, from a fellow-believer, for basic food, clothing or shelter â€” that is, a case of true poverty, for less than seven years. And that’s not just a suggestion, it’s God’s moral will for His people.
(2) “Debt just means being past due in your payment of a loan. The loan itself isn’t a debt, it’s just a contract.” Surprisingly, this sounds like the sort of legal fiction by which the Pharisees circumvented the Scriptures. Word studies of the biblical terms for “debt, owe, borrow, lend and interest” â€” using the most scholarly lexicons of the Old and New Testaments â€” reveal that the words are crystal clear in their meanings. For example, the Old Testament Hebrew word translated borrow, lend and debt simply means “to have or to be a creditor.” The same is true in the Greek New Testament. Another Hebrew word for borrow and lend means “to be joined to another,” like a husband and wife, signifying the unbiblical partnership that exists when debt is incurred from unbelievers. And the Hebrew term for interest literally means “to bite as a serpent,” illustrating the fatal consequences of debt. No, redefining debt won’t make it go away. If you have a creditor or lender, then biblically you are in debt.
(3) “Jesus commands us to lend (Luke 6:34-35), which proves that borrowing is not wrong. What’s condemned in Scripture isn’t borrowing, but not paying back what you owe (Psalm 37:21).” This defense of borrowing is only a half-truth. What is overlooked are the debt principles that describe when it’s right to lend and borrow, namely, only for true poverty, only from a fellow-believer, only at no interest, and only for less than seven years. Without these biblical boundaries, borrowing plainly oversteps the moral will of God.
(4) “Since voluntary slavery was permitted in extreme cases, then debt may likewise be permitted in extreme cases.” Frankly, we would agree with this logic as far as it goes. But what are the extreme cases for which slavery was permitted? And what are the extreme cases for which debt was permitted? The Scriptures tell us plainly that voluntary slavery in Bible times was entered into only because of unpaid debt. And voluntary debt was entered into only because of true poverty, only from a fellow-believer, only at no interest, and only for less than seven years. So, yes, voluntary debt may be incurred, but only under these four biblical parameters.
(5) “Appreciating items are always worth more than the loan, so it’s not really a debt, it’s an investment.” This excuse is neither biblically true nor practically true. First, the Scriptures nowhere differentiate between “appreciating” items and “depreciating” items. In fact, one of the commodities a poor man could borrow for was necessary food. And what could be more depreciating than food once it’s been eaten! But secondly, the reason Scripture doesn’t distinguish between appreciating and depreciating items is because the value of a product always depends upon supply and demand. Houses, which historically have increased in value, have shown significant losses at various times in history. If you bought your house at market value in the mid-eighties, you probably still haven’t regained its purchase price because of the market collapse in the late eighties. There are no guarantees that anything will consistently appreciate in value.
(6) “Biblical debt laws apply only to personal loans, not business loans.” Yet Scripture at no point even hints at such a classification of loans. In reality, the charitable vs. commercial concept originated with the New Testament Pharisees. George Horowitz in Spirit of the Jewish Law explains: “The Rabbis were well aware of the distinction between a [biblical] loan and commercial financing. Yetâ€¦ only by resort to legal fiction was it possible to develop lawful modes of paying for the hire of moneyâ€¦.” (p. 487).
(7) “A home mortgage is cheaper than renting, and thus it is good stewardship which God commands.” But stewardship is only “good” by God’s definition of good. It must be confined to what is biblically permissible. We may be able to secure cheaper housing through a variety of means â€” theft, deception, extortion â€” but these would be morally prohibited. Yes, we would have cheaper housing, but God would be dishonored by our wrongful method. The end (stewardship) never justifies the means (debt).
Stripped of all our excuses, we may think, “My situation is impossible â€” it’s just too late for me to escape the debt trap.” Yes, avoiding debt to begin with is much easier than digging out of deep financial bondage. But take courage. God promises us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man [and what is more common today than debt]; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” In just a moment we’ll speak more directly about that “way of escape” from debt. But to encourage you a bit more, consider these seven unique benefits of debt-free living.
SEVEN UNIQUE BENEFITS OF DEBT-FREE LIVING
First, debt-free living will give you unparalleled freedom, flexibility and fulfillment. Freedom from the mental, emotional and physical toil that prospers your banker’s family at the expense of your own. Flexibility to embrace new opportunities, and fulfillment in making new contributions to Christ and your family.
Second, debt-free living will conserve your resources and encourage your resourcefulness. Most people who borrow do not comprehend the final price tag of using someone else’s money. It has been figured that 85 percent of the cost of a $100,000 home is consumed by interest: interest paid by the lumber jacks, the lumber mill, the lumber yard, the builder, the plumber, the electrician, and so on. That means the actual cost of a $100,000 house, apart from interest, is only $15,000. And that’s before you even buy it! Now add another $200,000 in mortgage interest over 30 years and you’ll see how debt-free living will conserve your resources and encourage your resourcefulness.
Third, debt-free living will give you deeper marital unity and intimacy. Counselors tell us that strained finances are the cause of at least 50 percent of marriage problems and are a major factor in divorce, even among Christians. But what unbroken harmony comes to the home that is debt-free.
Fourth, debt-free living will give you regret-free parenting. Fathers, ask yourself: Are you satisfied with your personal discipleship of your sons and daughters? Are you sure you will have no regrets over their future? Your family needs not more possessions, they need more of you. Every dollar you spend in interest payments takes a certain number of minutes of your time to earn it, time away from your family, time intended by God to disciple your sons and daughters.
Fifth, debt-free living will give you greater confidence in the future. Taking on debt, of course, presumes upon the future. It assumes that future conditions will allow us to repay our debts. Yet Solomon warns us in Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Parents, we live in perilous times. The potential calamity of Y2K is on the horizon, and economic collapse could occur even before the year 2000. The first and foremost precaution of financial counselors is to get out of debt now in order to have greater confidence in the future. Mortgage elimination now may assure your family essential shelter in hard times.
Sixth, debt-free living will give you increased contentment and trust in God’s provision. Paul exhorts in 1 Timothy 6:8, “If we have food and coverings, with these we shall be content.” But because of discontentment with God’s provision, we borrow for things that God, in His mercy and wisdom, knows are harmful to us or not the right time for us. God limits our funds to protect us and to increase our faith, while Satan tempts us to borrow and make an end run around God’s will.
Seventh, debt-free living will give you an unblemished testimony. When we borrow, we are saying to our family, our relatives and our friends, “God is not taking care of my family’s needs, so I have to make up the difference with a loan.” Yet God has promised to provide for the needs of His children. Paul declared, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). And when the world sees this, Moses told Israel, “then all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord” (Deut. 28:9-11).
Now, if you are interested in obeying God’s principles for debt-free living and gaining these seven unique benefits, then let’s talk about that “way of escape” which God speaks of in 1 Corinthians 10:13. Let me begin by recommending to you the many practical Christian books on becoming debt free. Check out your Christian bookstore for specific titles on this topic. In addition to these practical books, here are my own seven essential steps for becoming debt free.
SEVEN ESSENTIAL STEPS FOR BECOMING DEBT FREE
First, transformation begins with a heart committed to Jesus Christ and a mind convicted by God’s Word. Your highest purpose in becoming debt-free must be to please Jesus Christ above all else. And you must be fully convinced from Scripture that debt-freedom is what pleases Him.
Second, discipline is the key to godliness for all areas of life, but particularly for debt-freedom. That’s why Solomon warned in Proverbs 13:18, “Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline.” Remember the Greek word “gymnazo,” the daily, sustained practice of an athlete? That’s what debt-freedom takes, saying yes to God and no to self, no matter how you feel at the time, until the old desires and patterns of debt have been replaced by the new practice of debt-free living. Be prepared for some “spiritual sweating.”
Third, debt-freedom is achieved in conjunction with the other economic disciplines: a biblical work ethic, careful time stewardship, and wise spending. You will have only marginal success in debt-freedom if you are not equally committed to working hard, to a disciplined use of time, and to restrained and researched spending.
Fourth, develop and carry out a rapid debt repayment plan; and don’t incur any further debt for anything. Your repayment plan may include selling your house and downsizing, selling other possessions or simply an austere repayment schedule. The best plan I have seen aims at paying off the smallest debt first, then uses that surplus to pay off the next-smallest debt and so on until all debts are repaid.
Fifth, learn to live within your means â€” with no debt whatsoever. Contentment is the key here, learning to live more simply and to enjoy it. An ancient poet said it well, “Sell not your liberty to gratify your luxury.”
Sixth, practice consistent giving and saving â€” even if these are reduced until you are debt-free. If we forget our giving to God, then we have missed our ultimate goal in becoming debt-free, namely, to please Christ above all else. And if we overlook saving â€” even just a small amount each week â€” then when unexpected expenses come along, we will be plunged back into more debt.
Seventh, when the curse of borrowing from the pagans (Deut. 28) is forced upon you because prosperous Christians wonâ€™t lend interest-free to needy brethren, then at least follow as many of the debt principles as you are able. Donâ€™t yield any more ground than your circumstances require. Maintain debt only in cases of true poverty when there are no other alternatives whatsoever. Then begin turning things around today, and work at it every day. The writer to the Hebrews (3:15) says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Faith and obedience have only one direction, and that is forward.
Christian fathers, it is time for all true patriarchs to protect their families from the ravenous beast of debt and to put him back in his cage so that we and our wives and our children can once again exercise the freedom that is our birthright in Christ. How? David answers in Psalm 119:45, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” We can become men of freedom only by first becoming men of principle.