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It is amazing to me how relevant the Word of God remains. It is every bit as powerful and on target as it was the day it was written. The world around us can make finances seem complicated, and the thought of bringing them under submission to God’s will can seem daunting. The truth is when we view them through the lens of God’s Word, they are quite simple.
The more we strive to live our lives as Jesus lived His, the more we realize that it is completely against His will and what He stood for to live life weighted down. Debt is a heavy burden to bear that creates untold stress and unnecessary worry. It wreaks havoc and causes strain in marital relationships and is a constant drain on one’s nerves and emotional state. Living indebted feels like being shackled to a ball and chain. Debt is a cruel, relentless taskmaster, and God never intended that His children live enslaved to such. His Word is very clear and has much to say about debt.
“Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 (KJV)
“For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as He promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow, and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.” Deuteronomy 15:6 (KJV)
“The LORD shall open unto thee His good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.” Deuteronomy 28:12 (KJV)
“The rich ruleth over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 (KJV)
We have all made bad choices, bought more than we should have or intended to, and fell into the credit trap. Wherever you find yourself, debt-wise, there is hope, my friend, and there is help to be found in God’s Word. Jesus came to give us deliverance from all forms of bondage, and that includes the area of indebtedness.
Here are Biblical steps to reach freedom from debt.
1. Face the truth.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 (CSB)
The path to any type of freedom begins with the single courageous step of acknowledging what is true. The first step to recovering from indebtedness is to figure out how much you owe. Until you do that, you will more than likely never make any changes to your spending habits and the way you handle your finances. In order to accurately assess your situation, you will need to be completely honest—with yourself, with your spouse and family, and with God. As cringe-worthy as your plight may be, face it head-on. Own what is real, and embrace it. It is extremely liberating to overcome the hurdle of finding and facing the truth.
2. Forgive yourself.
“He will not always chide: neither will He keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Psalm 103:9-10 (KJV)
Stop beating yourself up. What’s done is done. You cannot do one single thing about changing the outcome of where you are right now. Learn from what you regret, and move forward. Punishing yourself and living in a state of remorse won’t undo a thing. God forgives, shouldn’t you?
3. Stop borrowing.
“Don’t be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans. If you have nothing with which to pay, even your bed will be taken from under you.” Proverbs 22:26-27 (CSB)
The third step to debt recovery is to stop incurring more debt. God does not need a credit card to supply your needs, nor would He ever require you to do something that would cause disobedience to His Word. It is not His will that you incur more debt even in this “give it to me now,” “buy now, pay later” age of time.
Jesus even mentioned debts when He taught His disciples how to pray. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12 (KJV)
He would never instruct us to ask our Father in Heaven to forgive us for something, then ask us to turn around and repeat the same offense.
This can seem like a hard truth to swallow, when it comes to making larger purchases, such as a home or an automobile. In today’s world, to even imagine or suggest that someone not go into a mortgage or car loan debt seems preposterous. But, what if we all only purchased what we could actually afford to pay for with cash?
There is no shame in renting someone else’s property instead of owning our own if it means avoiding the pitfall and bondage of long-term debt. Laden with debt, we do not really “own” something anyway. What if we lowered our standard of living down to the size of home we actually need, instead of trying to conform to the world’s standards and dictations of what is necessary? The truth is that we need very little in order to not only survive but to thrive.
A big part of refusing to buy things on credit and not incurring more debt has to do with contentment. Contentment is something that has to be learned. It is not a trait with which we are inherently born. The Apostle Paul said, “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: everywhere 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.” Philippians 4:11-13
If buying something requires going into debt, the bondage that ensues is just plain not worth it and is counter-productive to the calm of minimal living.
Things that are worth having are worth waiting for until they can be purchased with cash. Waiting on God’s timing for provision produces the sweet fruit of patience, and there is so much rest that comes from thanking God for what we have and trusting Him for what we need.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” I Timothy 6:6-8 (KJV)
4. Sell What You Have to Pay What You Owe.
In 2 Kings 4:1-7, we find a remarkable story. A widow came to Elisha and told him that her husband had died. Upon his death, she was left with unpaid debt, and, as a result, the creditor was threatening to take her two sons as slaves. Elisha responded, “Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
Selling what we have to pay what we owe is such a simple solution to indebtedness. Though it is radical and 100% counter-cultural, it makes perfect sense. Where can we look with confidence to find such obvious clarity? To God’s Word, of course.
Living in a house we cannot afford, driving cars that require us to keep our noses to the grindstone, having to use credit cards to finance a lifestyle far beyond our means just so we can impress others and fit into someone else’s “mold”—these are the things that do not make sense. It all boils down to one question—what do you want most? To be debt-free or to hold on to what you “own?”
The woman could have clung to her olive oil and it would have prevented God from working a Divine-intervention miracle of such magnitude that it is still inspiring faith to this day.
God is able to take what we have and multiply it into what we need if we will take Him at His word and walk in obedience to Him, regardless of how absurd or radical it seems. He takes the insignificant and insufficient and turns it into overflow and abundance.
Where do you find yourself, my friend? Does your situation seem impossible? Perhaps you owe more than your assets are worth and liquidating them would not produce enough to cover the entirety of your indebtedness. Any elimination of debt is a good thing, even if you aren’t able to wipe the slate completely clean with one swipe. Don’t lose hope. Focus on what God can do, not on your circumstances.
He took a small jar of olive oil and kept multiplying it until it produced enough oil to not only pay off every, single one of the widow’s debts, but there was enough surplus to provide a livelihood for her and her sons. (2 Kings 4:1-7)
He took a little boy’s lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish and not only fed over 5,000 people, but there was enough left over to fill a basket for each of the twelve disciples. (John 6:4-13)
He took one smooth stone in the hand of little David and killed a giant over nine feet tall. (I Samuel 17:20-51)
He took a handful of flour and a little oil and stretched it to feed and sustain Elijah, a widow, and her son throughout the duration of a drought. (I Kings 17:8-16)
He took a jawbone of a donkey in the hand of Samson and killed 1,000 of his enemies. (Judges 15:11-15)
He took a cloud the size of a man’s hand and produced not just a small downpour but an abundance of rain. (I Kings 18:41-45)
He took a tiny newborn baby boy born in the lowliest of settings and made Him the Savior of the whole world. (Luke 2:1-20 & John 19:1-34)
Let Him lead the way, and be pliable and willing to take His path to freedom, even if it is not your preferred way out of debt.
It is absolutely God’s will that we repay our indebtedness. He wants us to walk free and unencumbered. Yes, it is a lofty goal but if we follow our Example and are willing to take the humble road He trod, we will find the complete liberation that living a life of self-denial affords. Nothing in this world could ever bring such peace.