Hundreds of thousands of people today are going to wake up to the heavy burden of debt. It is tempting to believe that paychecks, budgets, and investments begin with the debt solution and the path to financial freedom. It’s wise to educate yourself about money, and a budget can be helpful in practice, but it can’t be our starting point. That would be like teaching a little boy to kick a soccer ball but not helping him understand the game’s fundamental purpose, rules, and fundamentals.
Solving personal debt by talking about money alone is both impossible and dangerous. Like any other issue in our lives, debt must be rooted in a worldview that is clearly biblical. We need to allow Jesus Christ’s gospel to correct our debt assumptions and shape our expenditure. Otherwise, in the way we understand money, avoid debt, and use our finances to bring glory to God, we will not be able to gain ground.
Debt and Surrender
Addressing the debt issue does not start with money education and information on the budget; it starts with surrender. You and I will never use money the way it was intended to be used, and if we do not live in the light of the fact that life is not about us, we will never break disastrous money habits.
We are God’s creation, we reflect His design, we exist for His purpose, and we are commanded to do His will. You and I were not designed to find our own way when it comes to money, to make it up as we go along, or to write our own set of rules.
The world was not created to be a vehicle for our personal definition of happiness to be realized. Money was not created solely to bring all the things we crave into our lives. If we don’t start with surrender, we will use money in a way that God never intended, even if we’re not in debt.
Perhaps this way many of us have more problems with money than we realize. We think we’re all right because we can pay for our pleasures. But we’re not all right, because what matters is a spirit of ownership rather than a spirit of surrender that shapes our money. The first step in financial health is to surrender to the one greater than you.
Debt and Contentment
Debt is not essentially a problem of over-spending; it is a problem of contentment. If you read the following words from Apostle Paul to Timothy carefully, you begin to get a clue that the love of money is connected to things that are considerably greater than money: Godliness with contentment is a great gain, because we have brought nothing into the world, and we can not take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothes, we’ll be happy with them. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a snare, many meaningless and harmful desires that plunge people into destruction and ruin. For money love is a root of evil of all kinds. It is through this desire that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10) Paul begins his discussion with pleasure because these are the roots of our money problems. Only when the grace of God has formed truly contented hearts in us, can we live financially restrained lives, not following the rabbit trail of every selfish desire our wallets can afford.
Do not misunderstand. Investing in a family home or feeding your kids well or taking a week-long sabbath with your loved ones is not wrong. God is calling many of us in love to do these things. I’m trying to get you to look at how much unhappiness you’re spending your money on.
When my heart is committed to and satisfied with God’s glory, my heart is content, and thus I am liberated from the debt-inducing tyranny of hoping that the next big purchase will finally make me happy. Spending on the pursuit of personal happiness never leads to lasting happiness; it only leads to the acquisition of debt and all the emotional and spiritual stress it entails.
Debt & Gospel Hope
I write this not only for you, but for me as well. I don’t have a credit card, but my heart is still looking for life where it can’t be found. I’m still too attracted to things I don’t need. I am far too able to justify expenditure that should never have been incurred. And these things I struggle with because I still live with too much loyalty to the kingdom of myself.
That’s why I’m so close to Jesus Christ’s gospel. The grace of God carries a message of new beginnings and new beginnings with it. Getters can be givers. Controllers can surrender lives. We can get out of debt. God’s grace opens the door for every one of us to a whole new relationship with money, not because we are good and deserve it, but because God is so good, and he offers us the powerful grace.
God’s grace offers us the only hope of real change as far as our personal finances are concerned. There is no debt mountain so large that the grace of God is not greater. There is no pit so deep in the money-problem that the grace of God is not deeper.
We don’t have to panic, we don’t have to be paralyzed by fear, we don’t have to deny reality to get some peace, we don’t have to relieve our consciences by shifting the blame, and we don’t have to give up hope cynically. We can face our money problems with hope not because we are wise or capable, but because God is, and He offers us His grace to forgive, rescue, and transform