Two lawyers are standing in line at a bank. (Don’t you just love lawyer jokes? Anyways…) Suddenly, armed robbers burst in yelling and brandishing their weapons. While several of the robbers take the money from the tellers, the other thieves line the customers, including the two lawyers, up against a wall. They proceed to make everyone empty their pockets and purses as they take their wallets, watches, and valuables. While this is going on, lawyer number one quickly and discreetly jams something into lawyer number two’s pocket. Without looking down, lawyer number two whispers, “What’s this?” To which lawyer number one replies…
“It’s that $250 I owe you.”
When it comes to handling our money, our country, it seems, is about as successful as a porcupine making balloon animals. Whether it’s government, families, or individuals, spending money seems to be one of our national pastimes.
Consider a few stats. It’s estimated that currently in the U.S.A.:
…The average home carries over $6,000 in credit card debt,
…The average family has 10+ credit payment cards (e.g. Lowe’s, Penney’s,
Visa, Discover, etc.),
…Credit card purchases are made at a rate of 112% higher than if using cash,
…And 43% of all homes spend more money than they earn.
Unfortunately, for some of you these alarming statistics may be a depressing reality. You wake up every morning with the “money-monkey” on your back and it feels like he’s slowly turning into an angry gorilla. You’ve dug yourself a ditch of debt and it seems like you’ll never get out.
Debt can easily become a heavy burden which eventually enslaves people as quickly and as badly as alcohol or even drug use. In fact, money troubles ruin as many, if not more, marriages than do these. And what’s most deceiving is that being enslaved to money troubles has a much less social stigma. No one wants to be known as asloppy drunk or a senseless drug addict, but there are plenty of people, it seems, who do like having a reputation of appearing wealthy and being well-off (even if it means going into debt). Our culture almost promotes debt and fiscal irresponsibility by our other favorite national pastime: keeping up with the Joneses.
In the Minor Prophet book of Habakkuk, God makes a statement about debt that caught my attention this week. He gives a strong warning that, considering the statistics, America desperately needs to listen to. God says,
“Woe to him who increase what is not his…and makes himself rich with loans.”
In other words wealth, status, and material goods acquired from personal loans and credit card debt are merely a mirage of wealth. He goes on to ask,
“Will not your creditors rise up suddenly, and those who collect from you awaken?”
In other words, it may be fun to run up the old credit card, but rest assured it will eventually catch up to you. In fact Proverbs 22:7 says that the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Now there are some who believe that Christians should never borrow any money at any time whatsoever. But the Bible does not categorically prohibit borrowing money or even using a credit card. In fact, God made ample provisions in the Mosaic law by which people could loan money and repay their debts. (There were, however, strict OT guidelines related to the amount of interest that could be charged.) In the New Testament, as John MacArthur points out, “Jesus gives tacit approval of borrowing and even commands potential lenders” when He said,
“Give to him who asks of you and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matt. 5:42)
Jesus even positively used parables about borrowers, lenders, and interest on several occasions. But God never makes allowances for buying frivolous, unnecessary luxuries that we can’t afford. In fact God is unwaveringly firm that what we do owe, we should pay it off on time and in full. It’s this financial principle of good stewardship that flows out of Paul’s admonition in Romans 13:7,
“owe nothing to anyone”.
God takes debt very seriously. In fact that’s why Jesus died. You and I owed an infinite debt that we couldn’t pay. And God, as a just Judge, required that the infinite penalty be paid on time and in full. That’s why Jesus’ death is the only thing that can save you. He paid your debt– and as believers we should seek to do the same. So, what can we do about financial debt? Well, next Sunday in my “Word from the Pastor”, I’m going to share some sound, Biblical and practical steps to slaying the dragon of debt in your life. Until then, remember this: from God’s perspective, how you spend your money is an important part of your witness for Christ and being fiscally irresponsible is no laughing matter.