One day a preacher was in his study having his devotions. While he was praying, he asked God a question. He asked, “God, how long is 10 million years to you?” God replied, “1 second.” The next day the preacher asked God, “God, how much is 10 million dollars to you?” And God replied, “A penny.” Then finally the next day the preacher asked God, “God, can I have one of your pennies?” And God replied,
“Sure, just a second.”
When it comes to your finances, no one knows how to better deal with them than God. Last week I shared some of what the Bible says about debt and what our attitude should be towards it. This week I want to begin sharing some practical steps for how you can slay the dragon of debt in your life (I’ll finish next week). God may not give you 10 million dollars, but He has given you some very clear principles for getting out of debt and living in financial freedom. Now please understand, just like losing weight, it’s going to take some hard work and like running a marathon you have to take it one step at a time. But if you will put these Biblical principles into practice, trust me, you will begin to see it “pay off” (literally).
Step 1: Repent.
Most financial freedom advice is going to start with some form of positive thinking or “You can do it” life-coaching advice. But the Bible tells us that if you’ve been a poor steward that has wasted God’s money it’s not simply risky or unhealthy behavior, it’s sin. And the first step to dealing with any sin is to repent. God has entrusted you with money and material goods to provide for your needs, to provide for the needs of others, and ultimately for building His kingdom, not your own. In Matthew 25, Jesus told the Parable of the Talents in which he condemns the “wicked” and “lazy” servant who failed to take care of his master’s money. If you’ve been like the prodigal son who “squandered his estate” and find yourself buried under a mountain of debt – then the first step just like the prodigal, is to confess “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight…”
Step 2: Understand Biblical Stewardship.
I’ve alluded to this already, but in case you missed it, let me ask: you know all that stuff you own? Well, the truth is you don’t actually own it. God does. In fact, He is simply loaning it to you (interest free might I add). He’s entrusted it to you to watch over, invest, and use wisely for Him. Like a servant who has been put in charge of watching over his master’s things, before spending a single penny we should ask ourselves, “Does my Master want me to spend this money?” (FYI: This isn’t just true of money, but it’s also true of your stuff, spouse, and kids as well.) Practice Biblical stewardship – not ownership.
Step 3: Stop unnecessary or frivolous spending.
In Romans 13:14 God reminds us of the way to avoid sin is to,
“make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts”.
Here’s what that means in real life terms. If I am tempted to eat ice cream without self-control (which is true at times) then how do I stop? Answer, I don’t keep ice cream in the freezer at home, I don’t stop at Baskin Robbins, and I don’t even walk down the frozen food aisle (alone) at the grocery store. It’s a no-brainer, but in the end it’s a fool-proof plan.
When it comes to applying this principle to finances this may mean avoiding those tempting stores in the mall, shopping with an accountability partner, or even cutting up the old credit card. Trust me – you won’t look at internet porn if you don’t get online nor will you run up debts if you take away the means of temptations for foolish and unnecessary spending. By doing this you will be giving the Holy Spirit a fighting chance to cause the fruit of “self control” to bloom in this area of your life.
Step 4. Make a plan to pay it off (and stick with it!)
This is more practical wisdom than anything else. Proverbs 21:5 reads
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.”
The way you got into debt was through “hasty” spending, the way you get out of it is through “diligent” planning. The old saying goes, “you don’t go to war unless you make certain you will win.” So put a winning plan in place. This may mean establishing a budget, an envelope system, or a cash-only lifestyle. Be sure you spend less than you take in. And make sure your plan includes a realistic strategy to pay off the debt. Start with the smallest debt. Focus your strategy on that and tackle it first. Before you know it freedom will be just around the corner. Next week I’ll share my final steps on slaying the dragon of debt in your life.