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The Burden of Debt

February 25th, 2015

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the debt to love one another.” Romans 13:8 NIV.

Love prompts more love just as debt provokes more debt.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the burden of debt.”

A father gave his son this advice, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” (Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602). That is sound advice still today. Debt has become a way of life. National economies depend upon increasing consumption, continually persuading and pressuring people that debt is a small price for gratification. You can resist; and you should. It’s simple really, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 NIV.

Marketing feeds the appetite for more, and newer, and bigger, and better, therefore more expensive. Actually, your needs are not more but your wants are. Credit cards have made debt difficult to resist, motivating the consumer economy and growing a staggering personal indebtedness. Debt can be described as, “Buying things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people who don’t care.” Debt merely begets more debt, adding more worry from a growing weight of debt.

I grew up in a modest but comfortable, mid-western family. We never had too much, but we never seemed to have too little either. I was taught that what you earn and all you have comes from God through His blessing on your honest labor. See James 1:17. Therefore, the first portion is given back to God as a tithe, in recognition of His benevolence and in obedience for His continued blessing. Read Malachi 3:10-12. After that, everything you have is a matter of stewardship, not ownership. 1 Corinthians 4:2.

From my Dad, I learned a useful, financial principle. “Never spend all that you earn, and you will always have something extra when needed.” That became a rule of personal economy that I still follow today. Most importantly, that works. Life is simpler; worries are less; greater freedom is enjoyed. Debt results from trying to provide for yourself what God has not yet made available.

The Bible says, “Give everyone what you owe him . . Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law . . whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor.” Romans 13:7-10 NIV. That verse seems an unusual pairing of financial debt and a loving lifestyle, teaching that financial debt is not advisable; relational debt is not avoidable. One you are told to avoid; the other you are taught to fulfill. Here’s how I think they relate and differ. Both are responsibilities to which you obligate yourself. Financial debt is about you and your wants; relational debt is about others and their needs.

Financial debt preoccupies you more with yourself and with less thought and available means to serve others. Financial debt concerns you with satisfying your wants, paying your bills, while absorbing any extra. Relational debt redirects you toward others, giving instead of getting, meeting their needs before your wants, and sharing the good you have received. Love prompts more love just as debt provokes more debt. God’s way is always the right way.

Today, my prayer for you is that you realize that debt trades the ultimate for the more immediate.

P.S. Yes, the above comments were previously posted. In upgrading the website this week, this devotional, “The Burden of Debt,” was inadvertently deleted from the archives, and had to be re-sent in order to be included in the archives with other previous EDL postings.  Thank you for your understanding . . Christian Communications, Inc

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Economic Uncertainty

November 26th, 2012

Economic Uncertainty

Government is not the solution to economic uncertainty; God is.

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances.” Philippians 4:11 NAS

Economic uncertainty seems the rule and not the exception presently. Each day’s news is filled with more bad news than good as it pertains to finances, whether on the global, national, local, or personal levels. Everyone suggests a different solution; no one solution seems effective. While political parties exonerate themselves while caustically blaming one another, the economic problems stubbornly grow more ugly and personal, and individual families suffer the consequence. Unemployment is not a percentage; it’s people. Our nation, like many other nations, faces economic challenges bigger than borrowing and spending can solve. See Proverbs 22:7 NIV. Nationally, this is not the first time, maybe not even the worst. Ask your grandparents or great grandparents.

Individually is a good place to begin, rather than nationally or internationally. I would first suggest that government is not the problem; you and I are – our incessant wants, insatiable appetites for more, sense of entitlement, and unrealistic expectation all that will be at another’s expense. The origin of the current economic uncertainty is first moral and spiritual, only then financial. As citizens, we have allowed the government to tax unfairly, spend unwisely, borrow indiscriminately, and grant government favors at public expense. But we are the government, by means of duly elected and appointed leaders. In the closing words of his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln vowed, “. . that Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” 1863. Of, by, and for the people remains the guiding principle upon which any government governs.

Likewise, the government is not the solution; God is. The problem of resolving personal economic uncertainty begins with each individual. The Bible’s counsel is this: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9 NASV.

No one in today’s increasingly secular, materialistic society can avoid financial anxiety or be naturally content. Incessant advertising and irresistible marketing subtly erodes contentment. There is good news. Like Paul, you can say, “. . I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Philippians 4:11-12 NASV.

My Dad taught me simple, practical principles of money management, “Work hard. Remember, God is your Source. Tithe first. Never spend all you earn. Save some. Spend wisely.” That’s Biblical economics, wise stewardship, and sound money management. Hebrews 13:5 NIV/2 Corinthians 9:6-11 NKJV. And tithing, giving, and generosity are what God honors and rewards. See Malachi 3:10-12 NIV/Luke 6:38/Acts 20:33-35 NIV. Be certain of this truth, “My God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you know the provision and blessing of God on all.

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Spending and Investing

August 3rd, 2012

“I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15 NKJV

Prize life only as invested meaningfully in service to God and others.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spending and investing.”

There are a few people who would not give a moment of their time that was not convenient, nor a nickel that wasn’t required of them. They may have more time and things than they otherwise would, but they will have a lot fewer real friends. I was recently with a friend who is exceptional in his generosity. He is generous with what he has, but even more importantly, he is generous with who he is. When I grow up, I want to be just like him!

But therein lies the problem. Most of us never grow up in this grace, because generosity appears costly. Too late in life we learn it is the lack of generosity that is really expensive. Solomon wisely observed, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV. Saving yourself for your own benefit doesn’t work out so well.

Listen to Paul’s words, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2 Corinthians 12:15 NKJV. Prize life only as invested meaningfully in service to God and others. What you spend is gone; what you invest returns. I have not regretted any investment of myself in the Kingdom of God or into the lives of others. I notice a small but significant distinction in Paul’s words. There are occasions when you simply choose to live liberally – “very gladly spend” – but there are also times when necessity dictates sacrifice for the benefit of others – “be spent.” Paul spoke of experiences when “necessity is laid upon me” to preach the Gospel. Read 1 Corinthians 9:16 NKJV. Making a difference is the greatest joy in life.

The Apostle Paul understood the spiritual virtue of self-denial. “I do not count my life dear to myself.” Acts 20:24. Paul did not discount the importance of his life; he lived life and loved life to its fullest potential. His life was dear only within the purposes of God. There is a principal of self-denial here that is applicable to everyday life. Self-denial is not top of the list of desired lifestyles.

Self-denial embraces sacrifice without regard to price or personal cost. Self-denial prefers others before self. Romans 12:10. Self-denial seeks the interests of others before your own. Philippians 2:4. Self-denial does what is right instead of wrong. James 4:17. Self-denial may well be the defining mark of a true disciple. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up His cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:24.

In the Old Testament, Jacob could be a case study of the need for this humbling work of the Holy Spirit in one’s heart. See Genesis 25-33. Jacob lived by his wits – manipulating, deceiving, and negotiating for his gain. You didn’t strike a fair bargain with Jacob; you settled for his leftovers. It was a lifestyle, until he wrestled with an angel. What he had once gotten by guile from his brother and father, he now sought by insistence from God. Genesis 32:24-31. “[An angel] touched the socket of Jacob’s hip . . [Jacob said] ‘I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’ . . and he limped on his hip.” Genesis 32:25/30-31. You will walk differently after an encounter with God like that.

My prayer for you today is that you learn when first place is not the best place.

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Wants and Needs

August 12th, 2010

“God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches.” Philippians 4:19 NIV

“The wise do not spend before they earn, or more than they earn, nor all they earn.”

My thoughts today are about “wants and needs.”

It’s not a pleasant thing to have less than you feel you need. The problem is that too often your own estimation of how much you need is cushioned on the side of having extra. In general, we all want more than we probably need. It seems so obvious, but let me state my position clearly: the Bible does not promise that God will supply all your wants; God does promise that He will meet all your needs. Wants do not determine need. “God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV.

God’s promise is not a license for you to put yourself in need from excessive spending or improper stewardship, and then bring your voluntarily assumed obligations to God for payment. Of course, you cannot knowingly get yourself in debt unwisely and then expect that God provide what you lack. The promise to meet your need applies to the necessities of everyday life, not the niceties. Necessities are food, drink, clothing, and shelter. Jesus said, ”So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing . . Your Heavenly father already knows all your needs.” Matthew 6:25-33 NLT.

Let’s consider excessive spending. Easy credit has put more people in financial jeopardy than any other single thing. It is not the borrower who benefits from credit; it’s the lender. Solomon wisely wrote, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 NIV. It is simple practical wisdom that you cannot spend more than you have without getting into trouble.

God has a promise to Israel and a goal for you: ”The Lord will bless you . . you will lend money to many nations, but you will have no need to borrow from any; you will have control over many nations, but no nation will have control over you.” Deuteronomy 15:6 NLT. Borrowing forfeits control to someone other than God. Having no need to borrow; that’s God’s hope for you.

Credit is fueled by financial impatience to have what you want, the seed of which is often a lack of trust in God to know what you truly need and provide it when you need it. People often have the process reversed, bringing to God the needs they have created, when God wants to bring to you what you need. And then people wonder why the promise doesn’t work the way they wish it would.

My Dad quoted to me what became a basic, financial understanding for a young teen, “If your outgo is more than your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall.” I do not assume that was original to him, but it was how he lived and taught me to live. I’m the better for it.

Stewardship has four dimensions to balance: earning, spending, saving, and giving. Care for the first two properly, then saving and giving are much easier to do; fail the first and the others are less possible. The wise do not spend before they earn, or more than they earn, nor all that they earn. That is how God meets your needs, and provides you the extra for saving – to bless you family’s future, and giving – to the Kingdom of God, and others. See Proverbs 11:24-26 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you trust God to provide all you need.

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