Issues of Christian Stewardship
A series of talks given to Christian Community Church in Murray, KY
by Scott Thile as inspired by the writing of Randy Alcorn of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM) http://www.epm.org
"Their property held them in chains . . . chains which shackled their courage and choked their faith and hampered their judgment and throttled their souls. They think of themselves as owners, whereas it is they rather who are owned: enslaved as they are to their own property, they are not the masters of their money but its slaves." Cyprian, 300 A.D.
The Debt Mentality involves:
- Believing you need more than God has given you the means to have.
- Believing God doesn't know best what your needs are.
- Believing God has failed to provide for your needs, forcing you to take matters into your hands.
- Presuming upon God that just because today's income may be sufficient to make debt payments, so will tomorrow's.
- It's one thing to trust God to provide for our present needs (Matthew 6:33). It is another to presume upon him by dictating (via choosing to go into debt) the demand for, amount of and necessary duration of his future provision
Self-Examining Questions About Debt
1. Is debt my way of getting around depending on God? (Why trust God to provide when I can just go get a loan?)
2. Is debt my means of short-circuiting the God-created means of acquisition-including work, saving, planning, self-discipline, patience and waiting for divine provision?
3. What statement do I make to God when instead of living on what he's provided I insist on going beyond it? What am I saying about his sovereignty, goodness or timing?
4. What effect will my choice to go into debt today have on my ability or willingness to tithe and give freewill offerings tomorrow?
5. What effect will today's choice to go into debt have on tomorrow's freedom to follow God wherever he wants me to go?
DEBT is always serious, but is especially dangerous when:
- An asset's resale value is less than what you owe (high depreciation items, such as cars, clothes, and furniture).
- You are tempted to rob God (your primary Creditor) in order to pay men (your secondary creditors).
- Monthly payments strap you to the point that you have little freedom to respond to the Spirit's promptings to generously give to others.
- Inability or unwillingness to respond desensitizes us to human need and to God's leading.
- If you "must" go into debt to provide for your "needs," is it because:
- Your "needs" are really wants in disguise?
- You've spent so much money on your wants that not enough is left for your needs?
- You've robbed God and forfeited his financial blessing by failing to give Him the firstfruits?
- What to Do about Debt
1. Repent. Change your mind and your actions regarding money, things, needs v. wants, giving, saving, spending, credit, and debt.
2. Immediately give God the firstfruits by giving back to him a minimum of 10% of his provision.
Say to him "I recognize your ownership" and "I trust you to bless my obedience." It is self-contradictory to seek God's blessing on your finances while putting yourself under his curse by withholding the tithe. You need his blessing to get out of debt! (Never procrastinate obedience.)
3. Incur no new debts.
Operate on this principle: "If I can't afford it now, it isn't God's will now."
4. Systematically eliminate existing debts.
Draw up a careful budget. Make a specific plan to get out of debt. Seek wise financial counsel. Liquidate unnecessary assets. Realize it won't happen over night, but with a good plan and commitment you can and will get out.
5. Perform plastic surgery on your credit cards.
Destroy credit cards unless you always make full payment when due (so you never pay interest) and it is no easier for you to put down the card than to put down cash.
Warning: Studies show those who use credit cards-whether or not they pay off at end of month-still spend about 30% more than if they only use cash.
6. Stop rationalizing your debt habit.
Houses: "We need to buy a house because renting is throwing money down the drain. Besides, we'll save lots of money on taxes because interest is tax deductible."
Buying your home is sometimes wise stewardship, but not always-there are many hidden financial costs, plus a huge drain of time and energy.
Cars: "We have to buy a new car to save money on gas and repairs." (How many dollars are you spending for each penny saved on gas and repairs?)
Be honest-just admit you want that beautiful home and shiny new car and deal directly with your desires before God. Don't rationalize.
7. If debt seems the best or necessary choice, go slowly and prayerfully. Get objective financial counsel from good stewards (Proverbs 15:22).
8. Learn the difference between saving and spending. Saving is when you have more money than when you started; spending is when you have less. (If you buy an $80 sweater on sale for $30, how much money do you save? Not $50!! You don't save anything. You spend $30. People "save" themselves into financial bondage and bankruptcy.)
Principles to Live By:
- Nothing is a good deal unless you can afford it.
- God wants an opportunity either to provide your needs or to show you they aren't needs before you take things into your own hands.
- Just because you can afford something, it doesn't mean God wants you to get it.
- Increased income isn't necessarily God saying "Spend more." More often his real message is "Give more." (2 Corinthians 8:14;9:10,11)
For further treatment on the subject of debt, including "The Consequences of Debt" and "Illusions About Debt," see Money, Possessions and Eternity, pages 309-329. For information on lending money and cosigning loans, see pp. 425-29, and for practical guidelines to control spending, pp. 431-36.
With God's help I am seeking to faithfully monitor my finances and I'm actively pursuing becoming 100% debt-free (note: most people can eliminate all short-term debt within two to four years and can even have their home paid off within seven to fifteen years)!
Additional resource and inspirational materials on debt free living from a Christian perspective:
Larry Burkett: http://www.crown.org/
Especially Larry's book on Debt Free Living: http://www.crown.org/cartproducts/product.asp?sku=DF157
Ron Blue: http://www.ronblue.com/resources_books.html
Listen to Dave Ramsey or attend a Financial Piece event: In the Murray, KY area listen from 1 - 4PM on 1340KHz AM http://www.daveramsey.com/