Author: Ron Graham
—Avoiding the evils of debt
The rule is stated in Romans 13:8, "Do not owe anything to anyone". In our modern society, it is no longer love that makes the world go round, but debt.
Even in an attempt to express love, people go into debt. How many gifts are purchased on borrowed money for example? A great many Australians, as a matter of course, are daily spending money they don't have, and making themselves into debtors.
There are certain debts or borrowings that are not really debts in principle, but more like a joint ownership of property. If the property were sold in the market place, both you and the lender would receive money from the sale. You would get your equity, the portion you own, whilst the money lender would receive his entitlement, the portion you owe.
That type of "debt" or liability is not really considered in this lesson.
1 Avoiding the Evils of Debt
The kind of debt we are considering is the insidious kind which has several of the following marks...
- You've run a significant risk in taking on the debt
- You have no saleable asset covering the amount owed
- If the debt were called in you would be broke or bankrupt
- What you spent the money on is gone, but the debt remains
- The interest is more than the repayment
- You owe more on the debt now than when you entered into it
- The debt costs you more than you gain from it
- Repayments rob you of money you need for other things
- You keep on running the debt back up to its limit
- You find yourself having to borrow money to pay off the debt
- The debt is illegal —you have no reasonable expectation of servicing it
Two Serious Errors
There is a stern warning in the Proverbs: "The borrower becomes the lender's slave" (Proverbs 22:7). Of course, sometimes the lender is the victim because "The wicked borrows and does not pay back" (Psalms 37:21).
We should ensure that we fall into neither of these errors. We should become no creditor's slave. We should become no creditor's defaulter. The best way to do this is to have no creditor at all —to "owe nothing to anyone" (Romans 13:8)
2 Knowing The Uncertainties
Australians in general lose sight of the uncertainties of life. If you borrow in order to access money you have not yet made, are you not gambling on the future? You are relying on something uncertain to cover something certain.
It is uncertain that you will make the money you expect, but certain you will have to pay the debt you have incurred. You are assuming that you'll make money next year, so you are already spending it this year!
A Kind of Boasting
James rebukes those who are so certain that they will make money next year James says, "You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow" (James 4:13-17).
Paul wants Christians "not to trust in uncertain riches(1Timothy 6:17-19). Debt is a way of seeming to be richer than you are, or a way of enjoying in the present riches you expect in the future.
"You boast in your arrogance", says James, "All such boasting is evil" (James 4:16).
3 Being Content With What You Have
Learning to do without, or make do with little, can be a rewarding experience that teaches one the appreciation of simple things and the discipline of thrift. It brings one closer to God and more in tune with the natural environment.
Paul says, "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" (Philippians 4:11-12).
Many Australians today have lost sight of true blessings. They think of value and gain in terms of money. In fact many of our greatest blessings have little or nothing to do with money. The greatest blessing, eternal life, is a gift from God. (Romans 6:23).
Open your eyes to "the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" (Ephesians 1:18).
Knowing you have all that ahead of you, is it so hard to live for a little while with humble means? "Having food and covering, let us be therewith content" (1Timothy 6:8).
"Be content with what you have" (Hebrews 13:5). The reason so many people run up debts is that they are not content in this way.
Beware the three deadly dees —discontentment followed by debt followed by disaster.
The Best Advice
Being content and thrifty is the way to avoid getting into debt. It is also the way to get out of it. Somehow when you learn to do without and get along happily with little, money starts to accumulate. These accumulating savings are the means by which you can avoid debt or mitigate any debt you have.
Sometimes people incur debt through misfortune, through circumstances beyond their control. Other times people incur debt recklessly and unnecessarily.
But whatever the nature of the debt, the best financial advice you can get is what we have seen in the Bible. Be content with what you have, learn to get along with humble means, and watch your debt go into reversal.