Are you in debt? Do you feel guilty about being in debt?
Most Christians probably know it is best to be debt-free. In fact, it has been so popularized as a goal for Christians that it may be overshadowing other more important Biblical financial principles.
Having studied the Bible to understand what God says about money and possessions for the past 20 years, along with a steady intake of many other great books on the subject, I have a different conclusion of the emphasis that the Bible makes when it comes to managing money. While important, I don't believe getting out of debt should be the primary or ultimate goal.
Here are three areas the Bible teaches us to get out of that I believe are of greater significance than debt.
Get out of claiming ownership.
The Bible makes it very clear that (a) you do not own anything, (b) you are God's steward, and (c) you came into the world naked and will depart in the same condition. This is not simply good theology, but also a truth that God wants us to put into practice. If we don't get out of the trap of claiming ownership of our money and possessions, we will become materialistic and vulnerable to placing our identity in what we have. The weight of trying to accumulate, protect, maintain, and grow our things can begin to control our lives.
Here are three ways to get out of the ownership trap:
- Give it to the Lord. Make a quit claim deed that represents your surrender of it all to Him. Record everything you think you own and declare in your heart that it all belongs to God.
- Catch yourself describing stuff as "mine."
- Get into learning the joy of being a faithful steward.
Psalm 24:1 ESV proclaims, "The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…"
Get out of temporal financial planning.
The vast majority of the personal finance industry, financial planning industry, and much of the estate planning industry will have you totally focused on the here and now. They operate ignorant of God's truth, which commands us to lay up for ourselves treasures in Heaven and not on Earth. And we fall into the trap.
In the parable of the foolish farmer, the wealthy entrepreneur had a problem with managing his surplus, so he made a short-term financial plan. Luke 12:17-18 NIV says, "He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.'"
He also stated his purpose for this plan in verse 19: "And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'"
In verse 20, we get the point of the parable loud and clear when God says to him," You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
It is foolish to make plans for our own well-being when we are not rich towards God. Here are three ways to get out of the temporal financial planning trap:
- Make a plan to "lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven."
- Repent of placing your security and hope in money.
- Write your obituary. Make a list of those things you hope will have prepared you for that day that you will stand before the Lord and be evaluated.
It is good to plan for today and tomorrow and to prepare for our lives on Earth, but if we don't get out of temporal financial planning, we will never get into eternal financial planning and be prepared for "that day."
Get out of greed, coveting and selfishness.
Coveting is wanting what someone else has.
Greed is wanting more of what you already have.
Selfishness is using what you have exclusively for your own benefit.
We can justify anything that we want or think that we need. Ahab and Jezebel justified murder because of Ahab's coveting Naboth's vineyard. The foolish farmer in the parable above was greedy and therefore in need of bigger barns. Naba's selfishness made him unwilling to share a morsel of food with David and his starving soldiers although he was wealthy.
I know people with a twin-engine plane that are working to get a turboprop so they can get to their beach house quicker. I know those with a turboprop waiting to get a next level jet, so they never have to fly commercial. I know people with two homes that are looking for a third and are unaware of the millions of homeless in the world. I know people who travel to locations that make jaw-dropping social media picture backdrops but never give thought to how they could serve the people on that island or in that remote mountain village.
Three ways to get out of greed, coveting, and selfishness:
- Be grateful for what you have now.
- Be content with your circumstances by living one day at a time.
- Seek to make giving your highest financial priority.
If we don't get out of greed, coveting, and selfishness, we will stay trapped in a life of vanity and insignificance.
Once you have gotten out of claiming ownership, temporal financial planning, and the financial sins that grip our hearts, it would be good to also get out of debt. But remember the rich young ruler. He was out of debt, but not out of Hell.