By Ronald E. Williams

A warm-hearted and sincere Christian listens with sympathetic interest as his pastor explains an urgent need being experienced by one of the missionaries supported by the church. A special offering will be taken, the pastor explains, to help our missionary through this crisis. Then, as the offering is received, the believer whose heart yearns to be a part of helping their faithful missionary on the field, has to sorrowfully excuse himself from participating. You see, he has no money with which to help because everything he earns is committed to the large personal indebtedness he has acquired over a long period of time.

Now, he experiences a mixture of guilt and sorrow as he realizes his past lack of discipline has produced debt with which he will struggle for months and even years to erase. This same debt will keep him from being used of God to help in many worthy causes, or in making other beneficial choices for his family.

Everyone Is Doing It

Like so many ills on the contemporary scene, personal debt is popular and acceptable. Almost everyone has a measure of debt. It is an acceptable part of normal 20th century lifestyle, is it not? Wrong! Scripture forbids doing what is popular and acceptable if it is scripturally wrong. (Exodus 23:2)

Why Be Concerned?

But what is wrong with debt? God instructed his ancient people that debt is one cause of servanthood or a form of slavery. The individual or nation that becomes a debtor loses the privilege of personal prerogative and becomes subservient to creditors; "The borrower is servant to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7) It was a sign of God's blessing and a mark of a nation's obedience to God if a nation was a lender and not a borrower; "For the Lord God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee." (Deuteronomy 15:6)

What Is The Origin Of Debt?

From whence comes this slavery of creditor over borrower? From our lusts, covetousness and lack of self control as individuals and as a nation. Esau was called a profane man because for a mess of pottage (instant gratification of personal lust), he sold his only birthright; an act which had lifelong consequences for him, and even into succeeding generations for his seed.

Like Esau, many of us sell our liberty to gratify our luxury. We shun the self-discipline that says, "Owe no man anything but love" (Romans 13:8), and recklessly endanger and mortgage our future for the pleasure of the present. We have become insensitive to this kind of irresponsibility and unfaithful stewardship because it is immensely popular, even for Christians! Pangs of guilt are dulled, and our conscience is not stricken when we see almost everyone we know being very comfortable with a load of personal debt.

Because we enjoy the "live for now--pay later" syndrome, we also accept politicians who do the same with public debt at the community, state, and national levels. America used to be a creditor nation, but because of an irresponsible and uncaring attitude for the future, we now are a debtor nation. We have an unbelievably staggering total national debt that is now measured in trillions of dollars! This will continue with dire consequences for our descendants if we do not stop electing irresponsible politicians to public office.

Debt Must Be Resisted Not Accepted

On a personal level, we must stop accepting debt as a normal and acceptable way of living. Some have gone to such extremes of irresponsibility that they have defrauded their creditors through the legal but wicked means of bankruptcy laws. "The wicked borroweth and payeth not again." (Psalm 37:21)

Although debt may have to be incurred in extreme or emergency situations, it does not have to be inevitable for all. When God allowed this debt, He prescribed a maximum time period for its discharge of seven years. (Deuteronomy 15)

Borrowing is not to be a habitual or normative part of our Christian experience. God frowns on perpetual debt and multiple indebtedness. We must not go into debt beyond our ability to pay within a prescribed period, nor to pledge collateral already secured by another debt.

We have no promise of tomorrow. We cannot be guaranteed we will have our life, health, job, or pay tomorrow that we have today. This is why long-term perpetual debt is presumptuous and condemned by the Lord. (James 4:13-15)

Debt Can Be An Indication Of Disobedience

Personal indebtedness sacrifices liberty, compromises the future, and brings servitude. It is an indication of disobedience to God's principles: Deuteronomy 28:43-44, "The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail."

Our Prodigality Defrauds Our Children

Personal debt is a reflection of our lack of personal discipline, patience, and self-control. We have no independence to serve the Lord as we ought when we are debtors. In some instances, the inheritance we are commanded by God to leave our children (II Corinthians 12:14) has already been consumed on our lusts through means of debt.

We Need To Return To The Stewardship Of Yesteryear

God's people need to quit presuming upon Him by incurring debt and then begging Him to release them from the bondage of servitude they have realized. Much borrowing is presumption, whereas patience, prayer, and self-control is an act of faith and trust. Living on a cash basis may prevent us from having the newest, latest, and best, but will give us glorious freedom and independence to serve the Lord as we ought. There is nothing wrong with learning frugality, shopping at used clothing stores, garage sales, using hand-me-downs, and eating more beans and less meat. Self-sufficiency, wise stewardship, thrift, and related character qualities abounded in our country when debt was considered as something to be avoided at all costs, and are qualities God's people need to learn anew.

Local churches, their related ministries and missionaries suffer from lack of resources when God's people have debt.

If you are in debt, make specific plans of self-discipline to pay your debts in a timely fashion, and stay out of debt! Give your tithe, offering, and save whatever you can, this is trusting God. God gets blamed for much debt for which He was not responsible. In reality, unnecessary debt is because of our presumptuous desire.

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