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Jan 18, 2021 08:00am
Trapped in Debt? Here’s How You Can Be Released From It
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Proverbs 22:7: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the servant to the lender.”  

Debt is a trap because it enslaves you. When you go into debt, you lose your freedom. The Bible says:

Proverbs 22:7: “ . .  . The borrower is the servant to the lender.”  

Any time you take out a loan, you become a servant to the lender because you’re now obligated to them.  Unfortunately for many people, debt becomes a trap they never get out of.   

Many people believe they have an impossible financial situation. They say, “There’s no way I can get out of debt!”  I want to give you hope.  There is a way out!  If you will follow God’s financial plan and these steps you can get out of debt.  This is a practical, step-by-step plan on how to do it:

  1. COMMIT TO BECOMING DEBT FREE NOW

Right now—this very day—you must commit to being debt free!  Not tomorrow, not next week, and not next month.  Commit to being debt free today. Freedom always begins with a commitment.  

The Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 37:21: “The wicked borrow and do not repay.”  

God says it is the wicked that borrow money and do not repay it.  God takes it very seriously if I don’t pay my bills.  

You and I both know someone whose financial condition was so bad that they filed for bankruptcy, which is legal in America but is not morally right.  There are many things in America that are legal but wrong.  It is wrong to make other people pay for your irresponsibility. A Christian who is seriously trying to live with integrity shouldn’t file for bankruptcy.  If you have already done so resolve never to do it again! 

It’s not going to be easy to get out of debt!  It’s always easier to get in debt than to get out of debt.  It will take the following things to do so:

  • Commitment
  • Courage
  • Discipline
  • Delayed gratification.  You can’t have it all right now and get out of debt.  
  • Perseverance –  It’s not easy to get out of debt but it can be done if you work at it over the long haul.
  • Integrity –  Any fool can get into debt.  It takes character to get out of debt. Show some character and say, “OK, God, I got myself into this.  Please help me get out of debt.”  

The only way you’re going to get out of debt is to intentionally plan to do so.  Getting out of debt starts with a commitment to being debt free. 

  1. START PAYING GOD AND YOURSELF FIRST

When you receive your next paycheck, the first 10% goes back to God and the second 10% goes to an investment account.  Here are two questions:

  • Where did your ability to make wealth come from?  It came from God.  He gave you a mind, abilities, health, and a job.  
  • Who actually did all of the hard work to earn the money?  You did.  

Yet the last two people we pay are God and ourselves! If you want to get out of debt, pay God and yourself first.

You may say, “I can’t afford to tithe and I can’t afford to save. But you can’t afford not to.  If you want God’s blessing on your finances, you have to do it God’s way.   God’s purpose in tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives (Deuteronomy 14:23). Start putting God first in your finances. If you are not now giving God 10%, resolve to do the following:

  • Commit to giving God the first 10% of your income for the next 90 days beginning today.
  • When you receive your paycheck, set aside the first 10% for the Lord and your church.
  • Schedule an automatic draft, 

God will bless your obedience to him in the area of finances. Your decision will not be a mistake that creates a financial crisis. Instead I guarantee you will receive a blessing. Proverbs 21:20 says, “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”

To achieve long-term financial independence, start by paying yourself first. You must put yourself at the beginning of the line—not the end. So when you get that check, before anyone else gets paid, the first 10% goes back to God and the second 10% goes into your savings.  

The Bill Gates of the previous generation was a man named John D. Rockefeller. Someone once asked him now he amassed such wealth.  He said, “It was really very simple.  Save ten percent.  Give ten percent.  Live on the rest.”  

This is called the 10-10-80 principle.  Tithe 10%, save 10%, and live on 80%.  Everyone needs a minimum of three months of living expenses in the bank in case of a layoff, illness, or other unexpected emergency.  The 10-10-80 principle is tough in the short run but works in the long run.

Let me give you an example of the 10-10-80 principle.  Let’s say you’re 25 years old and you make $30,000 a year.  Let’s further say that for the next 20 years all you made was $30,000 a year.  If you stick to the 10-10-80 plan, by age 45 you will have given $60,000 to the Lord’s work (10% of $30,000 is $3,000 given to God each year multiplied by 20 years).  

At the same time, you would have paid yourself $60,000, plus you would have earned interest (investing $3,000 annually).  If the interest rate averaged 10% over the 20 years, you would have saved $60,000 and earned $139,007.50 in interest.  So in 20 years you would have given $60,000 to the Lord’s work and saved $189,007.50!  That’s $189,007.50 you don’t have right now but you’d have if you’d start following the 10-10-80 principle.

The 10-10-80 principle works, but it takes personal discipline and the philosophy that “I’m notgoing to buy today.  I’m reducing my expenditures now so I can tithe and I can save.”  The payoff will be great!  

  1. LIST ALL YOU OWN AND ALL YOU OWE

After you’ve made the commitment to becoming debt free and start paying God and yourself first, create an inventory of all you own and all you owe to determine where your money is coming from and where your money is going.  Solomon advised:

Proverbs 27:23,24: “Riches can disappear fast so watch your business interests closely.  Know the state of your flocks and herds.”

Ignorance of your financial condition is a sure recipe for financial disaster. To know where your money is coming from and where it’s going, keep good financial records. Solomon also said:

Proverbs 18:13: “It’s stupid to decide before knowing the facts.”  

You cannot make good financial decisions if you don’t know what you own and what you owe, so do an inventory of what you own:

  • Real estate
  • Houses
  • Investments (stocks, bonds, IRAs, 401Ks, etc.).
  • Savings accounts
  • Trusts
  • Vehicles (cars, trucks, boats, RVs, motorcycles, 4 wheelers, etc.)

Determine the value of each and that is the total value of your assets. 

Next, write down the name of every individual or company you owe, the amount of the monthly payment, and the total indebtedness to each creditor.  

Now subtract the smaller number from the larger one, and this is your net worth.  For a few of you, this could be a negative number.  That will shock you back into financial reality

RESOLVE TO ADD NO NEW DEBT

We all got into debt the same way— spending more than we made.  We must stop that today, not tomorrow.  You’ll never get out of debt if you keep putting things on a credit card while trying to pay them off, so get rid of all of them but one. 

Here’s a project for that one remaining card: Fill a bowl partially full of water. Place the credit card in the bowl and place the bowl in the freezer. Keep the credit card in the freezer until a REAL emergency arises! While thawing the card you may decide time you really don’t need to use it after all 

Some of us will need “plastic surgery.”  If you got in debt with credit cards, you need to destroy and never use them again.  Credit cards are not bad as long as you do three things:  

  • Pay off your credit card balance every month. (Be careful because studies show that people who use credit cards spend 23% more money than those that use cash.)
  • Never use a credit card to buy things that aren’t in your budget.  
  • Make a vow with your spouse that if you ever go one month without paying your credit card balance off, you will immediately destroy the card and never use it again.  

If you do these three things, you’ll never have a problem with credit cards again. The key to adding no new debt is found in the Bible in Hebrews 13:5: “Be content with what you have.”  

To be perfectly honest, contentment is the single greatest key to staying out of debt. Discontentment is what gets us into debt. Jesus gave the secret for staying out of debt when He said in Luke 3:14, “Be content with your pay.”  

Charging things with money we don’t have means we’re not content with our pay. The minute you spend more than you make, you are entangled in the debt trap

  • HAVE A SALE

After doing an inventory of what you own, you will probably discover there are things you own that you no longer need, so sell those assets Someone may protest, “But it’s already paid off.” Even if it’s paid off, it still costs you money to insure it, license it, and maintain it. If you are not using it then you really don’t need it.  If you sell it, you can use the money realized from the sale to lower debt.  

At this point you should decide what’s more important: holding on to something that you really don’t need or relieving financial pressure and taking a step toward being debt free.  It’s your choice.  

You may need to sell a car with high payments and buy a more reasonably priced car. Cars are meant for transportation not status. If we reduce our monthly car payments, we’ve freed up money for tithing, saving, or paying off debts.  

  • SET UP A REPAYMENT PLAN

No one ever gets out of debt accidentally.  It must be intentional and you must have a plan. Solomon said:

Proverbs 21:5: “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.”

If you want to be prosperous, you kust have a good plan. Some people are in debt so deep that they need a financial counselor.  The Bible says:

Proverbs 20:18: “Get advice if you want your plans to work.”

If you had a major illness you wouldn’t try to cure yourself. You’d go to a specialist. If you are deeply in debt, you need a financial expert.  I suggest you get some good financial advice!

Here’s how to set up a repayment plan if you have a credit card balance on one or more credit cards:

  • Cut up all credit cards except one.  Keep one for emergencies—real emergencies!
  • Quit carrying a credit card in your purse or billfold so you’re not tempted to use it.
  • If you have credit card debt, transfer your balance to a credit card that will give you a grace period of no interest.  When that grace period is over, transfer your balance to another card that offers no interest for a grace period.  Continue to do this until the debt is paid. By doing this, you will not pay interest on your credit card debt and every dollar you pay will go toward the principle.
  • Contact your creditors and request a lower interest rate and monthly payments. Be honest with creditors and say, “I am a Christian and I have made some poor financial decisions. I don’t want to file for bankruptcy. I don’t want to cheat you out of what I owe you but I can’t pay what I owe you right now. I will pay it all off.  Here’s my plan . . . 

Maybe your payment is supposed to be $50.00 a month and you say, “I can’t pay you $50.00 a month but I will pay you $25.00 a month.  I am simply asking that if you’ll be patient with me, I will pay it off.”  You might even beg for mercy and say, “If you keep compounding interest on this debt you’re never going to get repaid. Please stop the interest from this point on so that I can just pay the balance I owe you.” Ask them.  I know several people that have asked for this and got a reduced interest rate or even no interest. 

If you’re honest with your creditors, they just might work with you. They want their money so they have a vested interest in helping you! Proverbs 16:7 says,  “When your ways please the Lord, He will make your enemies into friends.”

If you put God first in your finances, He will bring favor upon your financial condition!  You have God’s Word on it!

  • Contact the Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service is an organization that will contact your creditors for you to reduce the interest rate and reschedule a lower monthly payment. They charge a small fee for their services and guide you in paying off your debts starting with the smallest balance and systematically eliminating them. 

  • STICK WITH IT!

Create your plan for getting out of debt and stick with the plan.  Paul wrote the following:

Galatians 6:9: “Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.” 

Getting out of debt takes discipline, effort, sacrifice, and time. These principles will work but you must work them.  With character and discipline you can do this!  You can get out of debt.  Create your plan for getting out of debt and stick with the plan:

  • Obey God and honor Him first in your finances. 
  • Pay yourself first.  
  • Learn to spend less than you make every month.  
  • Resolve to pay cash from this point on and incur no new debt.

At this point, some of you are thinking, “But you don’t know my finances.  I am so in debt it’s impossible for me to get out.”  You are right.  I don’t know the state of your finances but I do know the power of God!  The Bible says:

Luke 18:27: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  

You would be amazed at what you could do if you ask for God’s help and you’re willing to do it His way. It’s not easy. But it is possible. So don’t tell me it’s impossible.  With God all things are possible!

But here is the number one most important thing I’ll share with you:

There is one debt you will never be able to repay, the debt of your sin. The Bible says all of us have broken God’s laws (Romans 3:10,23). Not just financial laws but moral and spiritual laws. We’ve all blown it and the Bible says there is a penalty for our sin: death (Romans 6:23).  

The message of the Bible is that God assumed your sin debt by sending His Son Jesus Christ to earth where on the cross He paid your sin debt for you.  What a deal!  What a God!

If you admit to God you’ve done wrong and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, your sin debt will be canceled!  I’ll say it again: What a deal!  What a God!

To get your financial AND spiritual house in order, here’s a review of the steps:

  1. COMMIT TO BEING DEBT FREE NOW!
  2. START PAYING GOD AND YOURSELF FIRST
  3. LIST ALL YOU OWN AND ALL YOU OWE
  4. ADD NO NEW DEBT
  5. HAVE A SALE
  6. SET UP A REPAYMENT PLAN
  7. STICK WITH IT

*The outline for this sermon was adapted from a sermon entitled, “Breaking Out of the Debt Trap” by Rick Warren.

Copyright © 2021 by Jeff Swart @ http://jeffswart.com. Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org.