August 28, 2016

Truths That Transform: Debt vs. Love

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves has fulfilled the law.” — Romans 13:8, NIV

Paul acknowledges an ongoing debt that believers have to one another – to show love and thereby fulfill the law. But besides that, he says, make every effort to owe no one anything. We’re familiar with the many exhortations in Scripture to avoid debt – but how often do we consider the opportunity cost associated with debt?

The reality is that our financial condition can set a ceiling of sorts on our ability to love and serve others. The one who is burdened with a heavy load of financial debt is not in a position to come to the aid of a neighbor or family member who may be in need. In Ephesians 4:28, Paul exhorts us to work with our hands in order to have something to share with those in need. But if the fruits of that labor are already spoken for in the form of indebtedness, then our ability to share is limited.

To be sure, love is much more than a matter of money. We demonstrate love for others when we serve them, when we spend time with them, when we pray for them, and in so many other ways. But the one who is free financially is also able to demonstrate love tangibly through helping out with material needs. What would the parable of the Good Samaritan have looked like had the Samaritan not been in a financial condition to take care of the man he found by the road?

Many believers are stunted in their growth in generosity as a result of debt. Feeling trapped financially, they are unable to prayerfully consider opportunities to advance the kingdom through giving. Debt becomes a barrier not only to giving but to the development of a generous spirit. Debt forces our focus inward rather than outward.

Much of our debt is caused by unwise decisions and unbiblical attitudes toward money. The pull of the culture can be a stronger influence at times than the wisdom of God’s word. But debt can also be caused by factors beyond our control – medical or other crises, job loss, and others.

Whatever the cause, debt remains a major barrier to a generous lifestyle. Helping the members of your congregation who are struggling with debt will not only free them from financial bondage but will also open up the door to increased generosity and kingdom impact. Here are a couple of major ways in which you can help your congregation achieve freedom from debt:

  1. Pray. Pray with and for members of your congregation who are struggling with debt. Lead them to confess any sinful behavior patterns and financial attitudes, if appropriate, and to repent from them. Encourage them to commit their ways with regard to finances to God and to pray for wisdom in financial decisions and the setting of financial priorities.
  2. Plan. Help members of your congregation plan for financial freedom through establishing a budget and a debt retirement plan.

If you’d like some assistance in helping members of your congregation work through debt and out the other side, check out our Freed Up From Debt resource.

Transforming Finances! Transforming Lives!