Is Debt Unavoidable?
Adapted from Freed-Up From Debt
Many factors can contribute to debt in our congregations. Some of these result from one-time, relatively large events, such as:
- Unemployment or small business failure
- Large unexpected expenses, such as uninsured medical expenses, home/car repairs, etc.
- College expenses
Other factors can be more about how we’re living on a day-to-day basis, including:
- Living beyond our means
- No emergency fund
- Not using a plan (budget) to guide our spending
Student loans, car loans, home equity loans, credit cards – debt has become so prevalent in our society that many believe that it’s unavoidable. And while some of the above factors are beyond our direct control, living a life of debt robs us of the freedom that God intends for us to have.
“The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)
No doubt many in our congregations would testify to the feeling of being trapped, unable to escape a spiral that seems to lead further and further into debt. In times like this, faith can take a hit and financial worries can obscure God’s work in our lives and create a mentality of scarcity rather than one of gratitude and abundance.
Debt truly is normal in the sense that it’s common. And, if we live by the messages we get from advertisers, it’s unavoidable. But that’s where stewardship leaders and ministries come in. God has given us the key mission of helping our congregations to push back on these cultural messages and norms with the truth of His Word – a word that calls to us:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
‘Tis the Season
Christmas, sadly, is a season that often contributes to indebtedness. According to a survey conducted by Magnify Money, consumers who said they went into debt over the holiday season racked up an average of $1054 in debt in 2017, up from $1003 in 2016 and $986 in 2015. Only half of those surveyed expected to pay that debt off in 3 months or less; nearly a third said they would need 5 months or longer to pay off the debt. That’s nearly half a year to get back to “even” from the holiday debt! No wonder the cycle of indebtedness seems so unbreakable. Just as eye-opening, nearly two-thirds of those who went into debt for the holidays indicated that they had not planned to incur that debt. (1)
Encourage your congregation this season to focus on Jesus, not Santa, and on the Gift of salvation rather than on gifts purchased from the store. Challenge believers to examine their preconceptions about what the Christmas season means. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with buying gifts for those we love – gift-giving is one of the five “love languages”, after all. But, contrary to what the marketing moguls would have us believe, it’s actually more blessed to receive (God’s gift of salvation) than it is to give (store-bought gifts).