I had an epiphany. Actually, it was more like the Spirit giving me a shake and saying, “Wake up!”. As I started working through a personal budget and collecting all the information about where we spent our money we noticed something that had been lost on us.
We were paying over $300 every month just on the interest for our debt (Not including our mortgage). I stared at that number and the Lord so gently spoke to me and asked a simple question. “Why are you giving my money away?”
Ouch. I knew exactly what he was asking me. We had been careless, reckless even and we had been throwing the Lord’s money away. I immediately thought of the many things that we could be doing with that money to support the Lord’s work.
Time to get things right
It was time to change that. After confessing our sin we put together a budget and a plan to get out of debt and to make sure we would no longer be living above our means.
We went to a friend of ours who is a financial advisor at a local bank and she helped us set up the accounts we needed. She gave excellent advice on our budget and we started putting money away for retirement, investments as well as cutting down on the debt.
Proverbs 22:7 (NLT) says, “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” That is how we felt. Like slaves. Being in debt means that someone else has a right to your finances taking the control out of your hands.
This restricts what you can do. It is in essence sin because you are no longer submitting to the Lord in your finances. Paul reminds the Romans to, “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another…” (Rom 13:8)
Another reality of financial stress is that it negatively impacts marriages. Money problems is one of the leading causes of divorce in North America. So why add more problems to our marriages?
Living within your means
At the heart of this discussion is a practical truth that spending more than what you make is going to get you into trouble. It’s pretty simple math really. Income minus expenses equals either surplus or deficit.
We live in a society that is saturated in debt. People live in homes, drives cars and take vacations that they can’t afford. The quest for wealth, pleasure and excess is making us bankrupt both financially and spiritually.
The first step for us in getting back on track was reviewing our spending habits and coming up with a reasonable budget. I would encourage you to have a budget and have it reviewed by a Christian financial planner.
Without this tool it’s very difficult to know where the money is going on a regular basis. It keeps you on track and accountable.
Don’t forget the Lord
It is a biblical principle right from Genesis to Revelation that God’s people should be giving the Lord the first of their income. The question is often asked how much we should give? Are we obligated to give 10%? Do we give before or after taxes?
We will dive into those questions in more detail in coming months but as a quick rule of thumb I like this quote from John Ortberg, “Tithing is a bad ceiling but an excellent floor.” In other words giving 10% is a good place to start not a good place to end.
If you are in a situation similar to what we found ourselves in, don’t lose heart. You can get out of debt with some planning and commitment. Firstly, confess your sin of being careless (If indeed you were) and accept the Lord’s forgiveness.
Secondly, find a financial person to help you. If you are in Canada you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or in the US email@example.com. They will be able to point you in the right direction.
Finally and most importantly, make this a matter of prayer and rely on the Lord for your strength to get out of your debt and be free to give more to the Lord’s work.