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I know that the Bible warns against going into debt, and I’ve heard some preachers argue that getting into too much debt is a sin. I have what feels like a huge amount of debt—from school loans, credit cards and various other things. I’ve started paying it off, but the process is really slow and it feels like there is no end in sight. In some ways, I regret that I got myself into so much debt, but on the other hand, I didn’t have a lot of options. Is being in debt something I need to repent of? How do I move forward in this as a Christian?
Grace upon grace unto you. Can we just begin by taking a deep breath together? Debt has a strangling effect on the soul, does it not? It rakes up emotions of fear and anxiety, want and scarcity. We often feel alone and overwhelmed, imprisoned by our finances with little hope of escape.
I bring good news, though. Jesus came to set all captives free—even if they are in a prison of their own making. While it might seem scandalous, God doesn’t care about your debt; He cares about you. This is the heart of the Gospel.
That being said, you bring up some great questions. I’ve heard the arguments of some preachers too: that some debt is a sin but other sources of debt are not, or, as you say, “too much” debt is a sin. If we’re not careful, we can begin slicing hairs so thin, we create a whole new set of laws to keep in order to be in God’s good graces.
While I’m not a theological scholar, I can’t find Scriptural support to back the premise that debt is a sin. However, I know from personal experience that debt can be a consequence of sin. And so, if you will allow me, let’s think through what may have landed you in debt to begin with and what steps you might need to take next.
Retrace Your Steps
Think back to that very first time you borrowed money. Was it for a new vehicle? To purchase your textbooks? Did you finance college? Or were you less noble (like me) and signed up for a store credit card to get a 5 percent discount on something you can’t even remember?
Take a few minutes to ponder how and why you landed in debt.
After you come to a few conclusions, write them down. Then, take a couple of days further to ask the question again.
Not in every case, but certainly in many, debt arises from other issues of the heart: Lack of contentment. Impatience. Greed. Failure to plan. Laziness. Deceiving ourselves. Seeking the world’s wisdom on money.
Chart Your Course
I could be wrong, but it sounds like to me you have repented—you’re pursuing a path out of indebtedness. I’d encourage you to avoid financing your future by borrowing again. If you borrow money, it’s easy to get in over your head time and time again.
Listen, I can tell you feel discouraged. I totally get that. My husband and I toiled through four long years of “will it ever end?” while we were paying off the $127,000 we borrowed. The sacrifices meet you at every turn and the extra hours of work aren’t a circus of fun.
I often muse that “Paying off debt isn’t complex, it’s just not easy.” It’s more than a pithy maxim though. The choice to pay off debt takes strength and endurance. But I’m certain it’s a battle you can fight and win.
To quote a great philosopher of our time, “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes … you live like that, you live with ghosts.”
Remaining in debt or borrowing more is sure to add to your existing regrets. A quick fix isn’t going to get the job done. Small efforts won’t cover gaping wounds and certainly won’t heal the deep hurt within.
To move forward, I’d suggest
1. A good book or podcast: While neither has to be exclusively about money and debt they do need to motivate you. In the back of Slaying the Debt Dragon, I included an entire reading list of all of the books we devoured while cleaning up our financial mess. Hit the library if you don’t have the budget to purchase the books. And luckily, podcasts are free. You need to get your eyes up from your current situation and be inspired.
2. The wisdom of someone who handles money well: This might be a bit trickier to navigate since the loudest voices often know the least. However, find someone who handles his or her finances with excellence. Spoiler: they probably won’t drive a flashy car or live in a blinged-out mansion.
Your pastor might be able to suggest someone within your church who has paid off debt, too. Lean into this mentor and ask good questions. Find out what they did when times were discouraging. Ask for ideas on how to reduce your expenses and increase your income.
3. Community: The more isolated you feel, the less success you’ll have with your money. One of the biggest lies the enemy of our souls tells us is that we are the only ones struggling. We are the only ones overwhelmed, stressed and with more debt than we’d care to admit on social media.
I get that it’s not easy to bare your financial soul in a Sunday school circle. However, to travel the road out of debt, you’ll need flesh and blood people cheering you on. You require like-minded believers who can pray for you, encourage you and keep your feet from failing when temptation sets in again and again.
Whether you join a small group at your church, find an FPU or Crown Ministries class, or seek out virtual community by following a blog or hashtag, begin to knit together a group of people to support your efforts and point you toward God’s plan for your life (which includes your money).
On the other side of debt, there are many good gifts awaiting you—the ability to be much more generous, the peace of mind of having enough money to cover your expenses, the ability to save for the future so you won’t ever have to borrow again.
The strangling fingers, the erratic emotions, the lies of isolation are all tossed to the curb. Your life won’t be perfect but you’ll no longer be imprisoned to amounts you owe.
Exhale and begin the fight of your life. It will be worth it.
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