Before continuing our study of the five biblical uses of money, according to the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 9, we will, in this chapter, examine the issue of debt. Our Western society is riddled with debt. People of our generation seem to be consumed by debt. Most have come to accept that living with significant consumer, institutional, or national debt is a normal way of life. However, we do not believe this to be normal. It is common, but what is common is not necessarily normal.

It has not always been this way in the United States, nor in any other Western country. In the United States, it took over 200 years, from 1776 to 1980, to accumulate the first trillion dollars of national debt. How long do you think it took to double that amount? The United States achieved it in just six years. By 1986, we had reached two trillion dollars of debt.

By 1990, the United States had accumulated three trillion in debt, and by 1994, we had surpassed five trillion dollars. By the turn of the millennium, the national debt had significantly exceeded eight trillion dollars. One does not need to be an economist or mathematician to understand that any individual or economic entity that continues to spend more resources than it generates will eventually go bankrupt.

After a lecture on economics given by a university professor, an old farmer was asked if he had understood the concepts explained by the professor. Old Amos replied: “Yes sir, of course. The professor said: ‘If what goes out exceeds what comes in, your lifestyle leads to ruin.'” It’s very simple, isn’t it? But apparently not, for many families, businesses, and nations. The biblical prophet Haggai spoke of this problem.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” HAGGAI 1:6-8

Many people who read this passage see it as a reflection of their own lives. They never have enough. It’s as if the bag into which they put their money has holes. The money flows out as quickly as it comes in. The Lord encourages us here to give careful thought to our ways. Most people begin by checking if what they are doing is right. They then check their motives to determine if the reason for doing it is right. If they believe that what they have is right and the reason for it is right, they generally conclude that all is well. Yet, in this passage, the Lord introduces a new criterion for verification: conduct. “Give careful thought to your ways,” says the Lord.

The order of the Kingdom, in the financial domain of any individual, is prosperity, provision, and liberation from all debt. An unplanned debt results from a lack of relationship between the debtor and his God who provides. An unplanned debt, by definition, indicates a breakdown of God’s provision in the believer’s life. The order and authority of God reflected in a person’s finances mean that they have sufficient provision to meet every need as it arises.

Very often, it is neither what we do nor the reason why we do it that is wrong, but the way we do it or the timing. We do what is right with the right motive but at the wrong time or in the wrong manner. We believe that the way many people use debt falls into this category of destructive conduct.

Many people never really stop to study the total cost of a purchase on credit. It is a figure that would shock and horrify many. What percentage of a lifetime’s income do you think could be spent paying interest on debts? The average North American earns between $1,000,000 and $5,000,000 over their career, from twenty to sixty-five years old. The majority of these people spend between half and two-thirds of their lifetime income paying interest on their debts. What sane person, starting their career, would set a goal of spending 50% to 67% of everything they will earn to repay interest on their debts?

Given these amounts given to bankers, mortgage companies, and credit card companies, do you understand how the body of Christ, as a whole, is being robbed? Think of everything we could do if just half of this money, which is paid in interest, was redirected to the Kingdom of God. How much of the money you pay in interest do you think actually goes into the Kingdom of God to truly accomplish the work of the Kingdom?

Why is this the case? I believe the main reason why so much of our income is used to pay interest is that we haven’t really thought about how we spend our money. In this study of the problem of debts, we would like to start by identifying four types of debt:

  1. consumer debt,
  2. mortgage debt,
  3. business debt,
  4. investment debt.

Addressing business debt or investment debt would go beyond the scope of this book. Here we are primarily concerned with consumer debt and, in part, mortgage debt. This leads us to the obvious question: “Is it bad to borrow?” The answer is no, not categorically. Incurring debt is not a sin in itself, as some think, but it is often unreasonable.

However, in some cases, incurring debt is a sin, which the Bible calls “iniquitous.” We will talk about this later in this chapter. From now on, unless otherwise specified, when we talk about debt or indebtedness, we are exclusively referring to personal debts or consumer debts.

As everything in our Western societies can be sold in weekly or monthly installments, most consumers do not think twice about the amount of each of their purchases. The consumer rarely stops to ask: “How much am I actually paying for this? I’m buying something that is priced at $1,000, but if I buy it on credit, how much will I actually pay for it?” You frequently pay one and a half or twice the price if you count the interest. Thus, you could pay $1,500 or $2,000 for something that is worth $1,000. If people really thought about it in advance, few would choose to pay double the price. The problem is that most people do not think about it in advance.

When we reread Haggai 1:5, we see that the hole in the bag for many people is equivalent to the interest they pay on everything they buy. Here, God invites us to give careful thought to our ways. Is this really the right way to act?

For example, if you buy a house for $100,000 with a thirty-year loan at an 8.5% interest rate, how much will you pay in total over these thirty years? The amount will be about $275,000. If you factor in the taxes and fees paid on the $275,000, you would need to earn about $400,000 to pay for a $100,000 house bought in this way. How many people would do so if they thought in advance about the total cost of this house? Many people see no other way to achieve this. Again, this is why Haggai tells us to give careful thought to our ways.

I believe that, for some people, the strongholds that the spirit of Mammon has established in their thinking about debt are a sort of family inheritance. This is how their parents and perhaps even their grandparents managed their financial affairs. Proverbs 22:6 tells us: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (KJV). Many people have been, by observing their parents, trained in the way of incurring debt, and now, in their adult lives, they have not departed from this way. They know no other way.

I believe that for many people, there is a significant element of deception in the debts they incur. Let’s look at Genesis 3:13. This is the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They have just eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and God addresses the woman:

Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”

I propose that we take a closer look at the Hebrew word translated in this passage as “deceived” or “misled.” It is the Hebrew word nasha, which can have two meanings. One is to deceive or mislead, the other is to lend at interest.

In reality, what did the serpent do to Eve? He lured her into a spiritual debts, where the interest accrues so quickly that she could never catch up and repay it within her lifetime. It took the Almighty God himself, incarnate in the Lord Jesus Christ, to pay off Adam and Eve’s debt. It was impossible for Eve, or any person…

This text is an excerpt from the book “Wealth, Riches, Money” written by Craig Hill, Earl Pitts.

We invite you to read the next article “A GOOD MAN LEAVES AN INHERITANCE.

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