by Victor Parachin
After Josh and Becky (pseudonyms) were married, they continued working at their respective jobs. Even though their combined income was substantial, they began to assume debt.
“Initially, it was small,” Josh explains. “We used credit cards for clothing purchases, for vacations, for holiday gifts, then to pay for some classes Becky needed. When our cars needed major repairs, we charged those as well. Before long, we discovered that after paying our monthly rent and setting aside grocery money, we did not have enough to cover the other payments.”
With the passing of months, Josh and Becky quickly found themselves in a sea of debt. “Too often we succumbed to the temptation to ‘buy now, pay later.’ What we discovered, sadly, was that it became ‘buy now, regret later.’”
With some wise planning, frugal living, and cautious spending, Josh and Becky will be able to chisel away at their debt. It will take time—several years—but it can be done. However, their situation is one to be avoided.
Like many people, Josh and Becky’s problem is not a lack of money, but how they view their money and what they do with it. The Bible offers many lessons about money. An important one, especially in this day and age when consumer debt is at an all time high, is to avoid indulgence. Wisely the Bible reminds us that achieving financial freedom and security means controlling the tendency to spend more than we can afford. The apostle Paul writes, “Among you there must not be even a hint of . . . any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3). The Bible addresses finances because the writers of Scripture know that money matters. Here are some solid biblical principles for achieving financial security and stability.
Our Creator has filled our universe with abundance. If you live in a state of constant worry and frustration over financial matters, consider whether or not your view is too negative and limiting. God has created each of us with our cup full and running over. Consider these passages in Scripture that point to God’s abundance and fullness toward us.
•”Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (Malachi 3:10).
• “They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights” (Psalm 36:8).
• “Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers” (Deuteronomy 30:9).
• “I will bless . . . with abundant provisions” (Psalm 132:15).
• “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:16).
Read and re-read passages like these until they thoroughly saturate your mind and spirit, wiping away any thoughts of lack and limitation.
The Bible instructs us to give a portion of our money away to help others. We are asked to give something back as a testimony of our gratitude to God for his generosity toward us. Leviticus 27:30 states, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” (Similar instructions can be found in Numbers 18:21, Deuteronomy 12:6; 14:28; 26:12.) If you are unable to begin giving at the tithe or 10 percent level, then consider a smaller percentage—say three or four percent—as a starting point. As God blesses you, keep giving until you reach the tithe level.
Give and You Will Receive
Both Jesus and Paul make it clear that no person ever loses because he or she is a generous giver. Jesus says, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). Similarly, Paul teaches, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). As we share from our abundance, even more blessings will come our way as a result of our generosity.
“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Be certain that your giving is done in the right spirit. Rather than thinking of giving as “What can I spare?” shift to the positive tone, “What can I share?”
“The word thrift may seem old-fashioned to some people, but I believe it is the most logical answer to most of our money problems,” wrote Norman Vincent Peale. “This, of course, may not be easy, but it is good for us to deny ourselves. Pray and ask God, ‘Do I really need this?’ The pleasure of giving up something now and saving for the future adds delight to life.”
Keep in mind that saving is made much easier when there is no credit card debt. Avoid using any credit cards unless it is an emergency and then do your best to pay off the balance monthly. Otherwise, you will begin to amass sizeable interest payments on those credit cards.
So troublesome is credit card debt that David Bach, author of Smart Couples Finish Rich (Crown Publishing, 2002), declares, “Credit card debt can destroy a marriage. I don’t care how much two people may love each other, if one of them is constantly spending the couple into debt, I can promise you that eventually the relationship will fall apart. If both parties are running up debts, it will simply end that much sooner.”
Bach gives two reasons for his strong caution about credit card debt: “First of all, carrying credit card debt is stressful. Knowing that you owe a company money and that you’re being charged as much as 20 percent interest on the outstanding balance will make even the most laid-back person anxious. Second, the anxiety never goes away; it’s there—all day, every day—until the debt is paid off . . . a stressful relationship is not a happy relationship—and unhappy relationships usually don’t last.”
Be sure that what you save is wisely invested where it can grow and produce still more. Remember Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25) where a master gave money to three different people. Later he checked in with them to see what they had done with it. One of the three simply buried his money in the backyard because he was afraid of losing it. The master was angry saying his behavior was horrible. “You should have put the money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest” (Matthew 25:27), he declared.
If you are not sure about ways of investing, consider working with a financial advisor. “The rich almost always use financial advisors,” notes David Bach. “Eighty-nine percent of investors with portfolios worth more than $100,000 prefer to hire a financial advisor. That’s something to think about if you are not yet as rich as you want to be,” he says. “Hiring a financial professional to assist you is not a sign that you are weak or lazy. Smart, successful people hire coaches all the time. Tiger Woods, who is arguably the greatest golfer ever, still works with a golf coach. He doesn’t say, ‘Oh, I know everything there is to know about golf, I’m done learning.’ He uses a golf coach to keep getting better.”
This is God’s world and we are to enjoy what has been given to us. While the Bible tells us we are not supposed to love money (1 Timothy 6:10), the Bible does advise us to enjoy it. King Solomon addresses this fact: “It is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:18, 19).
Victor Parachin is a freelance writer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Living by the Truth
Which of the following causes you the biggest struggle with your money?
• investing wisely
• living joyfully
Which Scripture listed in this article do you most need to memorize and apply to your financial situation?
What steps are you going to take, starting today, to create a more solid financial life?