For most of us, we’re told consistently by those around us that debt is a part of life. To get a house, car, apartment, better interest rates, we must use debt to get ahead or get the best savings or interest rates for these future purchases. While there are some inklings of truth in these statements, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can build wealth and avoid debt at the same time rather than one having to be used to do the other.
Why should you avoid debt? Some might state reasons like:
The Bible never speaks favorably about debt and refers to it as a danger. (Proverbs 22:7, Romans 13:8, Proverbs 22:26-27, Psalm 37:21)
Debt is a rip off because we finance things that don’t grow in value and therefore pay tons of interest on top of these purchases.
You can’t predict the future. Every time you sign a pledge to pay this debt off over the course of a specific time, you are guaranteeing that you’ll have the income to provide for that payment.
By the way, these are all great reasons to avoid debt, but they should never be our primary motivation. Ultimately, people should avoid debt because:
Debt is a hindrance to generosity.
There is a common theme in Scripture when it comes to how God wants us to steward his money and it’s always for the greater cause of giving it away to others. Costi Hinn put it best when he said, “The way that God gives us his grace generously models the same way we are called to be generous with our money.”
Common responses to calls for generosity often are met with excuses like “I wish I could help” or “this is really important to me, but I can’t give at the moment”. Sadly, the reasoning is almost always the same: we don’t have the money to give because we’re in debt. While debt is considered acceptable in the form of a primary home with a proper mortgage/terms while also maintaining a specific percent of your monthly budget, most debt is completely avoidable. Whether it’s student loans, car loans, credit card debt, etc., it doesn’t have to be this way.
Most of the time, the problem that we often have in money management within Christian circles is that we all have different goals. Some people have the goal of building wealth so they can see their net worth pass a million dollars. Some people want to have the house that they’ve always wanted and the car that they’ve always dreamed about. While these accomplishments are not necessarily bad things to pursue on their own, they should never be our prime focus in our stewardship.
The Apostle Paul makes a crucial point in Ephesians 4:28 when he says: Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
While providing for our family certainly remains a priority for the Christian (1 Timothy 5:8), we should equally strive to live a lifestyle that takes care of our needs and leaves plenty of margin for outrageous generosity.
Paul David Tripp also noted this passage as being highly pivotal in his philosophy on personal finance in an episode of the More Than Money podcast when he makes the point that the Bible doesn’t present the idea that money is God’s main means of providing for you. The #1 purpose of the money that God gives you is so that you can be a part of his generosity mission on Earth.
There are many reasons why people have chosen to avoid debt over the years, but the fact is that no reason should be able trump the fact that debt prevents us from living the full life that God calls us to. It holds us back rather than sends us off.
These massive numbers of debt in our country aren’t simply represented by people utilizing it to build wealth, these balances represent a broken view of money and why we have it. It represents see broken marriages as they fight over finances. It represents dreams destroyed because they didn't have the margin to pursue what they felt God calling them to do. It’s particularly heartbreaking when missionaries are so financially burdened because of student loans that they must come back home to deal with their poor financial situation. These people lay awake at night stressed to the brim with anxiety, depression, and stress as they try to make the numbers work and wonder if they should keep going.
In the grand scheme of things, debt and generosity are two totally conflicting ideas heading in two completely different directions. If you pursue debt, you’ll find that generosity is always going to be a struggle. But if you pursue generosity, the idea of debt will continue to distance itself from your mind as you envision the idea of changing the world on this side of eternity.