Wednesday, 4 March 2009


Debt seems to be part of our national identity ... almost all of us have debt of some kind (I have a mortgage). What our nation is grappling with is the levels of personal debt and the reasons behind it.

Debt is as old as the hills. Jesus talked about debt, particularly the joy of being being released from it (Lk 7 & Mt 18). Presumably debt was a common feature of life then also.

For Christians, debt often has its root in the following (although not all debt is avoidable):

  • We don’t trust God to provide for what we really need. We know what we want but we aren’t sure God thinks we need it! We don’t trust God to come through for what we want so we live beyond our means.

  • We don’t have the patience to wait for God provision for us, we don’t want to wait and learn the lessons that are born out of time.

  • We aren’t content with God’s provision for us. Faith in God’s provision, anchored in the reality of His love, and the truth that God has no favourites, should be a powerful source of contentment … but sadly often it isn’t.

  • Peer pressure. We get into debt because we succumb to the pressure that everyone else ‘has’ & ‘does stuff’ (funded by debt), so why shouldn’t we?

It can be helpful to think about debt in two ways. ‘Having debt’ means being be able to comfortably service your debt. ‘Being in debt' means being stretched or unable to service your debt.

I have listed a few sayings to help shape our thinking on debt:

  • If you have to have debt, ‘have debt’ but avoid 'being in debt’.
  • Debt is not sinful but you can be ‘in debt’ because of sin.
  • Avoid debt wherever possible.
  • Living within your means is boring but living ‘in debt’ can be fatal.
  • Life is uncertain therefore be prudent, ‘Stretch is Stress’.
  • ‘Having debt’ can quickly spiral to 'being in debt’.
  • We need very little but we want very much.
  • A student loan is a debt, not an income.

If you are ‘in debt’ Jesus does have compassion for you. Now is the time to ask for help. Reading Frontline and Christians Against Poverty can help you, as can our church community … but you need to ask for help.

In Luke 7:40-43, Jesus told a story about a money lender cancelling a debt to introduce Spiritual Debt. Simon the Pharisee understood having financial debt cancelled was good but he needed to understand the reality & the need for Spiritual Debt to be cancelled.

So when we hear about our nation's huge personal debt, if we follow Jesus' lead, it should turn our thoughts to our nation's individual need for spiritual debt to be wiped out. Faith in Jesus.


FloydTheBarber said...

what are your thoughts about giving out of our debt?

Particularly in the realm of a student loan, which, even tho it is debt, is the only 'income' most students in churches will have. Does that mean should students give out of that? Should adults give out of their mortgage?

How far does 'being generous beyond our means' (2 Cor 7+8) illuminate this?

Also, my desk was a mess this morning, i've just tidied up in rememberance of our days together!

Sean Green said...

Hi buddy - good to hear from you and that you still tidy your desk ... at least sometimes!

In response to your questions. In principle I think giving your way out of debt is an issue of trust in God and pragmatic wisdom (your heart folows your treasure so giving affirms where you hope is). Clearly amount the given is an issue of personal conscience but it must represent faith and cost and joy!

I don't think the bible teaches we give from our debt - so i didn't give from my mortgage with a clear conscience. In the same way I think students can not give out of their loan with a clear conscience.

Students are in a dilemna in that they are encouraged to see their loan as an income, which it isn't. They should have a clear conscience if they choose to not give from it. But they must also be free to give from it if they do so with faith & joy. They also need to intend pay it back! (let no debt remain outstanding).