Which of the following translations of Romans 13:8 is the most clear and easy to understand?
A) “Keep out of debt altogether” (Phillips) B) “Do not owe anyone anything” (ISV) C) “Owe no one anything” (ESV) D) “Owe no man anything” (ASV)
You are right! They are all pretty clear and easy to understand! And most of us would agree that being debt-free is a good way to live even if it were not a Biblical command. So why are so many Bible-believing Christians, churches, and ministries up to their eyeballs in debt? Why has it become commonplace for Christian families to owe thousands of dollars to credit card companies and for churches to fail to pay their bills?
Is it because we don’t understand the command above? Or is it because we don’t know that “to be debt free is to be set free” and that “the borrower is slave to the lender?” (Proverbs 22:7) Obviously, in most cases it is not a lack of knowledge or understanding. It’s a lack of obedience and self-discipline. We see something we want, and know that we don’t have the money to buy it, so we borrow the money and buy it anyway.
Some might say that I am being harsh, that our culture makes it so easy to slide down the slippery slope of indebtedness that the moneylenders and stores are to blame. There might be some truth to that, but it is still up to each individual person to decide to make a purchase or to take a loan, even if it is as easy as swiping a credit card. Each one of us has the choice to wait until we have saved up enough money to make the purchase or simply trust God to help us live without it.
This is especially true when it comes to churches and ministries. It doesn’t take a lot of research – just listen to the conversations at a pastor’s conference – to find that there are thousands of visionary church leaders out there who received some direction from the Lord and led the church into a mountain of debt in order to build a better facility, hire additional staff, or attract more people. By faith they believed that if they built a better building, people would come and fill it up. By faith they believed that if they hired more staff and created more programs the offering plate would overflow. By faith they believed that their superior Sunday services would attract people from all around the world, or at least around their state.
It sounded good, and their intentions were good, and they probably even heard from God. But, by borrowing money instead of being debt-free as Scripture commands us, they put their faith in their own abilities and in doing so, pledged their allegiance to the moneylender. And when the offerings didn’t increase as much as projected, or there was a leadership or economic crisis, the church faced hard decisions as to what cutbacks had to be made. They learned the reality of being slaves to the borrower as they focused on paying debts rather than pleasing God.
"It’s a lack of obedience and self-discipline. We see something we want, and know that we don’t have the money to buy it, so we borrow the money and buy it anyway."
The really sad part is that they had good intentions but just made some mistakes. They simply got ahead of God’s timetable or off the track of what He wanted to do. Instead of waiting for God to supply the resources to carry out the vision He gave them – after all it is His vision! – they went full steam ahead on the strength and promise of their own abilities and borrowed money. Oh, what could have been if they had been a little more patient and a lot more trusting in God!
It might have taken longer, but instead of struggling to make the payments, they would have the freedom to direct the finances of the church towards those people, needs, and ministries that God puts on their heart at that time. To be debt-free is to be set free, especially for churches!
So then, as we endeavor to discover Biblical church together, think about your church’s finances as well as your own personal finances. You really can tell the priorities of a church in the same way you can tell the priorities of a person – look at the bank and credit card statements! It will be obvious what the priorities are by where the money goes. How much interest is paid each month? How much goes to helping the needy? How much for the building? For missions? For salaries? For outreach? To bless the community?
For many of us this is a challenging revelation and it will take some time to bring correction to our situations and come into alignment with God’s will for our lives, churches, and ministries. So let’s start as we always do, by confessing our shortcomings to God and asking Him to help us get it right.
Let’s Pray Together: Lord, forgive us for those times when we have looked to the moneylenders instead of putting our trust in You. Forgive us for getting ahead of You or off track of what You want to do in our lives, churches, and ministries. Forgive us for going in debt for silly things like fancy restaurants or stuff that is long gone but we’re still paying the moneylenders for them. Forgive us for encumbering Your church with a load of debt. Help us to get out of debt and to live debt-free. Let it be true of me and of our church that we owe no man anything except the debt of love...(continue praying as you feel led…)
Real Life Examples and Testimonies Living Debt Free -- This video is loaded with practical advice on how to get debt-free and the blessings that came as a result.