Week 3- Work & Debt

This Week's Memory Verses

Colossians 3:23-24

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."

Proverbs 22:7

"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender."

Continue recording income and spending into your 30-day diary

Complete a Resume (Day Two)

Snowball Debt Calculator (Day Four)

Agenda

1. (5 minutes)

Open in prayer.

2. (5 minutes)

Each person individually recites this weeks memory verses.

3. (85 minutes)

Begin the group discussion.

Day One

Take the Personality Profile test.

Genesis 2:15; Genesis 3:17-19

[Work was initiated before sin entered the world. And in the perfect, sinless environment of the Garden of Eden, God created work for our benefit. It was not a result of sin and the curse.]

[Work became difficult because of sin.]

Genesis 39:2-5; Exodus 35:30-35; Psalm 75:6-7

Genesis 39:2-5— [The Lord controls success.]

Exodus 35:30-35— [The Lord gives us job skills and the ability to teach.]

Psalm 75:6-7— [The Lord controls promotion and demotion.]

Day Two


Proverbs 6:6-11; Proverbs 18:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9

Proverbs 6:6-11- [Ants are honored for hard work, and those who are lazy are warned of poverty.]

Proverbs 18:9- [A lazy person is compared to someone who destroys.]

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9- [Paul modeled hard work.]

Exodus 34:21

[Hard work should be balanced with adequate rest and other biblical priorities. Even during busy times, one day of rest a week was required.]

If you haven't already done so, complete a resume. After completing the resume, answer the following questions.

Day Three

Philippians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Philippians 4:11-13– [Contentment is not something that occurs naturally; it is learned. We can learn to be content in any circumstance.]

1 Timothy 6:6-8– [Godliness with contentment is a means of great gain. We can’t take anything with us when we die, and we should be content with our basic needs satisfied.]

Acts 4:32-37; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Acts 4:32-37 — [An equality of needs being met within the body of Christ led to revival.]

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 — [We are encouraged to live quiet, industrious lives.]

How do the following factors influence your spending and lifestyle?

Day Four

Deuteronomy 15:4-6; Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 12; Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-45

[Debt was considered a curse. Being free from debt (being a lender) was a blessing. Disobedience led to debt and obedience led to getting out of debt.]

Romans 13:8; Proverbs 22:7

Snowball Your Debt

Need a plan to get out of debt? Snowball your way out of it. And here’s how. In addition to making the minimum payments on all your credit cards, focus on paying off the smallest-balance card first. You’ll be encouraged to see its bal­ance go down, down, and finally disappear!

After the first credit card is paid off, apply its payment toward the next smallest one. After the second card is paid off, apply what you were paying on the first and second toward the third smallest. That’s the snowball in action!

When you’re on a roll like this, it starts getting exciting. Those “impossible” balances that have worried you and robbed you of your peace will begin diminishing before your very eyes.


Use the Snowball Debt Calculator to develop a plan to snowball your debt. Save or print your report and execute the plan.


What if I don't have debt?

You don't have debt - awesome! Stay that way! But just so you understand the consequences of debt, look at the following scenario:

You have just started your first job and received a credit card with a $4500 limit at 18% interest.

With your credit card you purchased some really cool things: a new tv ($1200), a new wardrobe ($800), a new computer ($1200), and decided to reward yourself with a great vacation ($1300). You have maxed out your card and now owe $4500 at 18% interest. Use the debt calculator to find out how long it will take you to pay off your credit card without adding any additional money to your monthly payment.

Day Five

Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 3:27-28

Psalm 37:21— [A person who borrows but does not repay debts is called “wicked.”]

Proverbs 3:27-28— [Pay debts promptly if you have the resources. Many delay repayment as long as possible, but this is not biblical.]

2 Kings 4: 1-7

[Seek the counsel of godly people, as well as the Lord’s help and direction. His supernatural intervention is required whether He answers quickly, as in the case of the widow, or more slowly over time. We should use whatever resources are available—however small—in an effort to get out of debt. Involve the entire family in your effort to get out of debt.]

Day Six

Read the Income & Spending Notes below and answer the following questions.

Remaining Agenda

1. (10 minutes)

Note in the Prayer Log requests and answers to prayers.

2. (5 minutes)

End in prayer.

Reminder for Facilitators:

WORK NOTES

Over a fifty-year span an average person spends 100,000 hours working. Many, however, are dissatisfied with their jobs, because they feel unfulfilled, underpaid, or under appreciated.

Boredom, lack of fulfillment, fear of job loss, inadequate wages, and countless other pressures have contributed to this discontentment. Doctors, housewives, secretaries, salesmen, blue-collar workers, managers, and those in Christian service – regardless of the profession – all have experienced similar frustrations.

Understanding and implementing scriptural principles that relate to work will enable you to find satisfaction in your job and place you in a position where the Lord can prosper you.

We will examine three broad principles of work, explore God’s part in work along with our responsibilities in work, and review several practical work issues.

BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON WORK

Even before the fall - the time at which sin entered the human race - God instituted work. “The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The very first thing the Lord did with Adam was to put him to work. Despite what many have come to think, work was initiated for man’s benefit in the sinless environment of the Garden of Eden. Work is not a result of the curse.

After the fall, work was made more difficult. "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you should eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread" (Genesis 3:17-19).

NECESSITY OF WORK

Work is so important that in Exodus 34:21 God gives this command: “You shall work six days.” In the New Testament we discover that Paul is just as direct. “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Examine this verse carefully. It says, “If anyone will not work.” It did not say, “If anyone cannot work.” This principle does not apply to those who are physically or mentally unable to work. It is for those who are able but choose not to work.

A close friend of ours has a sister in her mid-thirties whose parents have always supported her. She has never had to face the responsibilities and hardships involved in a job. As a consequence, her character has not been properly developed, and she is extremely immature in many areas of her life.

One of the primary purposes of work is to develop character. While the carpenter is building a house, the house is also building the carpenter. His skill, diligence, and judgment are refined. A job is not merely a task designed to earn money; it is also intended to produce godly character in the life of the worker.

DIGNITY IN ALL WORK

There is dignity in all types of work; Scripture does not elevate any honest profession above another. A wide variety of vocations are represented in the Bible. David was a shepherd and a king. Luke was a doctor. Lydia was a retailer who sold purple fabric. Daniel was a government worker. Paul was a tent maker, Amos, a fig-picker, and the Lord Jesus, a carpenter. God can and will use us in any honest work.

In God’s economy there is equal dignity in the labor of the automobile mechanic and the president of General Motors, in the labor of the leader of a national Christian ministry and a secretary serving in that ministry.

GOD'S PART IN WORK

Scripture reveals three specific responsibilities the Lord retains in connection with work.

1. THE SOURCE OF JOB SKILLS

Exodus 36:1 illustrates this truth: “And every skillful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work.” God has given people a wide variety of abilities, manual skills and intellectual capacities. It is not a matter of one person being better than another; it is simply a matter of having received different abilities.

2. THE ORIGIN OF SUCCESS

The life of Joseph is a perfect example of God orchestrating success. "The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man … his master saw that the Lord was with him, and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand" (Genesis 39:2-3).

As we have seen, you and I have certain responsibilities, but we need to recognize that it is ultimately God who gives us success.

3. THE SOURCE OF PROMOTION

Psalm 75:6-7 reads, “For promotion and power come from nowhere on earth, but only from God” (LB). As much as it may surprise you, your boss is not the one who controls whether or not you will be promoted.

This perspective on God’s part in work is a remarkable contrast to the way most people think. Our culture leaves God out of work, thinking that people alone are responsible for their job skills, success, and promotions. However, those with biblical understanding will approach work with an entirely different frame of reference.

One of the major reasons people experience stress and frustration in their jobs is because they don’t understand God’s part in work. Consider God’s part, how He gives you your skills and controls your success and promotion. Stop reading for a few minutes and think about this. How should this perspective impact you and your job?

OUR PART IN WORK

Scripture reveals that we actually are serving the Lord in our work, not just people. "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve" (Colossians 3:23-24).

This perspective has profound implications. Consider your attitude toward work. If you could see the person of Jesus Christ as your teacher or boss, would you strive to be more faithful in your school work or on your job? The most important question you need to answer every day as you begin your work is: “For whom do I work?” You work for Christ.

HARD WORK

“Whatever your hand finds to do, verily do it with all your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). “...the precious possession of a man is diligence” (Proverbs 12:27). In Scripture, hard work and diligence are encouraged while laziness is repeatedly condemned: “He who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9).

Paul’s life was an example of hard work. "...with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you … in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you might follow our example" (2 Thessalonians 3:8-9).

Your work should be at such a level that people will never equate laziness and mediocrity with God. Nothing less than hard work and the pursuit of excellence pleases the Lord. We are not required to be “super-workers” – people who never make mistakes. Rather, the Lord expects us to do the best we possibly can.

OVERWORK

A frantic, breathless, over-commitment to work pervades our culture. Working hard must be balanced by the other priorities of life. Clearly, our first priority is our relationship with the Lord. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

If a job demands so much of your time and energy that you neglect these priorities, then you are working too much. You should determine whether the job is too demanding or your work habits need changing. If you are a “workaholic,” take extra precautions to guard against shortchanging the other priorities of life.

Exodus 34:21 reads, “You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest.” I believe this Old Testament principle of resting one day out of seven has application for us today. This has been difficult for me, particularly during times of “plowing or harvesting” when a project deadline is approaching, or I am under unusual financial pressure.

Rest can become an issue of faith. Is the Lord able to make our six days of work more productive than seven days? Yes! The Lord instituted this weekly rest for our physical, mental, and spiritual health.

EMPLOYEE’S RESPONSIBILITIES

We can identify the six major responsibilities of the godly employee by examining an event in the life of Daniel – the well-known story of Daniel in the lion’s den.

In Daniel chapter 6 we are told that Darius, the king of Babylon, appointed 120 men to administer the government, and three men, one of whom was Daniel, to supervise these administrators. Then King Darius decided to promote Daniel to govern the entire kingdom. Daniel’s fellow employees then sought to eliminate him. First of all, they looked for an opportunity to discredit him in his job. After this failed, they appealed to King Darius, who decreed that everyone in the kingdom would be required to worship only the king or suffer the punishment of death in the lions’ den. Daniel was thrown to the lions after refusing to cease worshipping the living God. The Lord then rescued this godly employee by sending His angel to shut the lions’ mouths. Here are the six characteristics of a godly employee.

1. ABSOLUTE HONESTY

Daniel 6:4 tells us that his fellow employees could find no grounds for accusation against Daniel in regard to his job, because there was “no evidence of corruption” in Daniel’s work. He was absolutely honest.

2. FAITHFULNESS

We discover the second characteristic of the godly employee in Daniel 6:4: “He was faithful.” The godly employee needs to establish the goal of being faithful and excellent in his work, then to work hard to attain that goal.

3. PRAYERFULNESS

The godly employee is a person of prayer. "Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, (restricting worship to the king alone) he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously" (Daniel 6:10).

Daniel’s job was that of governing the most powerful country of his day. Few of us will ever be faced with the magnitude of Daniel’s responsibilities and the demands upon his time. Yet he knew the importance and priority of prayer. If you are not praying consistently, your work is suffering.

4. HONORING YOUR EMPLOYER

“Daniel spoke to the king, ‘O King lives forever!” (Daniel 6:21). What a remarkable response from Daniel. The king, his employer, had been deceived and was forced to sentence Daniel to the lions’ den. Think how natural it would have been to say something like, “You loser! The God who sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouths is going to punish you!” But Daniel’s reaction was to honor his boss.

The godly employee always honors his superior. First Peter 2:18 reads, “Servants (employees), be submissive to your masters (employer) with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.” One way to honor your employer is to never participate in gossip behind your employer’s back, even if he or she is not an ideal person.

5. HONORING FELLOW EMPLOYEES

People will play “office politics” in the never-ending competition for promotion. Some will even try to have you terminated from your job. Daniel was the object of attempted murder by his peers. Despite this, there is not evidence that Daniel did anything but honor his fellow employees. Never slander a fellow employee behind his or her back. “Do not slander a slave (employee) to his master (employer), lest he curse you and you be found guilty” (Proverbs 30:10).

The godly person should avoid office politics and manipulation to secure a promotion. Your superior does not control your promotion; the Lord Himself makes that determination. We can be content in our job by striving for faithfulness, honoring superiors, and encouraging our fellow employees. Having done this, we can know that Christ will promote us if and when He chooses.

6. VERBALIZING YOUR FAITH

King Darius would never have known about the living God if Daniel had not communicated his faith verbally at appropriate moments during the normal conduct of his job.

"The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?'” (Daniel 6:20).

Darius would not have been as powerfully influenced by Daniel sharing his faith if he had not observed this employee fulfilling his responsibilities with honesty and faithfulness.Listen to the words of Darius: "I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever" (Daniel 6:26).

Daniel influenced his employer, one of the most powerful people in the world, to believe in the only true and living God. You have that same opportunity in your own God-given sphere of school and work. Let me say this another way. A job well done earns you the right to tell others with whom you work about the reality of Christ. As we view our work from God’s perspective, dissatisfaction will turn to contentment from a job well done, and drudgery will become excitement over the prospect of introducing others to the Savior.

OTHER WORK ISSUES

There are several other important aspects of work.

AMBITION

Scripture does not condemn ambition. Paul was ambitious. "We have as our ambition… to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds" (2 Corinthians 5:9-10) What is strongly denounced is selfish ambition.

"The Lord will render to each person according to his deeds … to those who are selfishly ambitious … wrath and indignation" (Romans 2:6-8).

"But if you have … selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where… selfish ambition exists, there is disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:14-16).

"But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them" (Jeremiah 45:5).

The motivation for our ambition should be a longing to please Christ. We should have as our goal to become an increasingly faithful steward in using the possessions and skills entrusted to us. In our work we should strive to please the Lord by discharging our job responsibilities to the best of our ability.

PARTNERSHIPS

Scripture clearly discourages business partnerships with those who do not know Christ. "Do not be bound together (unequally yoked) with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,' says the Lord" (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).

Many have violated this principle and have suffered financially. In my opinion, we should also be very careful before entering into a partnership even with another Christian. I would consider only a few people as potential partners. These are men I have known intimately for years. I have observed their commitment to the Lord, I know their strengths and weaknesses, and I have consistently seen them handle money faithfully. Do not rush into a partnership! Prayerfully evaluate what it may entail.

Before forming a partnership, commit your understandings, assumptions, and agreements into written form with your future partner. “But we’ve been friends for years,” you may say. That may be true, but if you really value the relationship, you will protect it from a misunderstanding by putting the details of the agreement down on paper. This written document should also provide a method to dissolve the partnership. If you are not able to agree in writing, do not become partners.

PROCRASTINATION

A procrastinator is someone who, because of laziness or fear, has a habit of delaying, postponing, or putting things off until later. What begins as a habit can develop into a serious character flaw.

The Bible has many examples of godly people who were not procrastinators, and one of my favorite examples is Boaz. Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, made this comment about Ruth’s future husband, Boaz: “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today” (Ruth 3:18). Boaz clearly had the reputation of a person who was faithful to act promptly.

Here are some practical suggestions to help overcome procrastination:

1. List the things you need to do each day.

2. Prayerfully review and prioritize the list according to the tasks you need to accomplish first.

3. Finish the first task on your list before starting the second. Often that first task is the most difficult or the one you fear the most.

4. Ask the Lord to give you courage, remembering Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

WIVES WORKING OUTSIDE THE HOME

Most women in college have career plans outside of the home. Single women should consider a career as a means of support. Married women without children also often work outside the home. The most difficult decisions for women concerning work come when they have young children at home.

More and more wives are working fulltime jobs. In 1947 working husbands outnumbered working wives five to one; now the ratio is less than two to one. Married women work to provide additional income for their families, to express their creativity, or because they enjoy the job environment. Widows and divorcees often must work to provide for the basic needs of their families. A Stanford University study found that wives who work outside the home carry a particularly heavy load of seventy to eighty hours a week with the responsibilities of their job plus household work.

In my opinion, during the children’s early formative years it is preferable for the mothers of very young children to be home when the children are home, unless the family finances depend on their income. Titus 2:4-5 reads, “...encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home.”

As the children mature, the wife will have increased freedom to pursue work outside the home. Proverbs 31:10-31 reads, "An excellent wife … does him (her husband) good and not evil all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands … she brings her food from afar. She rises also while it is still night, and gives food to her household … she considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard … She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle.She extends her hands to the poor … She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen … She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness."

Proverbs 31 paints a beautiful picture of the working wife living a balanced life with the thrust of her activity toward the home. My opinion is that a wife’s work is not so much in the home as it is for the home. The Bible does not say that a wife should be confined to four walls, but rather, involved in activities that relate to the home.

Some women are gifted as homemakers, and there is not a more important task than raising godly children. However, other women have the aptitude and desire to work outside the home. Either way, it is a decision that the husband and wife should make prayerfully and with full agreement.

Each of us has a specific calling or purpose which the Lord intends for us to fulfill in our work. The root meaning of the word “vocation” has to do with a call to a particular task. Ephesians 2:10 reads, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Study this passage carefully, “We are His workmanship.” The Amplified Bible says “We are His handwork.” Each of us has been created uniquely and given special physical, emotional and mental abilities. You have probably heard the expression, “After the Lord made you, He threw away the mold!” You indeed are uniquely gifted. No one in all of history – past, present or future – is like you.

The passage continues, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we whould walk in them.” The Lord created each of us for a particular job, and He endowed us with the proper skills, aptitudes, and desires to accomplish this work.

This calling may be full-time Christian service or a secular job. Often people struggle with whether God wants them to be in business once they commit their lives to Christ. Many feel they are not serving Christ in a significant way if they work in business. Nothing could be further from the truth. The key is for each person to determine God’s call for his or her life.

In his book God Owns My Business, Stanley Tamm writes, “Although I believe in the application of good principles in business, I place far more confidence in the conviction that I have a call from God. I am convinced that His purpose for me is in the business world. My business is my pulpit.”

For those who earn a living through secular pursuits, it is a great comfort to know that the “call” of holy vocation carries over into all walks of life. God strategically places His children everywhere!

JOB INTERVIEWS

There are several things you should do to prepare for an interview:

1. Pray. Ask the Lord to help you get the job ifi it is the one He wants for you. This can be a special time in developing a closer walk with the Lord.

2. Do your homework. Learn as much about the company as possible before the interview. This information will help you demonstrate your understanding of the company during the interview.

3. Be on time and well groomed. Never arrive late; plan on being at least ten minutes early. Your clothing should be clean and neat; be careful not to dress too casually.

EMPLOYER'S EVALUATION

The employer's evaluation of a candidate for a position will usually include the following:

1. How mentally alert was the candidate?

2. Did the candidate answer questions concisely or did they ramble?

3. Did the candidate demonstrate a degree of intellectual depth when communicating?

4. Has the candidate used good judgment and common sense regarding life planning up to now?

5. Was the candidate enthusiastic about the opportunity or position?

6. Was the candidate respectful of their former employer(s)?

7. Did the candidate make eye contact?

POTENTIAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

1. What are your long-range and short-range goals?

2. How are you preparing yourself to achieve them?

3. What do you see yourself doing five years from now?

4. How would you describe yourself? What is one strength you have? One weakness?

5. In what ways do you think you could make a contribution to our organization?

6. Why did you decide to seek a position with this company?

7. What criteria are you using to evaluate the company you hope to work for?

8. Tell me about the last time you experienced and had to deal with a conflict.

9. How do you think your college experience has prepared you for this position?

10. Why should I hire you?

11. Do you have any questions you would like to ask?

HELPFUL HINTS

  • Write down and bring any questions you might have to the interview.
  • Never interrupt the interviewer!
  • Never bring up salary in the initial interview. If the question of salary does come up, it must be done by the interviewer.
  • Always thank the interviewer for their time, and the opportunity to discuss your qualifications with them.
  • Follow up the interview within a few days by sending a personal thank-you note.

RETIREMENT

The dictionary defines retirement as “withdrawal from an occupation or business, to give up or retreat from an active life.” The goal of retirement is deeply ingrained in our culture. Many people retire at an arbitrary, pre-determined age and cease all labor in the pursuit of a life filled with leisure.

Scripture gives no examples of people retiring and gives only one direct reference to retirement, which is found in Numbers 8:24-26. The instruction there applied exclusively to the Levites who worked on the tabernacle.

As long as one is physically and mentally capable, there is no scriptural basis for a person retiring and becoming unproductive. The concept of putting an older but able person “out to pasture” is unbiblical. Age is no obstacle in finishing the work the Lord has for you to accomplish. He will provide you with the necessary vigor and stamina. For example, Moses was eighty years old when he began his 40-year adventure leading the children of Israel.

Scripture does imply that the type or the intensity of work may change as we grow older – a shifting of the gears to a less demanding pace in order to become more of an “elder seated at the gate.” During this season of life we can actively employ the experience and wisdom gained over a lifetime. If we have sufficient income to meet our needs apart from our job, we may choose to leave the job to invest more time in serving others in whatever capacity the Lord directs.

DEBT NOTES

What debt looks like in our country:

At the time this sentence was typed, the US national debt was over 17 trillion dollars. The US National Debt Clock can give you the current national debt.

What does a trillion dollars look like? If you were alive when Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.

What debt looks like for the average US household:

Average credit card debt: $15,191

Average mortgage debt: $154,365

Average student loan debt: $33,607

The dictionary defines debt as: “money or property which one person is obligated to pay to another.” Debt includes money owed to credit card companies, bank loans, student loans, money borrowed from relatives, the home mortgage, and past-due medical bills. Bills that come due, such as the monthly phone bill, are not considered debt if they are paid on time.

THE REAL COST OF DEBT

We need to understand the cost of debt. Debt imposes both a financial and physical cost. Assume you have $5,560 in credit card debt at an 18 percent interest rate. This would cost you about $1,000 in interest annually. Study the chart below.

You can see what lenders have known for a long time: the eye-popping impact of compounding interest working for them. If they earn 18 percent, they will accumulate more than $4 million on your $1,000 a year for 40 years! Is it any wonder credit card companies are eager for you to become one of their borrowers?

Now compare the $40,000 you paid in interest over 40 years with the $527,039 you would have accumulated if you had earned 10 percent on $1,000 each year. The monthly income on $527,039 earning 10 percent - without ever touching the principal - is $4,392!

Debt has a much higher cost than many realize. Stop to consider this: When you assume debt of $5,560 and pay $1,000 a year in interest versus earning a 10 percent return on that $1000, it actually costs you $527,039 over 40 years. The next time you find yourself tempted to purchase something with debt, ask yourself if the long-term benefits of staying out of debt outweigh the short-term benefits of the purchase.

Debt also often increases stress, which contributes to mental, physical, and emotional fatigue. It can stifle creativity and devastate relationships. Many people raise their lifestyle through debt, only to discover that the burden of debt then controls their lifestyle. The bumper sticker that reads, “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go,” is an unfortunate reality for too many people.

DEBT IN SCRIPTURE

Scripture’s perspective on debt is clear. Carefully read the first portion of Romans 13:8 from several different Bible translations: “Owe no man anything” (KJV), “Let no debt remain outstanding” (NIV), “Pay all your debts” (LB).“Owe nothing to anyone” (NAS). “Keep out of debt and owe no man anything” (Amplified).

1. Debt is slavery. In Proverbs 22:7 we learn why our Lord speaks so directly to the area of debt: “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (LB). When we are in debt, we are in a position of servitude to the lender. And the deeper we are in debt, the more of a servant we become. We do not have the freedom to decide where to spend our income, because our money is already legally obligated to meet these debts.

In 1 Corinthians 7:23 Paul writes, “You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.” Our Father made the ultimate sacrifice by giving His son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for us. And He now wants His children free to serve Him in whatever way He chooses rather than be enslaved again.

2. Debt was considered a curse. In the Old Testament, being out of debt was one of the promised rewards for obedience. "Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God … and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow" (Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 12).

However, indebtedness was one of the curses inflicted for disobedience. "But it should come about, if you will not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you … The alien who is among you shall rise above you higher and higher, but you shall go down lower and lower: He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail" (Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44).

3. Debt presumes upon tomorrow. When we get into debt, we assume that we will earn enough in the future to pay the debt. Scripture cautions us against presumption. "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that'” (James 4:13-15).

4. Debt may deny God an opportunity. Ron Blue, an outstanding author, tells of a young man who wanted to go to seminary to become a missionary. The young man had no money and thought the only way he could afford seminary was to secure a student loan. However, this would have encumbered him with $40,000 of debt by the time he graduated, which would have been impossible to pay back on a missionary’s salary.

After a great deal of prayer, he decided to enroll without the help of a student loan and to trust the Lord to meet his needs. He graduated without borrowing anything and grew in his appreciation for how God could creatively provide his needs. This was the most valuable lesson learned in seminary as he prepared for life on the mission field. Borrowing may deny God an opportunity to demonstrate His reality.

BORROWING

Scripture is silent on the subject of when we can owe money. In my opinion, it is permissible to owe money for a home mortgage, for your business, or for your vocation- only if the following three criteria are met.

1. The item purchased is an asset with the potential to appreciate or produce an income.

2. The value of the item equals or exceeds the amount owed against it.

3. The debt is not so high that repayment puts undue strain on the budget.

Let me give you an example of how a home mortgage might qualify. Historically, the home has usually been an appreciating asset, so it meets the first criterion. If you invest a reasonable down payment, you could expect to sell the home for at least enough to satisfy the mortgage, and this meets the second requirement. Lastly, the monthly house payment should not strain your budget.

If you meet all the criteria and assume some “permissible debt,” I pray you will immediately establish the goal of eliminating even this debt. There is no assurance that the housing market will appreciate or even maintain current values. A loss of job can interrupt your income. Please consider paying off all debt.

GETTING OUT OF DEBT

There are nine steps for getting out of debt. The steps are easy, but following them requires hard work. The goal is D-Day - Debtless Day - when you become absolutely free of debt.

1. Pray for the Lord’s help. The first and most important step is to pray. Seek the Lord’s help and guidance in your journey toward Debtless Day. A trend is emerging. As people begin to eliminate debt and to accelerate debt repayment, the Lord blesses their faithfulness. Even if you can afford only a small monthly prepayment of your debt, please do it. The Lord can multiply your efforts.

2. Establish a written spending plan. In my experience, few people in debt have been using a budget, or spending plan. They may have had one, but they have not been using it. A spending plan helps you plan ahead, analyze your spending patterns, and control the biggest budget buster of them all - impulse spending.

3. List everything you own. Evaluate your assets to determine if there is anything you do not need that might be sold to help you get out of debt more quickly.

4. List everything you owe. Many people, particularly if they owe a lot of money, do not know exactly what they owe. List your debts to determine your current financial situation. You also need to determine the interest rate your creditors are charging for each debt.

5. Establish a debt repayment schedule. Part of the "Let's Get Practical" section this week is establishing a repayment schedule for each debt using the Snowball Debt Calculator. Make sure you complete this important exercise!

6. Consider earning additional income. Many students hold jobs that simply do not produce enough income to meet their needs, even if they spend wisely. If you earn additional income, decide in advance to pay off debts with the added earnings. We tend to spend more than we make, whether we earn much or little. Spending always seems to keep ahead of earning.

7. Control the use of credit cards. An avalanche of 2.5 billion solicitations a year offering credit cards is overwhelming our culture. Many of these solicitations are deceptive, promising low interest rates, which in the fine print rise to exorbitant levels within a few months. Others offer free T-shirts or such giveaways in an effort to attract our attention.

I do not believe that credit cards are inherently sinful, but they are extremely dangerous. The leading problem college counselors are asked about is the inability of students to handle credit card debt.It is estimated that people carry over 800,000,000 credit cards, and only 40 percent of them are paid in full each month. Statistics show that people spend approximately one-third more when they use credit cards rather than cash, because they feel they are not really spending money (because it’s just plastic). As one shopper said to another, “I like credit cards lots more than money because they go so much further!”

When I analyze the financial situation of someone in debt, I use a simple rule of thumb to determine whether credit cards are too dangerous for them. If they do not pay the entire balance due at the end of each month, I encourage them to perform some plastic surgery - any good scissors will do.

8. Be content with what you have. We live in a culture whose advertising industry has devised powerful, sophisticated methods of inducing consumers to buy. Frequently the message is intended to create discontentment with what we have.

A clear example is the American company that opened a new plant in Central America because the labor was plentiful and inexpensive. Everything was progressing smoothly until the villagers received their first paycheck; afterwards they did not return to work. Several days later, the manager went down to the village chief to determine the cause of this problem. The chief responded, “Why should we work? We already have everything we need.” The plant stood idle for two months until someone came up with the bright idea of sending a mail-order catalog to every villager. There has never been an employment problem since!

Note these three realities of our consumer driven society:

1. The more television you watch, the more you spend.

2. The more you look at magazines and internet shopping sites, the more you spend.

3. The more you shop, the more you spend.

9. Do not give up! The last step is the most difficult one in getting out of debt. It takes hard work. You must lower your standard of living three times: (a) you must stop spending more than you are making, (b) you must pay interest on the debt, and (c) you must pay back what you have borrowed.

It is never easy to get out of debt, but the freedom is worth the struggle.

ESCAPING THE AUTO DEBT TRAP

Automobile loans are one of the leading causes of indebtedness. Seventy percent of all automobiles are financed. The average person keeps his car between three and four years. The average car lasts for ten years.

Here’s how to escape this trap. First, decide in advance to keep your car for at least six years. Second, pay off your automobile loan. Third, continue paying the monthly car payment, but pay it into a special savings account for yourself. Then when you are ready to replace your car, the saved cash plus the trade-in should be sufficient to buy the next car without credit. It may not be a new car, but you should be able to purchase a good, low-mileage used car, without any debt.


Use the Auto Loan Payoff Calculator below to formulate a plan to pay off your car early. It could be your first step to never buying a car with credit again!


DEBT REPAYMENT RESPONSIBILITIES

Many delay payments to use the creditor’s money as long as possible. There are seminars that actually teach people to live on the “ragged edge of being a dead beat,” but this is not biblical. "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and comeback, and tomorrow I will give it,' when you have it with you" (Proverbs 3:27-28)

Godly people should pay their debts and bills as promptly as they can. We have a policy of trying to pay each bill the same day we receive it to demonstrate to others that knowing Jesus Christ has made us financially responsible.

USING YOUR SAVINGS

It is wise not to deplete all your savings to pay off debt. Maintain a reasonable level of savings to provide for the unexpected. If you apply all your savings against debt and the unexpected does occur, you will probably be forced to incur more debt to fund the emergency.

BANKRUPTCY

A court can declare a person bankrupt and unable to pay their debts. Depending upon the type of bankruptcy, the court will either allow the debtor to develop a plan to repay his creditors, or the court will distribute his property among the creditors as payment for the debts.

An epidemic of bankruptcy is sweeping our country. Should a godly person declare bankruptcy? The answer is generally no. Psalm 37:21 tells us, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.”

In my opinion, bankruptcy is permissible under two circumstances: a creditor forces a person into bankruptcy, or a counselor believes the debtor’s emotional health is at stake because of inability to cope with the pressure of unreasonable creditors.

After a person goes through bankruptcy, he should seek counsel from an attorney to determine if it’s legal to attempt to repay the debt when he is not obligated to do so. If it is within the law, he should make every effort to repay the debt. For a large debt, this may be a long-term goal that is largely dependent upon the Lord’s supernatural provision.

COSIGNING

Cosigning relates to debt. Anytime you cosign, you become legally responsible for the debt of another. It is just as if you went to the bank, borrowed the money and gave it to your friend or relative who is asking you to cosign.

A Federal Trade Commission study found that fifty percent of those who cosigned for bank loans ended up having to make the payment themselves. Seventy-five percent of those who cosigned for finance company loans ended up making the payments! Unfortunately, few cosigners plan for default. The casualty rate is so high because the professional lender has already determined that the loan on its own merit is a bad risk. That is why he won’t make the loan without someone who is financially responsible to guarantee its repayment.

Fortunately, Scripture speaks very clearly about cosigning. Proverbs 17:18 reads, “It is poor judgment to cosign another’s note, to become responsible for his debts” (LB). The words “poor judgment” is better translated “destitute of mind!” Please use sound judgment and never cosign a note or become surety for any debt.

CREDIT REPORTS & SCORES

Your credit score (FICO score) determines whether you can get credit. And your score may be high enough to get credit but not high enough to get a decent interest rate - whether you’re looking for a mortgage, a car loan, or some other type of credit. Without good scores, your application to rent an apartment may be turned down. Your scores can affect your car insurance premiums and even getting a job.

A credit score is a number designed to help lenders and others measure your likelihood of making payments on time. The FICO score ranges from 300-850, with the average score around 680. Higher scores are better. FICO scores above 700 indicate a good credit risk, while scores below 600 indicate a poor risk.

A low score can lead to much higher interest rates. For example, if you apply for a 30-year home mortgage and your credit score is too low, you could pay as much as three percent more. On a $200,000 mortgage, that three percent difference will cost you $400 per month. Over the life of the loan it adds up to $144,000!

The primary things that will harm your credit score are late payments or non-payments of bills or debts, bankruptcy, foreclosure, repossession, bills or loans sent to collection. To improve your score, the two most important actions you can take are to pay your bills on time and reduce your total debt. Once you start doing this, your score will begin to improve in about three months. Look at the factors affecting your score.

Late or missed payments, foreclosures or repossessions remain part of your credit report for seven years. You’ll have to wait ten years for a bankruptcy to be removed, and fifteen years for a tax lien. Even though these remain on your credit report, over time they have less impact if you pay your bills on time and reduce your debt.

Everyone should get a copy of their credit report once a year. Review it to make sure there are no mistakes or that you haven’t been the victim of identity theft. You can order a free copy of your credit report once every twelve months. To order, log on to AnnualCreditReport.com.

What if I don't have debt?

You don't have debt - awesome! Stay that way! But just so you understand the consequences of debt, look at the following scenario:

You have just started your first job and received a credit card with a $4500 limit at 18% interest.

With your credit card you purchased some really cool things; a new tv ($1200), a new wardrobe ($800), a new computer ($1200), and decided to reward yourself with a great vacation ($1300). You have maxed out your card and now owe $4500. You are faithful in making the $180 a month payments. $180 a month may not sound like too much, but here is the true cost of these purchases.

With interest, you have ended up paying $7073.51. Not only that, it will take you almost 11 years to pay off this credit card. By the time you pay off the debt the clothes you purchased will be completely out of date, your computer will be technologically obsolete, your TV will have died a year ago, and you may or may not still have the pictures from your vacation.

HOW TO ESTABLISH CREDIT

IDENTITY THEFT

The most common type of identity theft is in the area of finances. Someone tries to gain financial benefits using another person's name. This includes getting credit cards, loans, goods and services, and claiming to be someone else.

These thieves can acquire your financial in numerous ways- from digging through your trash, accessing old phones or computers and even using "contactless" card readers to steal your credit card information.

What to do:

We recommend that anyone who has been a victim of identity theft go to the Federal Trade Commission- Identity Theft Page. They have great tips on what to do immediately and how to protect yourself in the future.

HOME MORTGAGES

If you plan to purchase a home in the future, I would like to encourage you to pay it off more rapidly than scheduled. When Danielle and I first began to understand God’s financial principles, we felt we were to pay off everything, including the home mortgage. We began to explore how we might accomplish this. Let's look at some scenarios for paying off a home using the Mortgage Payoff Calculator below:

Let's use the following scenario as an example for the calculator:

Original Mortgage Term: 30 years

Original Mortgage Amount: 175,000

Annual Interest Rate: 5%

Calculate how much you will have saved over the life of the mortgage by adding:

$100 in the Additional Monthly Payment Box

$200 in the Additional Monthly Payment Box

$500 in the Additional Monthly Payment Box

By adding additional monthly payments to your mortgage you can save thousands of dollars while significantly cutting the amount of time to pay off your home. I would encourage you to make pre-paying (even a small amount) on your mortgage a part of your plan when buying a home.

There are two primary arguments against paying your home off early: (1) why pay off a low-interest home mortgage when you can earn more elsewhere? (2)You are losing a tax shelter because the interest paid on a home mortgage is a tax deduction.

Rather than addressing these arguments directly, we should recognize that our tax system is structured partially to reward indebtedness and penalize savings. We are taxed on interest earned, while interest paid on a home mortgage is treated as a tax deduction. However, in spite of our tax structure, the Bible encourages saving and discourages debt. Our purpose is simply to challenge you to seek Christ with an open heart to learn what He wants you to do.

Danielle and I felt the Lord challenging us to set a goal of trying to pay our home off in five years. We were newly married, our income was pretty low, and several of our friends thought we were crazy. If you added up the numbers, there was no way we could possibly pay off our home in that time. A little over four years later, through God's amazing provision, we paid off our home and were completely debt free. It was an incredible time of seeing God do His part as we were faithful in our part.

This Week's Video


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