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Christians & Debt

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Christians & Debt: Romans 13: 8-14

Maranatha Baptist Church. October 30, 2005. 10:00 am

John Ortberg tells a story that we are all familiar of.  When we take our children to the shrine of the Golden Arches, they always lust for the meal that comes with a cheap little prize, a combination christened, in a moment of marketing genius, the Happy Meal. You’re not just buying fries, McNuggets, and a dinosaur stamp; you’re buying happiness. Their advertisements have convinced my children they have a little McDonald-shaped vacuum in their souls: "Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in a happy meal."

I try to buy off the kids sometimes. I tell them to order only the food and I’ll give them a quarter to buy a little toy on their own. But the cry goes up, "I want a Happy Meal." All over the restaurant, people crane their necks to look at the tight-fisted, penny-pinching cheapskate of a parent who would deny a child the meal of great joy.

The problem with the Happy Meal is that the happy wears off, and they need a new fix. No child discovers lasting happiness in just one: No child says, I remember that last happy meal, and with that I am satisfied and what great joy I found there!"

Happy Meals bring happiness only to McDonalds. You ever wonder why Ronald McDonald wears that grin? Twenty billion Happy Meals, that’s why.

When you get older, you don’t get any smarter; your happy meals just get more expensive. {Citation: John Ortberg, Dangers, Toils & Snares: Resisting the Hidden Temptations of Ministry (Multnomah, 1994), pp.99-100}

Canadian Stats:

A recent Statistics Canada study suggests Almost half of Canadian households spend more money than they earn, with much of that spending financed by debt. The study compared spending patterns of Canadian households in 1982 and 2001, using constant 2001 dollars. According to the study, 47 per cent of households spent more than they earned in 2001, up from 39 per cent in 1982.

Canadians are increasingly turning to borrowed money to finance their purchases, as they spend more on taxes, homes, health and education. Mortgage debt and consumer debt (credit cards, unpaid bills) have ballooned from a total of $258.2 billion in 1982 to $651 billion in 2001.

 

"Low interest rates and easy credit undoubtedly influence the inclination of households to borrow as household debt continues to rise to unprecedented levels in relation to household disposable income," said the study.

While the number of spenders increased in all age groups, it was particularly high among households in the pre-retirement years (45-64). Other groups that saw significant increases in the number of spenders were families with children at home or those paying for education, as well as households with mortgages.

Debt-driven spending may be setting the economy up for a fall, it said. "A sudden drop-off in the housing market or a sudden spike in interest rates could throw cold water on the spending party."

Personal bankruptcies are near record highs. In 2003, for the first time ever, the average Canadian household owed more than its annual take-home pay. We carry 74 million credit cards – three for every Canadian over the age of 18. Credit counselling agencies say they're busier than ever. Students are often graduating with accumulated debt of $25,000 or more. Consumer debt levels are rising much faster than incomes and have been for years. Savings rates are at record lows.
 
What is strange is our reaction to this action. According to a study conducted by Ipsos-Reid on behalf of Scotiabank, less than half (48%) of Canadians 25-64 years of age who are the main or joint financial decision-maker of the household have “structured their debt so they pay the lowest amount possible,” and three-quarters (75%) “consider their debt payments to be a part of their day-to-day living expenses.”

In Romans 13, the apostle has just told us to render to all people what is their rightful due. We are never to be in a position of owing something to somebody. All our debts are to be discharged.

What would happen today if you went in to work tomorrow and found out that your company is closing? What would you do if you had an accident that did not able you to continue in your present job? What is a disaster struck that was not covered by insurance, like flood?

Are you: paying the minimum balance on your Credit card? Not able to give a weekly offering? Not able to deal with emergencies: Personal and global?

God has direction for his Church and we are told to Live Justly, Lovingly, and Expectantly

1)      Live Justly

Rom 13:8  Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Rom 13:9  The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

As we saw two weeks ago, we have an obligation to owe the state what is due to it, but this applies to society at large as well.

·        Do you have unreturned property, for a business or other individual?

·        V.8 is saying that we should have nothing which belongs to your neighbour, except love for him.

Verse 8 puts in a negative form what he has previously expressed positively: Hence, discharge your obligations to everybody. Just as taxes have a due date and we are not intended to pay our entire lifetimes taxes at one time, so we are to render what is due when it is due.

The key to understanding the command in verse 8 is an understanding of the word “Owe”.

The word is in the imperative mood and hence a command. God is not calling all borrowing wrong. Exodus 22:25, Dt. 15:7-10, Ps. 37:26, Mt. 5:42, Lk 6:35 give the ability to borrow. The connection to understanding the verse lies between verse 7 and 8.

It is a condemnation of the practice of some who are ever ready to borrow but very slow to repay. It also expresses the debt we owe to our fellowmen.

The debt is a message to be spoken. The same terms are expressed in Romans 1:14

Rom 1:14  I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.

Paul is saying: Since I have become a Christian, I feel that I have something which other people need, I think this so strongly that I feel as if I am in debt to them.  Its effect on him is do pressing, that he feels he has no right to withhold it from them. He feels they have a claim on him, as it were, and can make a demand of him.

Unfortunately this message is often presented that God wants to make you healthy and wealthy. When people buy it, they later find out that it was an attempt to make the speaker wealthy.

But the real message of God’s stewardship is so compelling and life changing that we are in debt to share it.

What is Debt?

 

Noah Webster

Debt

DEBT, n. det. [L. debitum, contracted.]

 

1. That which is due from one person to another, whether money, goods, or services; that which one person is bound to pay or perform to another; as the debts of a bankrupt; the debts of a nobleman. It is a common misfortune or vice to be in debt.

synonyms for debt:

·        to owe, to be obligated, liable, in deficit, in default, insolvent, encumbered, in over one’s head, tied up, out of pocket, in arrears, indigent, paupered, destitute, penniless, needy, lacking, distressed, in difficulty, a deadbeat, having a wolf at your door, living hand to mouth, beggarly, emptied, having seen better days, gone to the dogs, racked and ruined, impoverished, bad off, hard up, beaten down, reduced to ruin, fleeced, stripped, bereft, bereaved, reduced, unable to make ends meet, embarrassed, broke, busted.

 Please turn to 1 Tim. 6

Debt is a symptom, not the root problem. Materialism is the root problem. (1 Tim. 6:9-10, Luke 12:15) Materialism is seeking happiness through the accumulation of material things.

There is a lie that Satan uses over and over again to lure people away from the life that God desires for them. It’s the “Happy Meal” lie. Buy this and you will be happy. Get rich and your problems will disappear. It is the lie that materialism will fill the empty place inside.

Pro 22:7  The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

Bumper Sticker: “I Owe, I Owe, its off to work I go”

What does the Bible have to say about materialism?

1Ti 6:9  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 1Ti 6:10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Heb 13:5  Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Did you catch that – the love of money causes people to wander from the truth and actually pierce themselves. It is their own fault. They think they’re going to be happy if they just get the next thing on their list – but instead of receiving happiness they pierce themselves with many griefs.


Jesus said this:

Luk 12:15  And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Materialism is not a rich man’s disease only. Even those who don’t have much fall into the trap of believing they will be happy if they had a little bit more – their materialistic urges are simply fulfilled at Walmart rather than Hary Rosen.

Please turn to Luke 15

Why Do People get in Debt?

-Ignorance, Misplaced priority, unbelief, sloth, greed, irresponsibility, dishonest, calamity. There are many reasons, but let’s look through our story at four:

Reason #1: Debt is often the result of the desire to get what we want NOW.
Luk 15:11  And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. Luk 15:12  And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Luk 15:13  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. Luke 15:14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

Now, when do we usually get an inheritance? When someone dies! Right? But the Prodigal son, didn’t want to wait – he wanted his money NOW.

The problem for many people who get into debt is that they see something that pleases them and they HAVE to have it. They can’t wait. AND they won’t wait.

The 1st mistake a lot of us make on the way to financial trouble is overestimating the importance of money. We think money will solve our problems, bring us happiness, buy us friends, or make us important…

 

Mat 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

When the son ended up in the pigpen, he realized that there were things in life more important than money. I’m sure he wished he could go back and undo all the damage he’d done. Wasting his inheritance, ruining his relationship with his family, and eating with the pigs were high prices to pay for the momentary pleasures money had brought him.”

God’s people have never felt comfortable being in debt – and we never should. But we need to understand, that God never intended money to be the focus of our lives. At one point in His ministry, Jesus said

Mar 8:36  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

ILLUS: I have often heard commercials from banks and mortgage companies that have literally made me angry: “you can have that vacation you’ve always dreamed of, that living room suite you’ve always wanted, that new garage you’ve meant to have. We’ll lend you the money you need." Yeah, for a fee. "Don’t defer your dream," they tell you, "don’t wait until you can actually afford buy it now!!!"
That’s the kind of thinking that got the Prodigal Son into trouble!

When buying something for your family, you need to askdo I NEED this, or do I merely WANT it? And whether you need or want something – "can I wait until I can afford it?"

Stacy A. Johnson of First Baptist Church of San Jacinto CA Said:

“If I buy today what I do not need, I will most likely need tomorrow what I cannot buy”

We learned this lesson as kids. Popeye the Sailor has a friend who understood clearly how to do this. Wimpy was a rather ordinary gentleman with a rather unusual obsession. Day and night his thoughts were consumed with consuming hamburgers. That obsession let him to seek ways to consume more than he produced such that his catch phrase became, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”. He was willing to do into debt for a hamburger, to pay tomorrow for what is gone today.

The practice of consuming today the fruit of tomorrow’s labor is consuming more that you produce. IT is the pathway to poverty for individuals, for families, for businesses, and governments. Does pay day advance places sound familiar?

 

When Governments do it by spending more than they have, they will gladly give you a hamburger today, for payment from your children tomorrow.  What the children produce tomorrow has already been consumed. When our children produce tomorrow, they will receive nothing for the fruits of their labors, for we have already eaten that forbidden fruit. Rather than leaving our children with a heritage, an inheritance, as a nation we are leaving our children a debt.

How do the children get even: Inflation. They demand higher and higher wages, and continue the cycle of deference, and the same generation that started or continued the debt suffers on a fixed income, when all the prices increase.

Num 14:18  'The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.'

Remember – the Prodigal got into the trouble he was in because he wanted what he wanted NOW.

Reason #2: Debt can be the result of laziness.
Luk 15:13  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

This boy wasn’t there to work – he was there to play. He figured his money last forever – and that’s the way he lived. Why work if I can simply live off my inheritance?

 Reason #3: Debt can be the result of sinful behavior
Luke 15:13b  “and there he squandered his property in reckless living. .”

The Bible doesn’t tell me what kind of “wild living” the Prodigal engaged in, but in our day sinful behavior is an expensive proposition. Alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets, not to mention drugs, sexual promiscuity - they all have price tags. They all cost something.

Howard Daton counted 500 verses in Scripture on prayer, but 2350 verses on money, possession and debt with 25% of the parables.

It is beyond the scope of this message but:

All things come from God:

Psa 24:1  A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,

Gen 1:27-29 gives us the dominion mandate: where were are stewards of what God has entrusted.

Sloth and laziness with be severely judged: Mt. 25: 12-30

In economics they call it an opportunity cost. When we spend on these things were are not able to spend on the other opportunities. And the money we might spend on these behaviors is money that we could have spent for paying off our debts, taking care of our families, preparing for our retirement, or helping with God’s work and building His kingdom.

Too often we spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need to seek satisfaction we won’t find.

Illustration: the true story a meat store owner told some time back:
The owner said: “one day a customer informed me she had gotten some unexpected money and wanted to fill her freezer. She picked out about $200 worth of meat and handed me her credit card."
Laughing, the owner said: "I thought you got some unexpected money."
"I did," she replied. "They raised the limit on my credit card."

 

Reason #4: What the story of the prodigal Son teaches us is that debt can come about because we are impatient, lazy or sinful. But it also teaches us that debt can come upon us even if we have done nothing wrong.
Luke 15:14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

You don’t have to have a Prodigal personality to get hurt by the unforeseen. Droughts and fires, a tumbling stock market, the downsizing at your place of work that costs you your job, a spouse who dies.

Keep a place in Luke 15, for it holds some solutions to the problem that we will get back to.

We are told to Live Justly, now

2) Live Lovingly

Rom 13:10  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

V.9 summarizes the law in terms of properly loving your neighbour.

Now we see in v. 10:

  • Law & love are not opposites: Jesus himself summarized the whole law in terms of love (Mt. 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-34).

 

It is a figure of speech called litotes. This means that a negative expression of this type implies a strong affirmative.

Not only are we to avoid what is prohibited in the commandments, but affirm the opposite.

  • The real function of the law was not to produce mere negative moralists, but to produce positive personalities, filled with the love of God, who would show this love in their daily lives.

·        He emphasizes that all the commandments tough the believer’s attitude toward his fellowmen.

·        We see examples of love: refraining from adultery, that is not taking what is not yours, your neighbour’s wife.

·        We are not only to not murder, but help your neighbour keep alive and well.

·        We are to not steal, which is to borrow and not return.

 

We are told to Live Justly, Lovingly, and now

3)      Live expectantly

Rom 13:11  Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. Rom 13:12  The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Rom 13:13  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rom 13:14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

 

Please turn to James 4

 

v. 11 tells us the time frame.

  • The consummation of our salvation, glorification, is nearer than when we first became believers.

 

The opposite of this life is one of presumption, of an almost endless opportunity.

 

Sin of Presumption:

Jam 4:13  Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- Jam 4:14  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Jam 4:15  Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." Jam 4:16  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Jam 4:17  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

 

v.12 tells us to prepare

Rom 13:12  The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Just as Jesus told of the coming of the Lord to reward his faithful servants/stewards in the parable of the Watchful servants (Lk 12:35-48) and that of the Five Foolish and the Five Sensible Girls ( Mt. 25:1-13).

Romans 13:13 tells us to do nothing for which we would be ashamed, nothing underhanded. Living lives of openness.

Rom 13:13  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

  • How you spend shows what you value. The question is then, would you be ashamed if others know what you spent your money on. Would you indeed be willing to show your spending?

Turn back to Luke 15

 

The Prodigal son did a few things that can help us in dealing with our debts.

 

Let’s read the rest of the story.

Luk 15:17  "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! Luk 15:18  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  Luk 15:19  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' Luk 15:20  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luk 15:21  And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' Luk 15:22  But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Luk 15:23  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.

  • \\ 1st – He took stock of his situation
    Luk 15:17  "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!

    In order to get rid of debt’s power over us, we 1st have to realize that our financial situation needs to be fixed. Our lifestyle has to change/ our way of looking at money has to be repaired.

    Up until this point in his life (even as he sat amongst the squalor of the pigs), the Prodigal son hadn’t changed his thinking about his lifestyle. If he’d lived in our day, he might have taken from his meager savings and bought lottery tickets*.

ILLUS: There are companies out there that will help those in serious debt with a "debt restructuring loan.” What they do is help people put all of their many credit card debts and other debts into one loan at a significantly lower rate of interest. And, if their clients don’t borrow anymore money, in a short period of years, they can climb out of debt. The problem, however, is that many who take out these "restructuring loans" only go out and use more credit cards for more purchases - and they end up in worse shape than when they got the new loan.

That could have happened to the Prodigal as well, but something changed in him. Once he came to his sense and realized he HAD to change his lifestyle, he was on his way to dealing with his debts.

2nd – He swallowed his pride
Luk 15:18  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. Luk 15:19  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."'


That took a lot of courage. AND it took a lot of humility. Many people get into debt – and stay there – because they’re too proud to get help.
o They won’t go to their family
o They won’t approach their church
o They won’t seek out public assistance
 
God intended society to help others. In the Old Testament for example, farmers were to leave some of their crops in the field for the poor to glean for their own families. (Dt. 24:19). There was a poor tithe (Dt. 14:28-29, 26:12) That was a form of “public assistance.” People were to lend interest-free loans (Ex. 22:25-27, Lev. 25:35-37). It was part of God’s plan for His people to take care of the short term needs of the poor.

Every 50 years (the year of Jubilee) all debts were erased and family land that had been sold, was returned to the original families. (Ex. 21:2, 23:11, Lev. 25:1-7, Dt. 15:1-5).


So, 1st the prodigal son took stock of his situation
2ndly he swallowed his pride and sought help…

And, lastly, the Prodigal Son returned to His father for His help.
Luk 15:20  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luk 15:21  And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' Luk 15:22  But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Luk 15:23  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.

Romans 13:14 tells us what we should be spending on. We are not to spend to the desires.

Rom 13:14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Col 3:5  Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Is there a difference with Good debt versus bad debt?

You may think all debt is bad. But some debt is considered much better to have. Good debt is used to buy things that tend to increase in value (like houses or stocks). Those hard assets can be used to secure the debt so you'll pay less interest. And interest on money borrowed for investment purposes (like a rental home or mutual funds outside of an RRSP) can be tax-deductible, making the effective interest rate even lower.

You can also make a good argument that borrowing to go to college or university is good, if painful, debt because you will make more money in the long run as a graduate.

Many financial advisors also say borrowing to contribute to an RRSP is considered a "good" debt, especially if it's paid off within a year.

Bad debt, on the other hand, is used to acquire things that depreciate in value (cars, clothes, big-screen TVs) or for day-to-day personal consumption. That makes most credit card debt bad. And bad debt is never deductible.

The problem is compounded with the possibilities of the future. What would happen if they lost their job or became disabled? And what if mortgage rates were three percentage points higher in five years' time?

But how much debt is too much?

Anyone who's applied for a mortgage knows there are strict guidelines banks use to judge the ability of someone to handle a six-figure loan. The monthly mortgage payment must not be more than 32 per cent of the applicant's gross monthly income. And total monthly debt payments including the mortgage cannot come to more than 40 per cent of gross income.

"How do you eat an elephant?" One bite at a time.

 

How do we get out of Debt

 

Those who want freedom from consumer debt must replace materialism with Godly contentment.

Mat 6:24  "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

A 3-step plan to getting out of debt for good.
1. Stop spending more than you have.
• Cancel your credit and debit cards.
• Leave the checkbook at home.
• Use cash only.
• Reduce monthly commitments (cable, internet, cell phones, magazine subscriptions are NOT necessary for most of us)
• Ditch the expensive car with the oppressive payment and get a quality used car.

• Budget


2. Pay off debts systematically.
• Pay off high interest credit cards.

Bankruptcy is not an option

Psalm 37:21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives;


• Don’t put money in savings when you are in debt – get out of debt first.
Sell unnecessary household items for cash to pay down debt.
• Be creative in finding sources of extra income.

3. Once the debt is paid off use that money for savings.
• Once one debt is paid, lump that payment in with other payments until all debts are retired.
• Then start SAVING the money you had been paying out.

Closing Hymn: Jesus Paid it all, or You are my all in all

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