The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing,
but in our culture we apply for a curse and reject blessings.
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Money, Possessions, and Eternity [Kindle Edition] – Free for a limited time
by Randy Alcorn
What does the Bible really say about money? This completely revised and updated version of the classic best-seller provides a Christian perspective about money and material possessions based on the author’s painstaking study of the Bible. Randy Alcorn uses the Scriptures to approach this often touchy subject head-on. Thought-provoking arguments challenge readers to rethink their attitudes and use their God-given resources in ways that will have an eternal impact. Alcorn deals straightforwardly with issues of materialism, stewardship, prosperity theology, debt, and more. An excellent choice for group study as well as individual financial guidance. Includes a study guide, indexes, and appendixes with additional resources.
One of the most recognizable differences in the believer and the world he lives in is his unusual relationship to money and possessions. However, even serious believers sometimes balk at the seeming extremities in the teaching and lifestyle of Christ and the leaders of the New Testament church. Can we duplicate this New Testament lifestyle in our day?
This outline provides the diligent believer with some key principals preparing him/her for radical, other-worldly financial behavior. Alone, or if married, with your spouse, take some time for reading the Scripture texts and thinking through the obedient thing to do in each area. Then write out what you find. There is only one thing for you to do after this meditation … obey!
1. The Principle of Non-Attachment
I will purchase or receive nothing that I cannot give away.
And He said to them, “Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions. Luke 12:15
Luke 12:32-34; 16:13-25; 1 John 2:15-17
What must be done to obey these verses?
2. The Principle of Liberty
I will owe no man anything but to love him.
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Rom. 13:8
What must be done to obey these verses?
3. The Principle of Liberality
I will constantly seek to give away possessions for God’s glory.
For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 2 Cor. 8:3-5
2 Cor. 9:7; Luke 6:38
What must be done to obey these verses?
4. The Principle of Recall
I will keep accurate records of God’s dealings with me financially in order to show others that God answers prayer and provides for His own.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Mat. 5:16
What must be done to obey these verses?
5. The Principle of Security
I will save and invest only if God is leading, with the understanding that I will give it all away at His slightest instruction.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and dust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up your treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. Mat. 6:19-20
Prov. 28:8; 1 Tim. 6:9-11
What must be done to obey these verses?
6. The Principle of Compassion
I will not pray for someone’s needs financially unless I am willing to be the instrument God uses to meet that need if He should desire.
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 1 John 3:16-18
James 2:15-17; Luke 6:30, 38; II Cor. 9:6-15; Prov. 28:27
What must be done to obey these verses?
7. The Principle of Contentment
I will be content to live on whatever God chooses to provide, whether little or much.
Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:11-13
Prov. 30:7-9; Matt. 6:24-34; 1 Tim. 6:8
What must be done to obey these verses?
Copyright © 1996 Jim and Pam Elliff
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There are many families that both parents work for the stated reason that the wife’s income pays for the extras like vacation, sports, and entertainment. While no one will disagree that things like vacations and sports are expensive, there are ways around spending lots of money for them.
First of all, why have things like vacations, sports and entertainment become needs as opposed to wants? Years ago it was rare for families to vacation on a regular or even yearly basis, often if a family did vacation they would spend years planning and saving for it. Today trips have become so common for children that they have lost the specialness. But families can still travel and vacation without having so much expense.
Givers and receivers of hospitality
Traveling out of town can be much less expensive if families practiced hospitality more. Instead of paying for hotel rooms, families can stay with other family members or with friends. No cost for overnight stays, much less expensive meals and fellowship. The children love having friends to visit with. I have to admit though that staying with other families is not as restful for me as a hotel room. This is mostly due to the fact that it isn’t a habit for me and I worry about being a bother. However, one of the churches we visit, the members are much more hospitable than we are. They think nothing of staying with friends out of town even with large families and then returning the favor. Unlike us, they don’t worry about not having enough beds for everyone or a guest bedroom. It is something that I need to work harder on, not expecting everything to be perfect when being hospitable.
What kids don’t like camping,? (It’s just some of us moms that don’t like it!) Friends of ours used to go to the beach quite a bit even though they had very little money. Their only extra expense was the gas (back before gas was expensive) and the camping site fee. I don’t know how she did it, feeding a family of five or six camping and not spending anymore than at home. When we have gone camping, just the meals have seemed to run up the cost tremendously for us. But even so it is much cheaper than staying in a hotel room and eating out. I’m sure I could learn to feed the family camping for cheaper but convincing them to give up the boxes of Little Debbie’s, I’m not so sure.
Our family has found that renting a house or condo is often much cheaper than hotels when we are out of town. We can get a rental house for much less than multiple hotel rooms. Since most rentals come with furnished kitchens, we can prepare meals in house and limit how much we eat out. The money saved on preparing our own meals plus the gas saved for not having to drive to eat out adds up.
Often a mission trip will be much less expensive due to the nature of it and the group rates. Up until a few years ago, the churches I had always been a part of would have missions trips but typically they were for the youth group or for adults. Lately though I have found out that there are several organizations that provide family mission trips. Now there is an issue with the style of mission trips, that can be bettered answered by listening to Paul Washer about his concerns and experiences with American missions, but once you find a group that is doing more than just getting a bunch of decisions on a card then you have to be sure they are not teaching counter to your beliefs. Trips to work on orphanages, build churches, English classes, distributing Bibles, literacy, and a multitude of other opportunities can be ways to share the Gospel, God’s love, and enjoy time away from home with your family. The extra nice thing about mission trips is often there will be church members who are physically unable to travel for missions but will be willing to help support a short-term trip. (Just a little side issue about missions trips, if you think that missions is a hotel room, hot showers, matching T-shirts and lots of fun sightseeing you are probably doing more harm than good.)
I know there are many more ways to save money on trips and vacations than I’ve listed but it all gets down to what is the biggest priority in your life and for your children’s life.
Does that once a year trip to Disney World have more lasting impact on your children than the daily interaction with a mom home with them?
Terry’s comment here got me to thinking. I think the focus of tithing and giving money to the church has hindered our faith and its expression. It has also hindered how our churches share the gospel.
I think our churches would be more blessed if they could accept the fact that tithing as such is not a NT command. Our churches often focus more on the money and using it, than on the gospel itself. What I mean is that it is easier to give $100 to a ministry for sharing the gospel than for the average member to step out and share the gospel and minister themselves.
We have become a society that will throw money at every problem in hopes of curing it.
Troubled teens – pay for someone else to deal with them.
Poverty – pay a ministry to feed and house them.
Hungry on the street – send our money to the Jimmy Hale Mission, or whatever your localities mission is.
Teens at church without Christian parents – pay a youth leader to teach and disciple them, so what if he has 30 or more teens to deal with.
Marriages in trouble – pay for counseling.
Foster children – send a check at Christmas time.
Orphans in Nicaragua – send a few dollars a month.
Troubled economy – spend more money on it.
Poor educational system – give the schools more money.
If you seriously think about it, our money appears to be our god and the money is the answer and savior of all.
This isn’t anything new though. My very first job was working at a Daycare. I was a pre-teen and teen, probably wasn’t even legally allowed to do so but I didn’t know. I worked for the same daycare system for probably three or four years, making less than minimum wage. But one day I was told that they had a new employee and didn’t need me anymore. Why not? Because see this single mother of five children needed a job. Did they hire her out of the kindness of their heart? No. They hired her because she was free. She came under a government program that was actually paying the salary for her. The government called it a job training program, a way to work her into the work force. So the daycare got a free employee. The government goal was to teach a mother of five how to care for children in a daycare, job development. This was my first real experience with the government throwing away taxpayer money.
I must admit that it is often easier and less painful to give some money than it is to be involved. But remember the Good Samaritan story? What would we tend to do now? Pay a ministry to go around and be the Samaritan for us?
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” ESV
Notice though that the Samaritan didn’t just use his money but he got personally involved.
Luke 10:34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
The Samaritan became seriously involved in the situation not just throwing some money at it. I’m sure there isn’t anyone reading this that would not do the same if they found an injured person on the side of the road. But there are just as injured people that we do tend to just throw money at the problem and hope someone else will take care of it.
So maybe our churches and believers in general would benefit from less focus on the giving of a “tithe” and more on the real giving where it hurts in time, emotions and true service. Now that doesn’t mean that the money is not important, but it is a tool not the goal.
Does that make sense?
Many may or may not have heard of Dr. J. Vernon McGee. He was an down-to-earth preacher when I first heard him, but he has been dead (1988) for many years. His radio program is called “Through The Bible” where he just preaches through the whole Bible in 5 years time. I haven’t listened to his radio show in at least 10 years and probably wouldn’t like it as much now as I did right out of high school. As a matter of fact, I really couldn’t tell you a lot about what he believed. As a general rule he spent most of the radio program just literally going through the verses of the Bible. We do have a set of his Through the Bible volumes; I think I bought it for my husband probably almost 20 years ago.
But I found this question and answer session interesting in light of the discussion on debt and tithing. He agrees with me about giving hilariously, although technically he wrote it first. 🙂 His comments about tithing while in debt seem atypical for preachers of that time frame.
Q: A single mom of three who is in debt asks: What Should Be My First Priority – Tithing or Paying Off Debts? Selected from our Questions and Answers program
A: Today we are living in an age of grace. Under the Mosaic Law, men were required to give one-tenth to God. (Actually, I think that if the Mosaic Law is examined correctly, they not only gave one-tenth but they gave three-tenths.) Today we’re to give on an altogether different standard or basis. That is, we’re not under Law; we’re not under compulsion relative to this matter at all. In fact, Paul even told a group of carnal Christians that they were to give gladly. The word, actually, is they were to give hilariously to the Lord. They were not to give grudgingly. “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). They were to give prompted by grace, the same grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). That grace which prompted Him to give Himself is the grace to prompt us in our giving.
Personally, I think there are many Christians who ought to give a great deal more than the tenth. That is, if they were giving as the grace would prompt them then a great many should be giving probably a half. Why? Because God’s prospered them – they do not need the other to live by. They could give generously to the Lord. Under grace today I’m confident that most should give more. But not through compulsion. “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6,7). But there are other people that ought not to give a tenth, and I think that the writer of this question is one of them. Personally, I think your first obligation today is to maintain honesty before all men, and being under grace you’re to pay your honest debts first. I don’t think God’s asking you to give one penny to Him until you have taken care of your debts. I think that should come first.
Now that may be a little different than what you’d expected. I think maybe it’s a little different than the average preacher would say today. I know I have a radio program, and we depend on the freewill offerings of folk. You may be sending gifts to this program. I say to you very candidly, if I were you I wouldn’t send any more until you pay your debts. That’s the thing that comes first today in this age of grace. The Lord knows your heart, friends. And if you’ve gotten under the pressure of debt, well, take care of that first and then when you get out from under that – and God will lead you out from under that – and you get clear, then you’ll be in a position to give. The important thing to keep in mind is that we’re living in the age of grace and we’re not required to give according to the Law at all.
Wow, talk about bad advice. The following article gets to the point of ultimately recommending bankruptcy.
While the idea of some debt being worse than others is a point I would agree with, never would I say there is “good debt” and if you can’t pay it just bail out on it.
… Not all loans are created equal. While credit cards and payday loans are toxic debts that erode your financial security, low-rate mortgages and student loans are generally considered good debt because they help you get ahead. So it’s OK not to rush to pay off those good loans, but you’ll want to attack your credit cards and other high-rate debts. …
If you can find a way to pay your bills, you should.
If you can’t, though, you may need to discuss your situation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can review your situation and counsel you about your options, including bankruptcy and foreclosure.
Debt is only “good” if you do not mind slavery.
Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. ESV
Psalms 37:21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; …. ESV
John MacArthur has several resources on money and giving. hmkjr shared these in a comment. If you follow the links you can read the document, download the audio or even purchase a CD for the audio. I included just a few paragraphs to whet your appetite.
Biblical View of Money – 4 part series
Let’s talk about the morality of money. Money in itself is not good or bad. It’s not righteous or evil. It is neutral. But money is a measure of morality. It definitely is. When we talk about money we’re talking about life, we really are. Money is so central to our everyday living. As a medium of exchange it defines how we live. I can take your checkbook, if you write checks, and I can go through the register of your checks for a period of time and I can discern your priorities. I can see where your money goes and where your money goes is where your heart is. That’s obvious.
Now those of you who don’t use checks but use a credit card, I can look at the accounting for your credit card on the monthly statement and I can pretty well discern where your heart is, where you put your money demonstrates your morality. Money in itself is amoral, but money also is a barometer, it is a measure by which I can know what I need to know about the priorities of your life.
Some people say money corrupts. Well there are corrupt people and certainly money is a way in which they manifest their corruption. But there are also people with money who are not corrupt and money is a way in which they manifest their righteousness. And there are corrupt people who have no money, and there are people who have no money and are godly people. Money doesn’t necessarily corrupt, it just shows up more visibly the corruption of the heart that possesses it. You take a corrupt person, give him a lot of money and he’ll be able to spread his corruption further. It’s not money that is the problem, it’s the heart that is the problem, but money measures that out.
… It might surprise you to know that Jesus said more about money than anybody else in the Bible, and He said more about money than any other single subject. Money is an index to a person’s character. It is a measure. It is a manifestation of the heart. And I cannot fully survey everything that Jesus said about money obviously, but briefly I’d like to put you in touch with the most important things that He said which help us to understand the importance of money and how it is, that index, or that measure of our character, of our spiritual life. We are, as I said, going to hopefully build a house with the principles of Christian giving, but we need a foundation and the foundation includes these blocks of understanding money and what the Bible has to say about it. …
…So you have your houses and your herds and your flocks and your silver and your gold…the issue is, when your heart becomes proud…verse 14…and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, that’s the issue. “He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water. He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers didn’t know that He might humble you and that He might test you to do good for you in the end.” That’s always His heart.
Otherwise, if you forget God…you’re going to say, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” God doesn’t want you poor. God is happy to spread the wealth as long as you know who gave it to you, as long as you thank Him and praise Him and honor Him and glorify Him. And in the delighting and the joy of it comes obedience. And as long as you’re willing to share it generously. Verse 18, “You shall remember the Lord your God, it is He who is giving you power to make wealth that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers as it is this day, and it shall come about that if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today, you shall surely perish like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish because you wouldn’t listen to the voice of the Lord your God.”
And again we’re right back to the same principle, wealth, possessions, money becomes an index of your spiritual character. Doesn’t it? If you have a right approach to it, delighting in it, thanking God for it, God is pleased…God is pleased….
… You work for the Lord. I mean, you do your work as unto Him. That is a very great motivation. People often ask me in my own life, you know, “What sustains you? What keeps you going?” And the answer is that I work for the Lord, everything I do is evaluated by Him. Everything I do is service rendered to Him. And that’s true of any job. I don’t care whether you’re a pastor or whether you’re pumping gas or whether you’re selling insurance or whether you’re a lawyer or a doctor or a school teacher, or you work in a factory or a shop, whatever it is, you do it to the Lord. And that becomes the elevating motivation. Work, that’s God’s first and primary way in which we are to gain the wealth that He has put in this world.
Secondly, the Scripture also extols saving. Not only working but saving. That is a legitimate means of securing resources for us in the future. We are to get involved in saving. Proverbs 21:20, an I’m going to go through a lot of verses in Proverbs, this morning, just kind of scooping up everything. It says in that verse, “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise. But a foolish man swallows it up.” A foolish man consumes everything he gets. A wise person sets it aside, precious treasure and oil set aside. A wise man lays aside some of his treasure, some of his oil for the unexpected, for the future, for the down time. The fool uses it all up, just lives at the max level. He receives so much, consumes so much. In fact, one translation of that verse is good, it says, “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” That’s foolish, that’s absolutely foolish. You need to set some aside for the future. …
Biblical Model for Giving – 4 part series
…In fact, every Christian should be eager, anxious, thrilled about the opportunity to give at the offering if based only on two statements that Jesus made. …
Let me give you just those two statements. Statement number one is recorded in Luke 6:38. Jesus said this, “Give and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over they will pour into your lap for by your standard of measure it will be measured to you.” …But there’s a second verse that we would add to it and that is Acts 20:35. It says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” …
In other words, what you give away brings you a greater blessing than what you receive. That should be enough. That should be enough to make us line up to give. Do you want to be most blessed? Than give. Do you want to receive pressed down, shaken together, and running over so that your lap is filled? Then give. Those two monumental promises of blessing and generosity from God who is the source of everything, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift, who has the power to get you wealth, who gives you all that you have, those promises from God should make us sacrificially generous.
Proverbs 19:17, “He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord.” You want to know something about the Lord? He repays all His debts. And He will repay him for his good deed. Every time you give to someone in need, God repays you. In chapter 21 verse 13 of Proverbs, “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.” You’ll shut heaven’s blessing off if you shut off your generosity.
…I really believe that the little loaf of bread that God puts in the hand of every believer is Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” We have nothing to fear for tomorrow. The promise of God…He will meet every need. That has tremendous implications on how we give. We are not alone in securing our future. Yes we want to be wise. Yes we want to plan. Yes if possible we want to save. Yes we want to be good stewards of what God has provided for us and lay away something for the future as we’ve learned in our study. But at the same time we can do that in complete confidence that if God were to come to us and ask us to take what we had planned for the future and invest it in His Kingdom, He would replace it. We can go to sleep every night of our life with that little loaf of bread, “My God shall supply all your needs because that is His promise.” And that is a promise that takes away anxiety and removes fear….
People say, “I’d give more if I had more.” I don’t believe that. Giving is not a matter of what you have, it’s a function of the heart. Devout believers don’t need more, they don’t wait for more, they give from their poverty like the widow Jesus saw who gave everything, two mites. In Luke 16:10 Jesus said it this way, “He that is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much. He that is unrighteous in the least is unrighteous in the much also.” It is not an issue of how much you have, that has nothing to do with it, it is an issue of the heart. If you are faithful you are faithful. If you believe faithful, meaning if you believe God, trust God. If you hold in your hand the little loaf of bread of Philippians 4:19, that’s enough to sustain your future and you have no problem yielding up what God puts upon your heart to give. How much you have is not the issue, generosity is a heart issue that gives no matter how little.
…So what we find then in verse 3 is that giving is proportionate, giving is sacrificial, and giving is voluntary. Very, very important issues. And the understanding of those three out of the eight elements of their giving leads me to a bit of a digression this morning that is absolutely crucial if we’re to understand this whole matter of giving because whenever you talk about giving in a Christian context, there are always people who are going to say, “Well I thought we were supposed to give ten percent,” right? I mean, that’s the sort of traditional Christian percentage. We talk about tithing, the word “tithe” is a word that means a tenth. The Greek equivalent of tithe is dekate(?) which means a tenth part, it’s a mathematical word. The Hebrew equivalent is maasrah, it means a tenth, it too is a mathematical word. And Christians through the years have just felt…Well, we’re supposed to give ten percent. The Jews gave ten percent. Abraham gave ten percent. Jacob gave ten percent. So we’re supposed to give ten percent. That’s God’s abiding standard.
And that doesn’t fit into here. There’s no ten percent in chapters 8 and 9. There’s no ten percent with regard to the Macedonians. They gave what they could give. They gave sacrificially what they could give. And they gave voluntarily, that is they chose whatever amount they could give and desired to give and gave it. There is no prescription of ten percent here whatsoever. And that leads us to the issue of why do Christians today think they need to give ten percent? Where does that come from? And I want to answer that. It comes basically from a misunderstanding of the Old Testament. And I feel obligated to make that misunderstanding clear to you and then set it right….
…Now let’s ask the question for this morning initially, is the New Testament pattern of giving the same? Answer…yes. In the New Testament again you have reiterated two kinds of giving, two ways in which we give our wealth. The first is to pay our taxes and the second is to give to God. In fact, the New Testament is explicit and exact in comparison with the Old Testament. There is no difference at all. Teaching on both of these kinds of giving…required and free will is clear in the New Testament.
Now let me say at this point just by way of a footnote. I know that this is new to some of you who perhaps were raised in a church or been in a church where they hammered on tithing and they said that the way Christians are to give is to give ten percent because that’s the way the Jews give. I know that that is something that is taught commonly. That is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible does not teach the Jews gave ten percent. As I pointed out it teaches that they gave about 25 percent. It was not their giving to God, it was their payment to the theocracy, to the government. It had to be brought into the temple treasury and not to bring it was to rob God, according to Malachi 3:8, of His due tithes and offerings. That was taxation. I know that that is perhaps new to some of you but that is clearly what the Scripture teaches. It’s what I’ve taught for many, many, many years, we just haven’t been able to cover it recently. But it is clearly what the Scripture teaches as you saw last time. …
While talking about tithing, the question of debt and its relationship to tithing has been discussed.
First of all there seems to be at least two different types of debt. There is the typical debt of mortgage and car loans and then there are the more personal types of debt. What I mean by personal debt is the $500 loan from “Uncle Joe” for car repairs. Credit card debt falls somewhere in the middle. Sorta like a line with mortgage at one end and personal loans at the other. Everything else falls in the middle somewhere.
The least damaging type of debt is the home loan because that is a set amount with hopefully a set amount of interest and a set schedule for paying it back. Now there are really bad home loans like those with adjustable interest rates or 100% loans, with no money down, or even worse the loans that are for more than the value of the home. Typically a home loan has yielded a home to live in and an investment, although today’s home market is such that there is often a loss instead of an increase in value. But if you look at the real numbers for what you are paying for that $100,000 home at 7% interest you are actually paying $240,000 for a $100,000 home, plus many more expenses like mortgage insurance, etc. So while the debt is damaging to the individual owner it is not damaging to another in the sense that another person is suffering by loaning the money. Lots of businesses thrive, or at least did, off home mortgages.
The most damaging loans are the smaller personal loans to friends, family and small businesses. These often do not charge interest and the loaning individual does not benefit from the interaction and may actually be suffering for it. Loans like this between family and friends can often ruin relationships especially if the borrower does not pay them back in a timely manner. Small business loans are the type of thing where say “Fido” is hit by a car and breaks a leg requiring surgery. Maybe you can’t pay the vet the full price but make arraignments to pay $150 a month with or without interest. What happens here is the Vet is out the money for the surgery and is having to wait to recoup expenses. People often see no problem with defaulting on this type of loan, so the small business suffers.
Here are some atypical verses that are worth considering when thinking about debt and giving. These are just random.
Matthew 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. ESV
While this does discuss money, who would ever admit to serving money? But even the typical home loan can become our master. A home loan requires a substantial amount of money to be paid out monthly no matter what happens. So having a home loan can force an individual to stay in a particular job although they feel called to a new one or to a particular ministry. Having a home loan can also keep individuals from travel for missions. In a real sense, home loans do become our master and they rule what we can and cannot do.
Isaiah 48:11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. ESV
His Name (see For The Sake Of The Lord’s Name) is Holy and the Lord does not desire for His Name to be profaned by unbelievers or believers. I know it is not always true but when I was working often we would have a pastor of a church need services and they would point out that they were a pastor and didn’t make much money, blah…blah (insert sob story). Then they would ask to make payments instead of paying in full. This happened so much that my boss would actually say, “That preachers were the worst about sticking him with the bills and failing to pay.” This is so sad that his experience was like that. What do you think the Lord feels when His followers are profaning His name by having a reputation of not paying their bills?
Matthew 22:21 … Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” ESV
Does a person’s tithe or offering have to be in tangible dollar form? If a person is in debt and has committed to paying off the debt, cannot something different than money be given to the church and to ministries? Labor of our hands or even the wisdom from our education can be even more valuable than money. How about designing and maintaining the church website? Helping caregivers with household repairs? Preparing meals for the sick? Landscaping? Painting? Does giving have to be monetary for it to be a blessing to others and blessed by the Lord?
Job 41:11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine. ESV
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” ESV
If our giving is in expectation of financial gain, we have the wrong attitude. That isn’t to say that the Lord will not necessarily prosper those who give, but if that is the reason we give then we are no different from the “prosperity gospel” preachers and their “seeds of blessings.”
1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ESV
1 Timothy 5:16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are really widows. ESV
Being called worse than an unbeliever is really bad! This verse is critical of those who allow family to suffer and live off the church’s welfare role. Does this not seem to imply that the Lord would rather us as individuals help our family above and beyond the paying for the new carpet in the sanctuary? What about helping the single mom in your family? The elderly parent struggling to pay for medicine?
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. ESV
This verse is very interesting in relation to debt and giving. Seems to almost say that the Lord doesn’t want your gifts, sacrifices, or offerings if your brother is offended. Would your brother be offended if you owed him $500 and hadn’t bothered to pay it back? Who is our brother?
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums.
42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.
43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.
44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” ESV
The widow gave all she had. That is a little more than 10%! But that isn’t all. The servant was rebuked for not earning interest on what he was given. See Matthew 25:14-30. Matthew 25:27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. ESV
So what if instead of earning interest we are paying interest?
~ Ecclesiastes 5:5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. ESV
~ Psalms 37:21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; ESV
~ Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. ESV
During the last two days discussion on tithing and obedience, Gradually Becoming Obedient? and Gradually Becoming Obedient? Working Toward Perfection, the matter of debt and giving has been mentioned. See hmkjr’s comment.
This brings up an interesting dilemma. Whether or not you think tithing is for the NT church, should tithing or giving be done by those in debt?
Since the average church does not discourage or discuss debt with its members, they also do not discuss the matter of giving when in debt.
As Julius pointed out George Mueller would not accept money from a man that he knew was in debt. That got me to wondering what other pastor’s had taught about the issue of debt and giving.
But so far I have found very little information concerning debt and tithing or giving. The general information has been continue tithing (for those that considered it commanded) while working to get out of debt.
Another side issue of the matter of debt and tithing/giving is what about the church that encourages debt for buildings?