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FIRST-PERSON: Digging out of the debt trap

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Over-indebtedness is an all-too-typical woe in today’s society. So here at the beginning of 2003, many Americans are looking for ways out of the debt trap. Where to begin?

1. Get a new vocabulary. Unless it’s paid for, it’s not yours. Don’t tell yourself, “I own this shirt.” If you owe for it, say, “I OWE FOR this shirt.” Pretty soon, you’ll realize it’s true! You don’t own anything you haven’t paid for. And once you grasp that little concept, you’ll have begun a very healthy aversion to buying on credit.

2. Recognize that how you handle “little” money is a reflection of how you handle “big” money as well. You work fulltime and eat out for lunch. At just $5 a day, you’re spending $1,250 each year. If you’re struggling with debt, this is definitely one place you can curb your expenses.

3. Target a specific debt. Scattering a little extra payment money here and there leads to frustration — you need a designated target. Begin with whichever credit card or loan has the lowest balance. Decide the highest amount you can pay each month and stick to this plan until that debt has been paid off. As soon as this is done, choose your next target and begin again.

4. Call it what it is. People really squirm when I say this, but it’s true: look in any ol’ Webster’s dictionary and you’ll find that the synonym for sin is debt. What is sin? Disobedience to God. What does God’s Word say? “Keep out of debt and owe no man anything….” (Romans 13:8, Amplified New Testament). Many Christians need their “wanters” turned off! Wants should never be sources of debt. If you want something badly enough, save up and pay for it. If it isn’t worth that much effort, you don’t want it nearly as badly as you think you do.

5. Give God your best. The tithe isn’t an option, nor is it a burden. God’s Word promises specific blessings to those who are faithful in giving to the Lord the first tenth of their income. Everyone has heard Malachi 3:10: “Bring the whole tithe into the [church]….” (NASB), but what does the next verse have to say? “Then I will rebuke the devourer for you….” (v. 11). As we faithfully return to God a portion of that with which he has so lovingly blessed us, he shields us from many of the things that can swallow up our finances.

A child of God should never consider whether he can afford to tithe. Contrary to what some folks would have us believe, the Christian life isn’t complicated. Would you reward your child for disobeying you? Of course not! But would you love him enough to let him learn from his mistake? If good parenting sometimes requires this of us, is it any surprise that it is also the way the Ultimate Good Parent, our Heavenly Father, sometimes allows us to learn?

6. Once you’ve named it, do something about it. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that God didn’t include a bit of page-filler in his Word. Every bit of the Bible is written for our betterment, to help us know him and live according to his teachings. If irresponsibility has landed you in debt, do what the Bible says: REPENT. You have disobeyed God — now apologize! And once you’ve done that, CHANGE. Repentance is a 180-degree turn, not a glance.

The next step? Get on with it! God forgot it when he forgave it. He’s not holding it over your head, and even better, he’s the light of freedom that will guide you from the prison of debt.

God often works through other believers. If you’re unsure how to begin, first and foremost, pray. Seek the counsel of God’s Word; then get hold of some Christian books on finances. And you may want to seek out a believing professional financial counselor to help you develop the plan that will work best for you.
Judy Woodward Bates, known as “The Bargainomics Lady,” is a speaker, radio and television personality, and the author of “The Gospel Truth about Money Management” (New Hope Publishers, 2003). Her website, www.bargainomics.com, offers money-saving tips and advice.

    About the Author

  • Judy Woodward Bates