GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–We live in a world dominated by debt. The vast majority of Americans have no recollection of a time when home mortgages, automobile loans, school loans and credit cards did not exist.
The pitch is: “Easy monthly payments!” Yes, but “easy” for whom?
The federal government and most states are certainly not presenting a positive example of living without debt. And, the recent collapse of a global investment bank serving the financial needs of corporations, governments and investors worldwide hasn’t done much to encourage us.
Do you suppose that someone’s not paying attention to God’s biblical principles of finance?
There is no doubt that family financial problems increase dramatically during economic downturns. But generally, these family financial problems aren’t caused by economic slumps. With rare exception, family financial problems began long before any economic downturn came along.
Then, add to an economic slump the skyrocketing cost of fuel, which in turn impacts the transporting of consumer goods, raising wholesale and retail prices out of sight, and huge financial institutions bankrupting themselves over the collapse of insane mortgage practices — you get a perfect scenario for disaster.
Usually, families with financial problems aren’t even aware of the real problem. They recognize only the symptoms of the problems, such as unpaid bills, or the consequences of the symptoms, such as repossession of property. Seldom do they identify the real underlying cause of the difficulty.
Most symptoms of financial problems that families face today — business failures, foreclosures, bankruptcies, out-of-control debt, two-job families and divorce — can be traced to the central problem of ignoring God’s financial principles as recorded in His Word.
“Now if you faithfully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all His commands I am giving you today, the LORD your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth” (Deuteronomy 28:1).
When somebody’s ignoring God’s biblical financial principles, often the problem has been learned from parents who also had the same problem. Without a doubt, a lack of financial discipline in parents is reflected and amplified in the lives of their children.
In an 1865 address before the British House of Commons, Benjamin Disraeli said, “What we do and allow in moderation, our children will allow and do in excess.”
What better words could describe the primary cause of the downward financial spiral of many families — and our nation — today?
But there is hope, because God’s financial principles and instructions aren’t complicated or hard to understand. In fact, He designed them to be easily understood and His intention is to free His people from financial burdens, not bind them with an unattainable set of rules.
God’s principles have increasingly been ignored by families who have adopted get-rich-quick mentalities using easily obtainable credit to purchase “what I want, when I want it.” And the children have learned to buy on credit from their parents’ example. Now, we’re reaping the burden of overwhelming excessive debt.
Financial problems can be devastating, so it makes good sense for families to practice prevention rather than recuperation. You may feel it’s too late to practice prevention, but it’s not. In fact, the only way to correct a downward financial spiral is to institute basic, simple, preventive measures in order to counterbalance unbiblical financial practices and to prevent further financial problems. Here are four steps.
— The first is obvious — stop borrowing.
“The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous is gracious and giving” (Psalm 37:21).
Scripture clearly indicates that borrowing isn’t God’s best for His people and should never be used as a routine part of financial planning — especially now.
— Start saving.
“Precious treasure and oil are in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man consumes them” (Proverbs 21:20).
Today, spending and borrowing are promoted, and saving is discouraged. But God’s principles encourage saving for future needs and purchases, rather than borrowing or using credit.
— Avoid hasty decisions and ignore pitches such as, “buy now, before it’s too late.”
“The plans of the diligent certainly lead to profit, but anyone who is reckless only becomes poor” (Proverbs 21:5).
Patience and consistency, rather than quick decisions and looking for instant success, are the ways to financial security. Discipline yourself to work and save to reach a goal.
— Develop and live by a budget.
“Poverty and disgrace [come to] those who ignore instruction, but the one who accepts rebuke will be honored” (Proverbs 13:18).
Learn to develop and live on a balanced budget — a monthly spending plan. If you don’t, chances are that the cycle of debt will continue and could easily worsen. Those mounting monthly payments probably aren’t quite as “easy” to make as they are alleged to be.
If Christian families would live by sound biblical financial principles, they would be lights to show others the way to financial freedom. Larry Burkett believed that with consistent teaching and discipline of God’s principles, it would take less than a generation to break the financial bondage under which so many Christians live, and free them to fund the work of the Lord.
After all, that’s what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 6:33. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”
Howard Dayton is co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries and the current host of Crown’s radio program, “Money Matters.” Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.