SBC Life Articles

Understanding Family Financial Failures





Editor's Note: Chuck Bentley, CEO, Crown Financial Ministries, writes and blogs regularly about the mounting national debt, and the accompanying, ever increasing frustration which personal debt brings to families and individuals. In the following article Chuck puts a fine point on the cause for failure in the area of personal and family finances and identifies key preventative steps to avoid going in the wrong direction with money and possessions. Crown Financial Ministries is a partner with the SBC in the area of stewardship, providing good and godly resources for SBC churches, families, and individuals. To learn more about Crown Financial Ministries go to www.crown.org.

Without question, family financial problems seem to increase dramatically during economic slumps. Are the financial problems caused by economic slumps? Generally not.

With rare exception, family financial problems have begun long before an economic slump, perhaps as early as childhood.

Ignoring God's Word
Most of the financial problems that families face in today's society—business failures, foreclosures, bankruptcies, out-of-control debt, two-job families, and divorce—can be traced to a central problem of ignoring God's financial principles as recorded in His Word.

Usually families only recognize the symptoms of the problems (such as unpaid bills) or the consequences of the symptoms (such as repossession of property). They seldom identify the real underlying cause of the problem.

It is likely that the problem was learned from parents who had the same problem. 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).

God's financial principles and instructions are not complicated or hard to understand. They were designed to free His people from financial burdens and not to bind them with an unattainable set of dos and don'ts.

Unfortunately, though, since the mid-1950s God's principles have increasingly been ignored by families, many of whom have adopted a get-rich-quick mentality by using easily obtainable credit to purchase "what I want, when I want it."

It was Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), Earl of Beaconsfield, who said in an address before the British House of Commons on May 1, 1865, "What we do and allow in moderation, our children will allow and do in excess."

The children of these 1950s and 1960s parents learned to buy on credit from their parents' example. Now, another generation later, we are reaping the burden of sown seeds of moderate debt in the form of overwhelming excessive debt.

Without a doubt, the lack of financial discipline found in so many homes is reflected and amplified in the lives of their children and their children's families.

Symptoms of financial problems
If parents do not operate on a budget, seldom will the children. If parents use credit readily and make buying decisions based on the ability to make monthly payments, rather than on the initial price of items purchased, so will the children.

Once married and on their own, young couples attempt to duplicate in a few years what perhaps took their parents decades to accumulate. In order to accomplish that goal, they use credit, as they learned by observing their parent's lifestyles.

Before long they have numerous assets, but the assets are all tied up in liabilities. This debt burden causes many of these young couples to experience the following symptoms.

  • They are unable to pay monthly bills. Once the credit cards have reached their maximum limits and other sources of readily available credit begin to tighten, financial pressure begins to build. Finally, in desperation, a bill consolidation loan is obtained. Usually within less than a year the credit card debts return, making the end result worse than the beginning.
  • They need more income. More credit cannot be the answer, so logic says that more money is needed. Consequently, the wife usually has to go to work. When young children are involved, the result may be, at best, to break-even.
  • They bicker and fight over finances. A husband, feeling like a failure, retreats from daily interaction with his family, growing distant to his wife and children. A wife collapses under the weight of suppressed bitterness. Children sense the tension in the home and fear their family will break up. Many pastors' children see the painful side of underpaid church work and can't wait to walk away from the emptiness they think God brought to their home.
  • They buy to pacify the pressure. At this stage many Christian families try to pacify the financial pressures by buying something new or going on a "get away from it all" vacation. However, these usually have to be financed with credit, so again the end is worse than the beginning.
  • They file for bankruptcy and/or divorce. When financial pressure reaches the boiling point, with no apparent way out, either the couple files for protection under the bankruptcy laws, or they take it out on each another, often resulting in divorce, or both—anything to start over again. However, if God's principles were not learned during the process, the same financial problems will be present after the discharge of bankruptcy or in a second or even third marriage.

Preventive measures
Although symptoms of financial problems can be devastating, it is much easier for families to practice prevention rather than recuperation.

As such, there are four basic preventive measures that families can take to counterbalance unbiblical financial practices and to prevent the symptoms of financial problems.

  • Abstain from borrowing. The wicked man borrows and does not repay, but the righteous one is gracious and giving (Psalm 37:21). Scripture clearly indicates that borrowing is not God's best for His people and should never be used as a routine part of financial planning.
  • Save. Precious treasure and oil are in the dwelling of a wise person, but a foolish man consumes them (Proverbs 21:20). In today's society, spending and borrowing are promoted, and saving—in order to purchase with cash—is discouraged. It is more in keeping with God's principles to save for future needs and purchases than to borrow or use credit.
  • Make deliberate decisions. The plans of the diligent certainly lead to profit, but anyone who is reckless certainly becomes poor (Proverbs 21:5). Patience and consistency, rather than quick decisions and instant success, are the ways to financial security. One of the best disciplines parents can teach their children is to work to reach a goal.
  • Develop a budget. Poverty and disgrace come to those who ignore discipline, but the one who accepts correction will be honored (Proverbs 13:18). Children should learn by parents' examples how to develop and live on a balanced budget. If they don't, chances are when the children have families of their own, they will continue with the cycle of debt.

If Christian families truly lived by sound biblical financial principles, they would not only be lights to show the way to financial freedom for their friends and acquaintances, but their children would grow up with the knowledge of God's principles and how those principles should be used.

They in turn would pass on to their children what they were taught. With consistent teaching and discipline it would take less than a generation to break Christians' financial bondage and free them to fund the work of the Lord.


    About the Author

  • Chuck Bentley