Scripture Text: Revelation 18:1-20
Memory Verse: “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
Lesson Aim: To outline a biblical perspective on debt and encourage believers on how to get out of debt.
In 1994, author Larry Bates wrote a book, The New Economic Disorder, in which he identified five deadly forces that would hit our economy: (1) the banking crisis; (2) federal debt and deficits; (3) business and personal debt; (4) recession/depression; and (5) massive, renewed inflation.1 So, just the last one remains to manifest.
Given the economic turbulence over the last 30 years, we encourage believers to pursue freedom from debt. “Being debt-free is your best preparation for an uncertain economic future.”2 Why? Being debt-free gives you more flexibility. Without the burden of outstanding debts, down-sizing or even living day to day is easier.
In this lesson, we will not attempt to address the financial crises caused by long-term unemployment, the prolonged illness or death of a provider (or the illness of any uninsured family member). There are other strategies needed to address these risks. However, even in these circumstances, debt makes the crisis worse.
Credit is not the problem, but the misuse of it. Four common causes of problem debt include: (1) lack of discipline; (2) discontent; (3) searching for security; and (4) searching for significance. Let’s address those briefly.
Lack of discipline. Spending without restraint will leave you broke. Some people are naturally more self-disciplined than others. The undisciplined are prone to repeatedly make the wrong decisions. One financial teacher put it this way, “Where there is slack, there will be lack.”
The lack of discipline often stems from discontent. In Hebrews 13:5, the writer instructed the church, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Contentment is a choice.
The need for security is a legitimate need, but nothing in the temporal realm can meet this need. We must find security in God, not material possessions. He promised to never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).
The search for significance drives some people to make foolish financial decisions. Men often attempt to achieve significance through investments, businesses, and possessions and may try to meet this need through heavy borrowing.
Note that the Bible does not say it’s a sin to borrow money, nor does the Bible say that borrowing is wise. Instead, there are warnings about debt (Proverbs 22:7) and examples of difficulties caused by debt (2 Kings 4:1). The Bible also does not say that God is obligated to bail us out of debt or that being in debt is an exercise of faith.
The Bible does say that: (1) it’s wrong not to repay your debts (Psalm 37:21); and (2) it’s foolish to put yourself in a surety situation (Proverbs 6:1-5; 11:15). Also, “Debt may violate two biblical principles: It almost always presumes upon the future, and it may deny God the opportunity to do what he really wants to do in our lives.”3
What should the believer do? Take this seriously. There are a number of Christian organizations that specialize in helping people get their finances in order and eliminate their debt, e.g., Crown Financial, Financial Peace University. All require the critical steps of assessing your spending, living on a budget, and accelerated debt repayment.
We should not be lax in either our church or personal finances. The local church should set the example and be debt-free, too! Study God’s Word carefully and develop your own financial convictions. If you need help, counsel, or training, get it. Do the needful. Live by the biblical principles discussed in Lessons 3 and 4 and trust the Almighty to meet your needs as you remain diligent, generous, and content. The road to a debt-free church begins and ends with debt-free families.
Interact with God’s Word:
- If security and significance are legitimate needs, how can we properly meet them? Matthew 6:25-33
- Why is it important to know what the Bible does and does not say about debt? Hosea 4:6 What warnings do we find in these Scriptures? Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 6:1-5; 11:15; 22:7
- Given the scenario in Revelations 18, what should be our response?
- Read Proverbs 12:24; 27:23-24. How do these Scriptures relate to the need to assess and curb spending?
- Consider the plight of the widow in 2 Kings 4, what can we do to alleviate or prevent similar circumstances today?
- Practical application: Assess your current income and spending, develop a budget, and consider debt reduction. The following links may be helpful.
List the following on a separate piece of paper.
- Assessing your current state:
- Developing a budget:
- Debt reduction plan: