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Christians and Debt
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Dave and Melissa* have the perfect life: a beautiful house, two new cars, and children who are always dressed in the latest fashions. But appearances can be deceiving; they are living beyond their means and incurring enormous debt. This threatens their financial security and their relationship.

The unfortunate reality is that many individuals, including Christians, are increasingly confronted with the burden of debt. “Overspending is like any other issue or addiction in our lives,” says Ronald Holland, vice president of family-owned Bankers Financial Group in Greenbelt, Md. It’s simple everyday decisions that influence how, and to what extent, people spend or save. These choices can lead to financial prosperity or financial ruin.

“I would definitely say that debt has added stress to my life and marriage,” explains Melissa, who struggles to keep up with payments and avoid late charges. “It’s hard trying to balance everything.”

Personal debt is at record levels. At least 71 percent of United States households receive some sort of credit card offer each month. Plus there’s the increased cost of living, and mortgage debt has approximately doubled in the past six years.**

Soaring college tuition also contributes to this predicament. On average, college students are graduating with close to $20,000 of debt ($45,000 for graduate students). Also, 76 percent of undergraduates have at least one credit card while the average graduate student has close to six.**

Why are Christians, in particular, increasingly caught in this financial quagmire? G. Edward Reid, author of It’s Your Money! Isn’t It?, identifies two primary reasons, including the aforementioned credit cards. “Homeowners and college students are inundated with credit offers,” he states. Next is society’s attitude toward spending. “We are less content with what we have and more impatient in terms of forgoing an item in order to save for it,” notes Reid.

Breaking the Cycle

According to Reid, good stewardship principles need to be taught from an early age in order to instill the proper tools to succeed financially. His wife, Kathy, author of Dollars and Sense From Grandmommy, agrees that the fundamental concepts of money management must be taught from childhood. “Parents have to constantly differentiate between needs, wants, and desires,” she states. “These extremely important examples must be taught early on.”

A child’s allowance can be used to reinforce these lessons. “They can spend it on something inexpensive or save it to purchase a more costly item,” Kathy says. “This simple choice offers a variety of practical learning experiences.”

Christians of all ages can also learn from the Bible, which has plenty to say about money. “There are more verses pertaining to money that love, salvation, and the second coming,” notes Reid. He quotes Proverbs 22:7—“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” —to illustrate that when people borrow, they enter into bondage.

Three Steps to Debt Relief

So, how can Christians like Dave, Melissa and others become debt free? Reid outlines a simple three-step plan:

First - make the decision to get out of debt. “There also has to be a commitment to the Lord, yourself, and your family to change your spending habits,” echoes Bankers Financial Group president and CEO Nathaniel Holland. This is the most important step because it identifies a change in attitude.

Second - make a covenant with God that nay unexpected or extra financial blessings will be used to pay off debt.

Third - list all debts by placing the largest (such as mortgage) at the top and credit cards at the bottom, since they have a higher interest rate. Listing these obligations on paper makes the financial situation clear. Then work, from the bottom up, to systematically pay off the debt. As each one is paid, Reid explains, apply those payments to the next item listed.

Christians have a responsibility to be good financial stewards, and the Bible, filled with a variety of practical solutions, is our best guide. Adhering to its fundamentals, with God’s help, ensures financial success.

**Statistics taken from “‘Generation Debt’ is Going Deep into the Red” by Vanessa Richardson, February 8, 2006, MSNBC.com, and “Is a Recession Around the Corner?” by Clive Crook, September 9, 2006, National Journal

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By Billy Errico. Excerpts reprinted with persmission from Columbia Union Visitor, September 2006. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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