Money is a hot topic in many Christian circles, with a fair amount of misinformation and disinformation flickering around the conversation. Some people say that “money is the root of all evil” misquoting Paul in 2nd Timothy where he said “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
So, if money isn’t the root of evil, but the love of it could very well be. What should Christians be doing with it? A simple answer, “being wise stewards” is what we should do. Being wise, not only with our money, but also with our time and energy. Stewardship is also a hot term that is frequently bandied around. So, what does it mean? A short definition of stewardship is “handling money and possessions well for another person.” The first stewards were high ranked servants who handled their master’s possessions in their stead. A wise steward made good use of his master’s funds, increasing them, while a foolish steward would not last long when the accounts were called in.
The Debt Dichotomy:
In today’s Christian culture there is a strong dichotomy in what is preached and what is expected. On the one hand, you can frequently hear sermons, or find teachings, on wisely stewarding your money. On the other hand, how many new and young pastors do you know who are stepping into ministry with debt binding them down?
If what is said in Proverbs 22:7 is true, “The borrower is servant to the lender,” then who are our indebted next-generation pastors actually serving? Are they serving God, or the student loan lender? To put things in a bit of perspective, the average Bible School student loan for a four year degree takes over 10 years to pay off. Thus the average Bible School graduate will be graduating at 22 or 23, with a debt that will not be paid off until they are nearly 35. If they go to Seminary as well, that could easily be an even bigger debt.
“A man cannot serve two masters. Either he will love the one and hate the other, or he will despise the one and be devoted to the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24).
While the words of Jesus reference money directly, I would say that they have equal value for those trying to serve both God and Debt. Do you have the freedom to fully and completely serve God, wherever He may call you if you are indebted? I would say no, you can serve God in a position or place where you can bring in enough income to continue paying your loans and bills. BUT, you cannot serve God in a place where that income is not reliable, not consistent, and maybe even non-existent.
Remember, debt does not have to be from student loans. It could be a home mortgage (understandable), a car loan, or from over-spending on credit cards. Any type of debt can and will tie you down. For a single person, however, encumbering debt will usually be consumer debt (car loans or credit card payments), or student debt.
Now, just to be completely clear with this, I’m not saying that people who are in debt cannot serve God. I am saying that they do not have as much freedom as they could have, to serve God.
Serving God is freedom, being debt-free and serving God is an even greater freedom.
If you have debt, there are hundreds of valuable and available resources to help you overcome, become debt-free, and find financial freedom. My focus is on some ways to avoid debt in the first place, specifically student debt since that seems to be one of the most prevalent debts in today’s culture.
Debt and Our Mentality
There are many people who will agree that being debt-free is a good thing. Some of them will sigh, and say “but I just can’t do it.” So, why is it that some people seem to attract debt, which sticks around like a swarm of blood sucking mosquitoes in summer. While with other people and families, it seems that debt is allergic to them. Every time debt gets close to them, it dies before taking root.
I would suggest it is because of their value system. Values dictate where you will spend your money, and how you will spend it. People who value “new and shiny” and have a “need it now” mentality have a high likelihood of ending up with consumer related debt. While someone who values experiences or length of use, is more likely to use what they have when the “next new thing” shows up. After all, if I didn’t know about it or need it yesterday, then if I know about it today I probably still don’t need it.
However, the layers of value are more convoluted when addressing student debt. After all, we value learning and getting a good education. Our society has a simple expectation woven throughout its fabric, and that is that you need a secondary education to be successful, the unspoken assumption is that you will also end up in-debt to do so. With the rare debt-free degree usually being a product of scholarships, parental support, and sometimes hard work on the part of the student.
Is Tradition Necessary:
But, that does not have to be the case. Do we really need a secondary education to be successful? And if we do need that degree, do we also need to go into debt to get it? Is it possible in today’s day and age, where the average student debt is 35 thousand dollars, to get a degree without indenturing oneself to the student-loan board for the next ten years?
I would say that it is eminently possible. Particularly in today’s age of internet connectivity, when so many people have the ability to communicate with anyone, nearly anywhere on the planet, in an instant of time.
While learning is valued and expected, in today’s internet based society, I do not feel that education needs to follow traditional paths to be successful. Today’s students have more options than ever before, within a few mouse clicks of their fingertips, and at no cost to the learner. There are different learning styles, different teaching styles, and even different examination styles that will all impact how students learn and retain information in a classroom setting. But, when the classroom setting disappears and the student is free to choose how they learn, study, and somewhat-how they report, one is likely to find that they learn and retain far more than if they were in a traditional learning setting.
Back To You:
What do you value most? Do you agree or disagree that debt can inhibit ministry?
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