Unchained – Breaking Free From Debt

 In Jason Bunger, Preaching & Teaching, Teaching

Breaking Free From Debt

A number of years ago, the New York Times ran a story on the death of the   Mayor of Mahwah, N.J., David J. Dwork.   Dwork was found in his township office on the night of Aug. 18.  The reason for suicide was the an overwhelming amount of consumer debt seemed insurmountable.  His wife said that she had no clue of the amount of his debt until she found his personal papers after David was found was at his desk, with a single a single .38-caliber bullet wound to his forehead.  Reading from a statement she said, ”There was no escape for him.  He was too proud to ask for help.”

The Superintendent of the local schools wrote of his final conversation with Dwort.  ”It was routine and the kind of conversation we had had hundreds of times before, with one exception, I was to learn.  I later found out that he had contacted six of us that same afternoon who were his closest friends. He never really said goodbye. I guess he was reaching out, but none of us knew that.”

”By committing suicide, he gave to me what was his last and greatest gift of love,” Mrs. Dwork said at the service. ”David did what he thought was the right thing to do.”

I wish I could tell you that David’s story was unique, but sadly it is not.  The documentary “Maxed Out” chronicles the suicides for three Americans, two of whom are college students who committed suicide  because they saw it as the only way to escape. Consumerist noted a Lending Tree survey in which where 20% of respondents saw death as the only way out of consumer debt.

Most people never talk about this because they feel no one will understand or where they can get help.  I want you to know today, that I am not trying to judge you.  I want to help you.  In fact, it would be my goal this day to get you started on having a serious conversation about where you want to be in the future.  We need to have a conversation about getting out of consumer debt.

I want stress that it usually takes us a long time to get to the end of our rope concerning debt.  We get to the point that we have to make a change.  I cannot solve all your problems, or answer all your questions, or calm all your fears.  However, my goal is to get you to think differently.  There is no shame also in saying that I pulled much of this material from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  I would encourage you to read his material and take his class.  I guarantee you that it will change your life.

How do we overcome Consumer Debt?

Understand the theology of debt.  

We must begin to look at debt the way God looks at it.  Most of the what is written about it is seen in the Proverbs.  Proverbs is a collection of sayings about all the issues of life written by one of the wisest and wealthiest men in all of history.

It is not a sin to be in debt.  

People wander into debt for a number of reasons.  Sometimes it is medical, sometime you start life behind the 8-ball, sometimes things are out of your control.  I am from Dayton, OH.  We have been in a recession since 1970.  Sometimes, we get into debt because like seems stacked against us.

However, it is a sin to:

    1. Borrow without the intention of repaying. 

Psalm 37:21 “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.”  To take something with no intentions of paying for it is called “stealing.”

    1. Lending to other believers with the intention of enslaving them.

The Bible does not prohibit the borrowing of money.  However, it does prohibit the lending of money to our brothers and sister with interest.  Why?  God does not want his people to enslaved one another.

Debt 23:19 19 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.

Exodus 22:25 25 “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. 26 If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, 27 for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

This moves us on to the purpose of debt.  The real purpose of debt is for others got get rich of you and for you to be dependent upon them.  The intention is to keep you poor, and in debt and to make your creditor one of your only options.

Understand the purpose of debt.

The purpose is to keep you poor, in debt and to limit your options.  

    1. It is a tool for the rich to rule over you.
      1. Let’s go back to our original verse.   The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.-Proverbs 22:7

Your debt becomes your master.  

When you are in debt, you don’t have the freedom to make our own choices. You are working to make someone else rich and you don’t have the freedom to do with your money and your life what you want to do because it is tied up with someone else. When you get your check, it has already been determined where a portion of it will go.  You are less in control of your finances.

Retailers make more on credit than they do the products that they are selling.  In fact, General Motors makes more money on the interest than they do on the sale of their cars.  Sales associates are rewarded/terminated not by the ability to get you to buy help you, but by the amount of accounts you open.  When is the last time you went to a department store or a retail store that you were not asked if you had their card or given the chance to get it, with 20% off today.

Your buying options and power are limited.  People that pay cash always pay less.  It is hard to negotiate a price of a car down when you have to beg the dealer to give you a loan for it.

Debt limits your choices

You miss out on ministry, family and fun opportunities because you are spending your life making the minimum payment.  You might find yourself in a job that you really hate, but you can’t afford to transition, because your creditors can’t handle a disruption in your payments. To have money is to have control, and the more debt you are in, the less control you have.

Debt effects your relationships

There is no greater stress than financial stress.  Number one reason for failed marriages.  It is the reason that people don’t want to get mail or answer phone.

Debt disrupts your future.  

The #1 reason students drop out of college is credit card debt.

Let’s suppose you decide that you are not going to pay your debt.  It effects your credit report.  This impacts you two ways:  1.  When you do need legitimate “good” credit, you have to pay higher interest rates.  2.  Your future employers are looking at your credit scores when looking at your employment options.  You can’t get the job you want because of your debt.  You can’t pay down your debt because you can’t get that job you want because of your debt.

So the question is, “How can we get out of debt?”  

1.  Understand that it is not God’s will for his people to remain in debt.

God knew that people needed a fresh start.  In the Old Testament, every 7th year debts were forgiven, and after the 49th year, the land was returned to the original owners in Israel.  God never intended for their to be a permanent underclass.

If you are a Christian, especially a tithing Christian, God is working for you and not against you.  Paul tells the Philippians that he can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  God is with you and will help you.

2.  Know who your enemy is.  

Your credit card company is not your friend.  They are not doing you a favor when they raise your limit, or defer your payments or send you a new card.  They want to get you into debt and then keep you in debt.  Their desire is for you never to pay off that amount.

3.  Make a decision to quit using debt-NOW!!!

Cut up the cards today.  If you are drowning in debt, the first step is to turn the water off before you grab a bucket.  You cannot get out of debt by continuing to borrow.  If you find yourself at the bottom of a whole, quit digging.

Ramsey noted an MIT study published in the Carnage-Mellon Journal.  In this study MRI research that showed negative brain activity when you pay for items with cash rather than with credit.  A McDonalds focus group research determined that we spend 47% more when we use credit over cash.

Recently, I noticed that our children were watching us use our debit card.  However, they thought it was tied a limitless supply of money.  So we began to pay cash instead of using a debit card, because we wanted them to see us have to part with money.

4.  Do what wealthy people do. 

If you want to be wealthy, you need to do the things that wealthy people do.  If you want to be poor, do the things poor people do.  There are two primary traits of people who have become wealthy.  They don’t get stuck in the consumer debt cycle and they and don’t try to live beyond their means.

Proverbs 13:7: “One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.’ 

You don’t deserve anything that you cannot pay for. Larry Burkett noted that couples drive themselves to divorce by spending the first 5-7 years of their marriage trying to attain what it took our parents 30 years to achieve.

You don’t know what a person is worth by their cars, clothes and address.  There are many wealthy people who present themselves as poor and many poor people who present themselves as wealthy.  When you see someone with something that you admire, it does not mean that they are worth more than you.  It simply may mean that that borrowed more than you.  If you try to get all that your neighbors possess, you may get it–but you will get the debt, drama, credit calls and insomnia that come with it.  Don’t spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.

Ramsey noted that those on the Forbes 400 list were asked a question, “What is the #1 tool to build wealth?”  And their number 1 response?  “Get out and stay out of debt.”  You cannot become rich if your interest is making someone else rich.

5.  Make a plan. 

    1. Getting out of debt is more about discipline than it is about math.
    2. Proverbs 6:1-11
      1. If you have borrowed or co-signed, do everything you can do to get out of the trap of debt now.  (1-6)
      2. Plan ahead of your own initiative. (7-9) Be proactive and not re-active.
      3. Work hard for a season and watch yourself as you would watch a robber. (9-11) You are the reason your wealth gets dwindled away.
      4. Have a plan.  I cannot stress enough how much you should enroll in Financial Peace University.

We began our time together by discussing a man who killed himself because he felt that it was the only way out.  Financial bondage looks much like spiritual bondage.  We owe a debt, that we can never repay.  Yet, Christ payed a debt that we did not owe.

Colossians 2:13-15 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

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