Deciding Debt Was Not An Option

The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.
Proverbs 22:7

I am only recently becoming aware of how prevalent the use of school loans for college are in our country.  I meet more and more young people with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt that simply drags them down and hinders their ability to flourish in life.  As a Christian I see it as another way our enemy seeks to put fetters upon the people of God, limiting their ability to be generous toward the Kingdom of God.  I find that money is the primary issue alongside pornography that requires counsel and it is also what receives the most push back when biblical options are considered.

Strangely enough debt can be resolved relatively easily if the person is willing to attack it like any other problem–with no mercy.  If the person believes that God wants them to still have a newer car, a nice apartment, internet and a smartphone then there is little that will be done.  But once one makes the critical turn in thinking and relieves himself of these hindrances then much can be accomplished.

Take Ken Ilgunas as an example.  Finished his undergraduate degree with no job options and a 32,000 debt.  What to do?  Go into more debt and get an advanced degree?  Go camp out at some 99% protest group and claim victimhood?  Just default and assume that his debt would be lost in the shuffle of all the others who walk away from their responsibilities?  Nope, he made an adult’s decision and carried it out.

First he got a job up in Alaska where the good money is.  His job paid 9.00 an hour and by living carefully paid off over 18,000 of the debt.  Then he got a better job and paid off the rest of the debt in another 2 1/2 years.  When he decided to return for an advanced degree he refused to go back into debt and that is where the story gets very interesting.  I won’t ruin it here, just read the whole thing for yourself, it is worth it.

I saw a man who made a mistake and learned from it.  I saw a man who was willing to make sacrifices for the purpose of a greater goal.  And I saw a man who achieved that goal with no regrets (except maybe identifying the school so that they now make what he did against the rules).

At my old church when someone came into for debt counseling the first thing the counselor would do after sizing up the problem was make them cut their credit cards up and write letters to all the companies canceling their account.  Often he recommended they sell their newer cars and buy older ones.  If they owned a home and they were in bad debt then they should sell the home and downsize.  No more eating out, no more vacations, no more cable TV and no more internet until the debt was paid.  Those who bought into it were helped by the church short term and they all were shocked at how quickly they caught things up.  Those who gave push back ended up losing most of those things anyhow but with a reputation now of being unfaithful in word and deed.

What about you?  Would you give up most of the comforts you enjoy for the purpose of removing debt off of your back?  Would you refuse to enter college without having saved the first year’s tuition?  Are you willing to work full time if necessary so as to pay for school as you go?  Just stuff to think about.

About Matt Henry

Middle-aged pastor trying to figure out how to be missional in his world. Loves his wife, his children, and his dog Bear. I have a love of woodworking even though woodworking doesn't always love me. The name is xagete but is pronounced exegete.

Posted on June 13, 2013, in Bible Observations, Parenting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. That was a great story… My mind is thinking much on this topic since Comm Group last night, and your sermon from Sunday.

  2. I’m not sure if you are a Dave Ramsey fan, but this follows a lot of the principles he teaches. “Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.” I don’t like that a lot of people take that to meaning then you can have a yacht and a vacation home after your debt is paid. Rather, it frees you to do what you said, give generously toward the kingdom.

    • I am not aware of Dave Ramsey but your point is well made. The challenge in so many of the debt clinics that get put on is merely that you can have more toys later rather than a serious reflection on why God has enriched you. I found the whole conference John Piper put on was incredibly helpful for me and the other elders. It later translated into some major reorganization for many families in the church.

  3. I am following Dave Ramsey’s plan. He comes from a biblical world view and his program has helped me repay about $10,000 in debt since last fall. His quote is actually “Live like no one else so you can GIVE like no one else.” (Sorry, Laura.) I am on goal to be debt free by next summer including my car. I still have internet and cable but I am totally committed to being debt free. As Dave teaches, being debt free enables people to give to God’s kingdom to make a difference. I am looking forward to that happening!

    • Nancy,

      Thanks for that clarification! I will have to look into his stuff as a possible point of reference for those in my church who struggle with finances. 10K in debt reduction in that short of time is awesome and obviously you are able to enjoy some of the pleasant things we have in this age we live in at the same time.

      I know for my self and my wife, we had to give up several things, but never everything. We also delighted ourselves in those “moments” where we could simply take advantage of some special moment like 99 cent Jumbo Jacks from Jack-in-The Box. 4.00 fed my whole family while we sat together at the local park.

  4. I would like to expound a little on Dave Ramsey. I paid off $30k in 5 years with his plan and have benefitted a lot from his teaching. The business that I work for sent me to his Entreleadership training event and it had a lot of good things to say about leadership. He does promote giving to an extent, but he is a more a teacher that uses the Bible than he is a Bible teacher. His exact quote is “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” I clarify because he also says that if you do steps 1-5, you will open yourself up to wealth building. He brings in some Bible verses to support his point that can be very confusing for those not well taught and could lead to some people believing that if you follow these things, God has to help you build wealth. He does say you should never stop giving while you are getting out of debt and he strongly encourages lifelong giving, but he doesn’t give great guidance on being kingdom-oriented with your finances. Dave gives an example in “The Total Money Makeover” about how God gave him back the Jaguar that he lost as an example of future rewards and his giving advice is phrased as a mental health technique and as a secret of the rich. The distinction is that he doesn’t teach a person about where to put their treasure. He doesn’t focus on storing your treasure in heaven and how that should then impact your finances.

    • Laura, I guess I personalized Dave’s catch line because I want to be able to give to God’s kingdom. Thank you for the real quote. Congrats on your success. This has been a life changing experience for us. I am so glad for God orchestrating our circumstances to make us ready and willing to do whatever it takes. Gazelle intensity. I have a picture of a gazelle surrounded by all our cut up credit cards. I look at it every day.Financial peace can be a reality!

      • You two have no idea how much pleasure I have had with your comments. Most people just like the page and move on, or comment on FB. Thanks for doing it here and doing it so kindly.

  5. BTW-Pastor Matt, I think you would enjoy listening to him. He doesn’t put up with people’s excuses and tell like it is. A quality I think you share.

  1. Pingback: Money and Parenting–Some Cheap Advice | Missional Meanderings

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