Question: "I am a Christian in debt. What should I do?"
Answer: Debt is a common problem in our society, and debts have a way of growing faster than we expect. Sometimes credit cards are used to pay off medical debt, and then more credit cards are used to pay off the first ones, and—things can easily spiral out of control, especially when living on a fixed income. Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but what about when it’s too late for preventative measures? When a believer comes to the realization that he or she has taken on too much debt, and Mammon has become the master, what then?
The first step is to pray for God’s wisdom (James 1:5). And, even though it’s hard, resist the temptation to worry. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Once the problem has been taken to God (and any known sin confessed to Him), it’s time to put wheels on your prayers. Give careful and prayerful consideration to the following:
1) Commit to making changes to drastically reduce your lifestyle expenses. Make a list of your bare minimum expenses. Eliminate that which is not needful. It may seem impossible to live without cable or satellite television, for example, but you can do it.
2) Prepare a budget based on your actual monthly income and actual expenses—again, the bare minimum. Work to minimize discretionary spending and then apply that toward debt repayment. And don’t just prepare the budget; follow it.
3) Honor God with your financial giving. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Determine the amount, between you and the Lord (and your spouse, if you’re married), that you should give back to God every week or month. Joyfully honor that commitment.
4) Seek wise, godly counsel. A pastor, financial counselor, or someone trained in biblical counseling may be most helpful. It is important that you know that the counseling is based clearly on what the Word of God says. Ministries such as Crown Financial Ministries can provide several tools for helping you be debt-free.
5) Talk to your creditors to explain your situation and work out a plan with them. Ask for payment reductions or lower rates. There are ways to reduce the amount you have to pay per month, thus making the debt more manageable; and there are ways to possibly lower interest rates, thus reducing the long-term debt. Maybe you know someone knowledgeable in financial matters who could help you negotiate with your creditors.
6) Maintain discipline in financial matters. Go ahead and cut up the plastic. The Holy Spirit, who gives self-control (Galatians 5:23), can help you change your spending practices by changing your desires and priorities. The struggle to refuse impulse buying is really fought in the heart. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3). It would be wise to engage an accountability partner to hold you accountable on your spending. Continue to “work your plan” to solve your debt problem.
7) Do not delay. Start today and get on the road to free yourself from the bondage of debt. Your debt problem can be solved, given commitment, time, and punctuality in making payments.
Keep praying, and in all things, even when in debt, give thanks to God. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).