“That money talks, that I’ll not deny, I heard it once: it said, ‘goodbye’”—Richard Armour, American Poet.
Our attitude about handling money is just as, if not more, important as our ability to earn it. Of all the subjects we are taught and forced to digest in our education system (primary school through university), finances is one of the most neglected. Some are experiencing financial difficulties due to poor decisions and recklessness while others have fallen prey to circumstances, e.g. legal woes, medical expenses, loss of employment, or a change in family structure. Providing reasonable and necessary care for family members who are unable to support themselves can add to the strain, but it is your responsibility. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). No matter which category you find yourself in, bills and surprises come at us steadily. The stress of not having enough funds available to cover expenses can be very emotional. When this happens, it is easy to become distracted and discouraged.
The releasing of debt is a familiar theme throughout Scripture. Being in debt is equated to being in bondage (Proverbs 22:7). In particular, the New Testament illustrates this with parables about financial debt that highlight God’s mercy and forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50). Modern bankruptcy laws are derived from debt forgiveness laws contained in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). These provisions were in place to allow the members of society to restructure and regroup. Conversely, the Bible also addresses those who borrow money without any intention of repaying it (Psalms 37:21; Ecclesiastes 5:5). Peering through scriptural lenses allows us to properly view and examine our lifestyles and the condition of our hearts.
No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum—struggling or heading towards filing for bankruptcy—you have to remember that only you are able to take control through a well-devised plan and course of action. Do not succumb to feelings of guilt or shame. Treat it like a serious wound: stop the bleeding and work on healing. Take inventory of your needs vs. your wants. Be willing to give up some non-essentials and/or explore healthy opportunities for earning more income. Relying on your number to come in or trusting in debt consolidation companies will only add further insult to injury. The more you educate yourself about money and handling finances, the better equipped you will be to proceed. Many churches offer the Financial Peace University course, which will assist you with creating and sticking to a personalized budget while strategically attacking and extinguishing debt. Also, there are many books, workbooks, and templates that can be utilized as you seek to be a good and faithful steward of your resources.