Sabbath School Lesson for January 28-February 3, 2023

Overview of Lesson 5, Dealing With Debt

Memory Text: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 NKJV

This week we will explore these topics:

  • Sunday: Why do people end up in debt?
  • Monday: Where can we get help with our finances?
  • Tuesday: How do we solve our debt problems?
  • Wednesday: How do we avoid debt?
  • Thursday: When is it safe or even necessary to be in debt?

There are many admonitions about being in debt in the book of Proverbs. A very wealthy king himself, Solomon understood the dangers of being in debt, and repeatedly counselled against it.

There is ample cause for not being in debt. Jesus declared that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), and being in debt can take away from our service to God. Paul in Romans 13:7, 8 reminds us that we should owe no man anything except our love. Paying what you owe and staying away from debt whenever possible seems like the best course to follow.

Debt has been appropriately defined as “living today on what you expect to earn in the future”. Our shaky futures in these last days should make us all hesitant to borrow needlessly, and yet a large number of people, including Christians, find themselves overwhelmed with burdensome debts.

The Bible can help us understand practical principles of borrowing and lending that will protect our financial futures. These principles will help us avoid the stress and worry often created by the greedy, self-centered lifestyles of our modern world.

Sunday: The Debt Problems

God promises in Deuteronomy 28:1, 2, and 12 to bless His people as long as they obey His commandments. It’s important for us even now to follow God by keeping His law, which includes not working on His holy day or stealing His holy tithe. When we ignore God by disrespectfully refusing to do either of these, we can’t expect Him to bless us as fully as He longs to.

Even if we are careful about returning tithe, which is the very minimum of giving expected of us, we can find ourselves in financial difficulties for various reasons. The main ones include…

  1. Not being aware of good money management principles–in other words, being financially illiterate.
  2. Wanting to live above our means–in other words, not being content with what we have, and always wanting more.
  3. Having personal misfortune overtake us unawares–in other words, experiencing tragedy of some kind, such as a serious illness, divorce, or natural disaster.

Any and all of these causes for excessive debt can be addressed with the support of Christian friends, the assistance of professional advisors, hard work, and God’s providential blessings.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

1 Timothy 6:6-10 and Hebrews 13:5

  • How does being discontented play a part in getting us in needless debt?
  • What should we be content with when it comes to material blessings? Is it the food and clothing, or just the fact that we are fed and clothed? What’s the difference?

Monday: Following Godly Counsel

No one should feel uncomfortable or hesitant to seek outside counsel when faced with difficult financial problems. Not everyone has the personal background to make them educated and efficient in money matters. We can quickly find ourselves drowning in debt if we don’t use every opportunity to be more financially literate. Proverbs 11:14 and 15:22, among other verses, remind us that there is no shame in having a counselor guide us in anything that impacts our life.

Friends, family, and even professionals can help us navigate our budgetary challenges. But let’s not forget the wisdom that only comes from God. Divine help can be found through our prayers, but also in God’s holy word. James 1:5 invites us to seek wisdom from God–that would include the wisdom to get out of debt.

Wise money management is a gift from God. He’s more than willing to help us avoid economic hardship, making us better stewards overall. Much of the help needed to get out of debt comes directly from the Ten Commandment Law.

The commandment not to covet prevents us from craving things we can’t afford. Not having idols surely includes our prized possessions that we think we just can’t live without. Becoming financially unable to pay our debts could make us thieves of those who gave us credit. And let’s not forget: stealing includes stealing from God’s holy tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8), which we may feel compelled to do when we have too many other debts to pay.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Matthew 6:24 and 1 John 2:15

  • What does loving the world and its riches have to do with being in debt?
  • Is it possible to be rich and still love God? Who in the Bible would be an example of this?
  • Why is it difficult for the wealthy to remain faithful?

Psalm 50:14, 15

  • How does giving to God’s cause make us more financially secure?
  • How is God glorified by our deliverance from trouble, even our financial troubles?

Tuesday: How to Get Out of Debt

Proverbs 22:7 is correct in saying that we are a servant to our lender–or lenders, as the case may be. Therefore, we must be willing to get out of debt and try not to borrow so it doesn’t affect how we serve God. Jesus reminds us that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

Here are some suggested ways to get out of debt:

  1. Make sure you are returning a faithful tithe to God. Make Him your first priority.
  2. Stop taking on additional debt. Cut up some of those credit cards, if you have to.
  3. Develop a systematic way to pay off the debts you have incurred by listing them, paying the minimum payments each month, and paying more on one debt at a time, till you have paid them all.

By putting God first, you will receive the knowledge and wisdom necessary to accomplish this, in addition to being blessed enough with the means to become debt-free.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Proverbs 22:7 and Matthew 6:24

  • In what ways could being in debt affect your service to God?

Wednesday: Surety and Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

There are two other money management considerations that the Bible addresses. Several times in Proverbs we are cautioned about pledging ourselves to pay someone else’s debt. When you are surety, or a co-signer or guarantor, you are responsible for that person’s debt if they are unable to pay it. This surprisingly happens about 75 percent of the time, according to studies, and you, as co-signer, are left to pay the bill for someone else.

The borrower we sign for often wants something faster than they really need it. This is similar to another principle we should be aware of. Many people are swindled by get-rich-quick schemes and find themselves drowning in debt instead. These deceptions don’t just happen over the phone or online though.

Just look at how many people visit gambling casinos,  purchase lottery tickets, make unwise investment decisions in an attempt to get rich faster. Even contestants on many game shows on TV are there because they want to win large amounts of money and prizes. Watching these shows just feeds our desire to do the same.

It’s not a healthy way to conduct business or live our lives, and we should make every attempt to avoid this financial pitfall. We’ve heard it said that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Proverbs 6:1-5, 17:18, and 22:26

  • What are some other ways we can we be helpful to those in need, without becoming responsible for their debts?

Proverbs 28:20 and 1 Timothy 6:9, 10

  • How does loving money lead to poor stewardship?
  • How do we avoid falling in love with money?

Thursday: Term Limits and Borrowing Points

The fact that we find regulations in the Old Testament regarding debts leads us to believe that there are times when borrowing may be necessary in our turbulent, complicated lives. The seven-year statutes established term limits for how long a person in ancient Israel was obligated to pay off a debt. Every seven years, all debts owed were to be forgiven, servants were allowed to go free, and even the land they farmed must stand idle for that seventh year. See Exodus 21:2 and Leviticus 25:3, 4.

Although God expects us to avoid debt whenever possible, it seems reasonable to assume that there are times when borrowing must take place. The large purchase of a home, a car, and even an education are the kinds of loans most people require in today’s world.

That being said, utmost caution is prudent when these important financial decisions are made. Finding a reasonably-priced home or car at the lowest interest rate and paying off our loans as quickly as possible are both money management strategies to be encouraged. Saving for our children’s education, guiding them to work and save as well, and choosing careers that will enable them to become independent, contributing members of society are also borrowing tips to consider.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Exodus 21:2 and Matthew 5:32

  • How are these two issues–buying a servant and divorcing our spouse–seen in God’s eyes?
  • What do these restrictions tell us about God’s mercy and forgiveness?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Even if we don’t find ourselves in troubled financial waters, the Bible encourages us to save for emergencies, to be as productive and hardworking as possible at our jobs (Proverbs 6:6-8), and not to take advantage of others when they are unable to pay us back for our assistance (Deuteronomy 15:1, 2).

The biblical counsel that blesses us can also be used to counsel and bless others. Sharing what we have learned is the whole point of Bible study. The more we know of God’s mercy and justice, the more we want others to experience His blessings and enjoy financial freedom, which includes less worry and stress. Our service to God in doing this will help others be able to serve Him more fully.

Next Week: Laying Up Treasure in Heaven

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