I’ve long hesitated about writing about Christian debt advice. It is a self-righteous can of conflict that I have avoided, like the biblical plague.
But is seems like the ads proclaiming christian debt relief are appearing more and more. Advertisements like:
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- Christian Debt Help – Check Out Christian Debt Help Solutions From A Trusted Source.
- Christian Debt Reduction – Cut Your Debt By 30% To 60% Now! We Negotiate Your Debt For You.
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In the past, I have advised many ministers with financial problems as private clients. I’ll share with you the same advice I have given them that they could not dispute, and they found some comfort in it because they recognized it to be honest and true.
Most groups proclaiming to offer ‘Christian’ debt advice are really just using ‘holy’ as an advertising tool. What they wind up offering you is the same credit counseling, debt management, or debt settlement programs that everyone else does. Please don’t believe me. Follow some of the Christian debt relief ads you see online and see yourself.
I am not a biblical scholar, so my advice is based on the fundamental tenants of fairness, honesty, and doing the right thing.
I’ll toss out these quotes and let you take them for how you interpret them:
- Isaiah 33:15, TLB. – “I will tell you who can live here: All who are honest and fair, who reject making a profit by fraud, who hold back their hands from taking bribes, who refuse to listen to those who plot murder, who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong.”
- Proverbs 16:11, TLB. – “The Lord demands fairness in every business deal. He established this principle.”
- Romans 13:7-8 – “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”
I believe that when you find yourself in debt, there is only one way out, and that is an approach that is fair and balanced for you and your creditors. That approach is to pay your creditors back based on their percentage of the debt you owe if you can and they will agree to that approach. But don’t hold your breath they will agree. And when they won’t then other choices will need to be made.
You don’t need anyone else to do this for you. You can do it yourself.
Let’s say you owe the following debts:
- Capital One Visa – $2,500
- MBNA Visa – $3,300
- Bank of America – MasterCard – $8,700
Your total debt would be $14,500 and out of that debt, let’s figure out what percentage of the total debt we owe each creditor.
- Capital One Visa – $2,500 / $14,500 = 17%
- MBNA Visa – $3,300 / $14,500 = 23%
- Bank of America – MasterCard – $8,700 / $14,500 = 60%
Now let’s take an honest look at our other expenses and determine what we might be able to cut out and reduce to free up money to use for debt repayment each month.
Some believe that they should downsize their lavish lifestyle and choose to move to a smaller house, sell the expensive car, hang the clothes on the clothesline instead of using the dryer, buy bulk instead of gourmet. I’ll let you decide what you can really do over a long period of time. However, what I frequently see are people that overcut and can’t sustain the beans and rice lifestyle. Balance again is the key.
So after you have made your expense reductions just divide what money you can afford to send each month to each creditor based on the percentage of the debt. Don’t forget to continue to save for retirement or build your emergency fund.
If you can afford to send $500 a month your payment would be divided:
- Capital One Visa – 17% = $85
- MBNA Visa – 23% = $115
- Bank of America – 60% = $300
My major point of contention with the Christian debt companies is that rather than put together a repayment plan that is first and foremost, fair to you and your creditors; they instead put together one using the counseling terms the creditor wants or give preference to a creditor that pays the Christian credit counselor more for helping you.
Up to this point, my approach has sounded reasonable, but here is where it can become a matter of faith and trust in your higher power. This is also where many begin to bargain and delude themselves into an alternate path.
Being the fairest you can with what you have requires you to disregard your credit report and forget about your credit score. If the fair percentage of your debt repayment dollars does not meet the creditor minimum payment, then it does not.
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If you start bargaining with yourself and justifying that you should send a higher payment to one creditor over another to avoid a late fee or negative mark on your credit report, who are you really trying to serve? Yourself.
I hate to pull the old “What would Jesus drive” argument, but if Jesus had credit card debt, would he rationalize making payments that were not fair to all because of his credit report or a late fee, or would he try to be the fairest to all in repaying his debts?
“But Steve,” you might be saying, if I do this, I might get collection calls. Well, if this results in you getting debt collection calls, is there any reason why you can’t be kind and honest to the debt collectors calling and treat them with grace? After all, they are simply trying to collect on a debt that you promised to repay. Show them the Christian you really are.
Is it impossible for you to find grace and comfort in knowing that you are following your core beliefs in your time of trouble maybe you need to ask yourself how fundamental your core beliefs really are?
In times of problem debt, if you have strong faith, no matter what your religion, and belief in your religious core values, then an approach to get out of debt based on love, honesty, fairness, and faith is the wisest path to follow rather than one of the self-serving interests.
However, if a creditor is unwilling to agree to a solution that you can safely meet, then let’s not forget that other solutions like bankruptcy are biblical as well.
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