“God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.” – 1 Corinthians 7:23
I’ll never forget the day my parents invited me home for a little chat. They had started to sense that all was not well, and they were right. I was in financial trouble—deep trouble. My credit card debt had gotten so out of control that I could no longer make the minimum payments while also paying my rent or buying groceries.
Just two years earlier, when I was in my mid 20s, I had inherited $60,000 from an uncle and used it to create my dream job. But now, all the money was gone, plus another $20,000.
I ended up moving home with my parents for six months as I started to get things turned around. At first, it was brutally depressing. I looked forward to the night and dreaded the day.
But it was also the catalyst for so much positive change. When a friend from college got in touch and talked to me about matters of faith, I was receptive. Later that year, I committed my life to Christ. I also became passionate about learning everything I could about wise money management. After becoming a Christian, I was amazed at how much the Bible teaches about money.
Here’s a condensed version of how I got out of debt.
I recognized my need to change. I was completely broken by my prodigal son experience, and I was teachable. My friend said, “Matt, the more you’ve leaned on your own understanding, the more things haven’t worked out so well.” (I later realized that was a paraphrase of Proverbs 3:5.) It was a bold thing for him to say, and he was absolutely right.
I took responsibility for my situation. We live in a culture that tends to blame others for our problems, but I knew I had no one to blame but myself. Of the many people I’ve met who had a lot of debt, the ones who’ve been most successful at getting and staying out of debt are the ones who accepted responsibility for their situation.
I received help. I will always be grateful for my parents. They gave me relief from many of my bills at a crucial time and were very supportive.
I worked really, really hard. After a couple months of struggling for motivation, I got going. I went back to the work I was doing before receiving the inheritance—freelance radio reporting. I took on any and all assignments I could get, working nights, weekends, whatever it took to make as much money as I could to pay off my debts as soon as possible.
I kept working the plan. Once I got the debt payoff machine going, I was intent on keeping it going. The plan was simple, but not easy. Work hard, shovel as much money as possible each month toward my debts, and repeat.
I took encouragement from God’s Word. Right after becoming a Christian, I got involved in a small group Bible study. One night, our leader asked us to turn to 2 Corinthians 12. After someone helped me find that, I read about Paul, the “thorn” in his flesh, how he pleaded for relief, and how God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
When I read those words, it was as if a heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders. My debt had felt like the nastiest of thorns twisted into my side, and many times I had pleaded for relief. But now I saw more of God’s plan. He had already used my financial mess to draw me into a relationship with Him, and now He was using it to teach me patience, trust, and perseverance.
It took five years to pay off my credit card debts and another year to pay off my car. Seeing God’s plan in the journey gave me motivation to push on.
Since then, the keys to staying out of debt have been using a budget, maintaining an emergency fund, and most importantly, letting it sink deep within my soul that God paid an incomprehensible price for me, so it makes no sense to allow myself to become enslaved by the world.
If you need help getting out of debt, I recommend reading the following articles:
- Freeing Yourself From The Financial Ball & Chain
- Radical Ways To Accomplish Your Financial Goals
- How Serious Are You?
If you’re struggling with debt, I hope my story is an encouragement to you. It may take some time, but each day if you take positive action toward getting out of debt, one day you will experience the incredible freedom of being debt-free.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to help them grow up with biblical financial perspectives and practices, including those that pertain to borrowing. For help with that, pick up a copy of Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management.