Giving While Paying Off Debt

giving_940_wideThis is a question many Christians struggle with and one that I get on a weekly basis, so let’s take a look at it.

On the one hand, it is our unalterable duty to pay off any debts we have. As Christians, we are to “let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” (Romans 13:8). We are called wicked if we borrow and do not repay (Ps. 37:21). We are also called to be great witnesses in our dealings with the world and not paying off our debts makes us very poor witnesses to our creditors and others around us. So how can we choose to give and ignore our debts?

On the other hand, it was not God’s choice or will that you went into debt so why should He get the short end of the stick?  We know that giving to the Kingdom is one of the most important factors of our faith. We know that God owns everything (Psalm 24:1) and that giving some of what He’s entrusted to us is a central theme of the Bible (Deut. 15:10, 1 Tim 6:17, Proverbs 21:26, Luke 6:38, etc) so how can we stop giving?

To Give or Not to Give

So how do we decide who takes precedence? God or our creditors? The answer is both.

I’ve heard the argument many times: “But if I could pay off my debt, I could give so much more!” It sounds like a noble thought, but 9 times out of 10, this is a rationalization to stop giving and once the believer is debt free, their generosity muscles have atrophied so much that they’re useless. Giving is a muscle that is strengthened through use, so we should continue to give, even if the amount is small.

Remember that giving is more about securing the giver than God needing our money. The amount we give is not as important as the spirit we have when we give. In order to be spiritually valuable, giving must be done sacrificially and with a spirit of joy.

Our giving should impinge on us and pinch us in just the right spot to keep us on our toes.C.S. Lewis said, “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare…There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.”

I Can’t Do It!

Even if you are unable to meet your basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter, continue to give as you can. God promises to take care of you and will bless your faithfulness (Luke 21:1-4, Proverbs 11:25, 22:9, 28:27 ). If this is the case, your church should be helping you and using church offerings to help support you until you’re back on your feet.

Call your creditors and tell them you can pay “x” amount per month on your debt, (even if it’s only $5) and do that faithfully. Continue to give (even if it’s only $5) and do that willingly and joyfully.

What do you think? Do you or would you continue to give while paying off debt?

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10 thoughts on “Giving While Paying Off Debt

  1. I agree. I made the decision to give while I was getting out of debt years ago. And all I can say is God blesses us when we are obedient to Him. I miraculously got out if debt in half the time I thought it was going to take. Oftentimes there would be refunds I didn’t expect, or opportunities for extra work, etc… God promises to be our provider so we can have confidence when we handle money Gods way.

    • You are so right Jennifer and you are a great example of trusting God 100% with your finances and having Him come through time and again in miraculous ways. Thanks!

  2. The reason I am a financial advisor today is because God convicted me while I was in major debt beyond my ability to pay. That’s when my first wife left me for someone else. God said in His Word that He would provide for my needs if I will trust Him. (See references in article above) I had a home mortgage, 2 leased cars, and $17K in credit card debt. (All my poor choices and my fault.) I was making $10/hour and was borrowing $300/mth on credit cards to pay all of my minimum payments. It was spiraling out of control fast. So I tested Him. (Mal 3:8-12) I started giving 10% of every paycheck first, then paid the bills with what was left. He was faithful! Each month something else happened that gave me just enough to be able to give the 10% and still meet all of my minimum payments! (Yes, I chose to give 10% even though it felt like it was impossible. But nothing is impossible with God!) You have to follow what God convicts you to do.

    The first month, I received 2 checks in the mail to cover the extra. The 2nd month I was allowed to work overtime at time and a half pay. The 3rd month, I received a raise. On and on it went. I got focused on paying down the debt and making sacrifices in my spending until my debt was paid off. No new clothes, no paid entertainment (went to the park to play basketball instead), began to serve in the youth group, to invest in others instead of worrying about my circumstances. What a blessing that was! Many of those same high school kids were in my wedding later!

    It took 18 months to pay off all the debt, return one of the leased cars and get my cash flow in order, but God gets all the credit. I tell people today, that God is the only one I know that can make 2+2=16. We just need to trust that He can!

    Today, I help others not make the same mistakes I made and encourage those that already have made similar mistakes, that God can handle it if you will trust Him!

    Thanks for the article Kevin! I hope it encourages many to begin to trust God or to increase their faith in Him and His provision!

    Blessings,
    Kurt Berry

    • Thank you Kurt for the encouragement. You are living proof that God can produce miracles when we simply trust Him. After being released from jail, I was able to pay back $100,000 in debt in four years and I never made more than $25,000 a year during that time (I have the tax returns to prove it!).

      God is great and I love your 2+2=16. I am going to borrow that! Blessings brother

  3. I have found that after trusting God and handling money HIS way it made it easier to obey God in all other areas of life. I guess because money is so tangible and critical to living that we feel we need to hold tightly to it to have control. But, quite the opposite is true. I finally realized it’s not my money anyway… I’m just a manager for what God allows to float through my fingers. I’m living testimony to these financial principles working. There was a point in my life I was working two jobs cleaning hotel rooms and houses but I was still dirt poor. I lived in a run-down shack with no refrigerator, no stove, no central air, no washing machine or any of the other amenities that I gratefully enjoy today. I was getting food stamps and welfare to feed my son who was an infant at the time. But, God called me to step out in faith and trust HIM to provide instead. WOW am I amazed at all He’s done for us since I did. I wish I could convince everyone to trust God with their money because it’s an area He will draw us VERY close to Himself and then we get a front row seat at watching Him move on our behalf.

  4. Many thanks for this article. My query is, do we continue to give our offerings when in debt? I don’t have any problem with continuing to tithe, but I’m torn between giving offerings (over and above the tithe) while I’m struggling to repay debts and an overdraft. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, thanks.

    • jray,

      Thanks for the comment! I applaud your willingness to give even while paying off debts.

      I can say that, in my 20 years of Christian financial counseling, I’ve never had a single person say, “I gave too much and God didn’t come through for me.” On the contrary, I’ve seen countless miracles where God came through tenfold even when the human math didn’t add up (like some of the commenters above, and in my own life).

      My family and I stopped doing 10% tithe altogether. Instead, we now look at our finances and give just enough to make us uncomfortable and force us to trust in Him to meet our needs. I call it living on the edge of the miraculous and I can tell you that it has strengthened our faith as we see Him come through time and time again.

      I would encourage you to find an amount that you can give joyfully but that still maintains your muscles of faith in Him financially.

      Thanks again for the comment and I hope you keep reading!

      • Many thanks for your reply.

        Do you subscribe to the thinking that 10% should be the absolute minimum – irrespective of the state of your finances? Would you still give (above 10%) if ever you found yourself in debt? Or would you pay off your debt first and then resume your giving?

        I’m still giving joyfully (!) – although I’ve had to reduce the amounts – but I’m conscious that I’m giving from a position of debt (so yes, sacrificially), whilst believing for a financial breakthrough…

        Kind regards

  5. Kudos on continuing to give joyfully and faithfully! God will bless that behavior.

    I think 10% is a great place to start. After all, the word tithe does mean “tenth” and there is Biblical precedence of course. It would be a great goal to work toward since the average American Christian gives 2.3%.

    The problem I see people run into with 10% is that it has the tendency to turn giving into a bland, paint-by-numbers experience or another thing to check off the list to be a good Christian.

    Giving and tithe is really about securing the giver, so it should be a spiritual, worshipful experience. I don’t believe God will say, “you only gave 7.3% on just your net income. Shame on you.” I think the spirit with which we do it is so much more important, even at smaller amounts while we are in debt.

    If your giving is pinching you and you’re doing it joyfully, you are doing the right thing. To continue the C.S. Lewis quote from above, “In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, and amusement, is up to the standard common of those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.”

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