Winning The Lottery

In 1988, a man named William Bud only had $5 in his checking account when he bought some lottery tickets. As fate would have it, Bud won the $16,000,000 jackpot. It’s not hard to imagine how Bud must have felt because we’ve all had $5 to our name at some point and dreamed of winning the lottery.

Bud spent and mismanaged his winnings to the point that he had to auction off the remaining annual payoffs to pay off his debt in less than 10 years. Once again, he had only $5 in his bank account. In an interview with the Washington Post, he said, “Everybody dreams of winning money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodwork… and the problems. I was much happier when I was broke. I just want peace of mind.”

Debt is Stress

Bud’s experience is typical. It’s estimated that upwards of 70% of people who win a jackpot go broke within a few years. It’s quite a reminder to us today that more money will not solve our financial problems. For most of us, the pain in our lives isn’t the number of resources we have.

In many cases, our ability or inability to make a plan and stick to that plan is what causes hardship.

Debt is bad because it causes stress. Money is a source of anxiety for many, but debt is the biggest offender. According to the American Psychological Association, debt within one’s finances is the leading cause of stress in the United States.

Debt also brings a lot of shame. According to people surveyed in the United States, nearly half the people are ashamed of debt. God doesn’t want you to feel guilty and ashamed about your financial life.

Sometimes debt is because of circumstances beyond our control. You might have a lot of debt right now, and it might have been out of your control (i.e., medical bills insurance didn’t cover, unexpected job loss in 2020, etc.) Let’s just acknowledge that.

Debt, Stress, & the Bible

Now what does the Bible have to say about debt, and the Bible does have a lot to say about that. It’s speculated that about 1/3 of the Bible, directly or indirectly, talks about money or possessions, which is excellent news for all of us.

Debt is a financial and spiritual problem. It doesn’t just affect us mentally and physically but spiritually as well. We’re holistic beings.

The Proverbs & Debt

Proverbs 25:28 reads, “Like a city whose walls are broken down as a person who lacks self-control.” A city that doesn’t have walls doesn’t have a defense. Anyone to come into the city and take it over. This is what happens with our hearts. Anything can come and go as it pleases if we don’t have self-control.

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” The apparent warning is that when we incur debt, we’re in bondage to whoever has loaned us the money. It’s like we’re a slave. We can’t just serve God alone. God can’t be the only and only king of our hearts if we’re enslaved to someone else.

Proverbs 21:5 goes, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit, as haste leads to poverty.” The writer is saying that if you tend to have a plan and are diligent, it will lead to profit. It doesn’t mean your life is over if you’ve made a wrong financial decision.

I love what Pastor Craig Groeschel says: “You can wander into debt, as a lot of us have, you can wander into debt, but you’ll never wander out of debt. You can stumble into debt, but you’ll never stumble out of debt. You can mistake your way into debt. But you’ll never mistake your way out of debt.”

Two Prayers to Help With Debt

Two prayers will help you take some critical next steps. We begin with prayer when we’re talking about doing hard things, like getting out of debt. The first prayer: “God, please give me self-control.”

We need to be able to start saying YES to living within our means, which means having to say NO to living above them. For a lot of us, we just live way above our means. We know that we should prioritize our finances and just don’t do it. So we need this second prayer: “God helped me make a plan.”

Getting Out of Debt

  1. Some of you have never made a budget before. That’s the first step. Create a budget this week. Here are some resources. Our church offers the Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey course. I understand that some people have problems with Ramsey, and that’s fine. I found other great options by Googling “how to make a budget.”
  2. Others of you have a budget. My challenge for you is to evaluate it. When was the last time you did that? Do you know with certainty if you’re staying within your budget? Is it time to update it because your circumstances have changed?
  3. If you’re one of the only 16% of Americans who are defined as highly disciplined financial planners, please consider serving your church family by co-leading a Financial Peace University course with us this summer.
  4. If you find yourself somewhere between the second and third steps, keep up the excellent work! You’re doing the right things, don’t give up, continue to do it, and see who you can help. Sometimes we do the right things and need to remember why we started doing them.

Madison Church Can Help

Megan is an educator. I’m a pastor. My family had had some really lean years. We didn’t get into our fields because of the money. And yet, there have been several times when we wondered if having more money would reduce some of the stress we feel from week to week.

But we know that’s not the case. We’re thankful for our friends at Madison Church who care deeply for us. They’ll be there for you too. We’re not alone. We don’t have to be ashamed. We don’t feel guilty.

You are loved.