Pay what you owe.
We shouldn't expect
to be released from paying what we’ve obligated ourselves to pay.
A bailout is not our prayer.
A debt cancellation is not our prayer.
Our prayer is for the Lord to provide the resources required for us to be responsible in meeting our debt obligations. Our prayer is to ask for wisdom and guidance in managing those resources that the Lord currently provides to us so that we will be able to reflect Him in our financial actions.
Pay what you owe.
The core focus of this principle is not about getting the actual obligations paid. This principle is more about the condition of our heart concerning your financial obligations as a follower of Jesus Christ.
A “bailout” / “let-me-out” mentality is one that is ever present in individuals around the world when it comes to paying back debt. Bankruptcy is ever present and is a cyclical process in the lives of some. I’ve heard Christian believers pray to the Lord for a debt cancellation as an approach to handling outstanding obligations. I know that the Lord can cancel debts and I have a personal testimony of such a blessing! Principles in our Holy Bible instruct us to do just the opposite of these approaches. We’re instructed to own up to our responsibilities when we have an obligation and have a committed heart to paying it back in a timely manner. Different than what you’ve believed?
We should honor our word by honoring agreements that we’ve made.
If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. Numbers 30:2 NKJV
Wicked describes someone that lives their life in a crooked way – not following the word of God. This scripture notes that those that are wicked borrow and do not pay the obligation. If we are committed to living our lives with the Holy Bible as a guidebook, we should repay what we borrow.
The wicked borrows and does not repay, But the righteous shows mercy and gives. Psalms 37:21 NKJV
The laws of the land that the Israelites were to follow were established by Moses after he sought the Lord on such matters. In reading these established laws, it is clear to me that in addition to honoring obligations that they had made (Numbers 30:2), the children of God were instructed to abide by laws that promoted everyone taking care of their personal responsibilities. In addition to paying debt obligations, it included being responsible for the food, shelter and clothing for oneself and one’s family, the proper management of owned or borrowed personal property and paying what you owe for the consumption of goods and services. Here’s a few of the many verses to reference for these concepts:
The people of Israel vowed to be responsible to paying what they and their animals would consume while traveling through the land of Edom.
"'Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King’s Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory."
Then Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.” So the children of Israel said to him, “We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” Numbers 20:17-19 NKJV
The children of Israel were in a position to take advantage of the people of Seir on their journey because the Israelites were feared. The Lord instructed His people be responsible and purchase food and water from them instead of capitalizing on the advantage. The Lord had blessed His people to be able to take care of themselves and instructed them to do so.
You shall buy food from them with money, that you may eat; and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand."
Deuteronomy 2:5-7 NKJV
King David refuses to take from anyone to give his offerings to the Lord. Even though he was king, he took his personal responsibilities to pay his obligations seriously.
Then King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.”
1 Chronicles 21:24 NKJV
Jonah was purposefully running from the presence of the Lord. Even in his disobedience, he paid his obligated fare for boarding the ship to Tarshish. He didn’t expect anything to be free.
But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
Jonah 1:3 NKJV
Paul shares with the Thessalonians that while ministering to them, Paul, Timothy and Silas worked and paid for their food so that their ministry would not be a burden to the people.
nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.
2 Thessalonians 3:8 NKJV
Everyone should commit to pay what they owe. If you are the lender, do not go to the borrower to take repayments. Give your brother the opportunity to be obedient to the scriptures to initiate the payment of his debt. This will help to avoid strife.
When you lend your brother anything, you shall not go into his house to get his pledge. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring the pledge out to you.
Deuteronomy 24:10-11 NKJV
Here's my story...
I learned the principle of paying what you owe shortly after completing college. I borrowed to obtain student loans to fund my college education. After completing college and enjoying a 4 month grace period before student loan repayment time, I received the paperwork necessary to setup my loan repayments. As requested, I submitted the paperwork, received the payment certificates and began repaying my student loans. The payments were more than I wanted to pay but I was blessed to be gainfully employed in the professional field of my choosing and was making enough money to cover my expenses including this loan payment. I even had money left over! God is so good.
About 6 months into paying back this student loan obligation, I started to ask myself “Why am I paying this? I’m not getting anything for this money that I’m paying out each month.” I know you're wondering why I'd ask this question. Well yes, I did get an education and was awarded two degrees which did lend to making me attractive to corporations seeking young professionals BUT... I felt that I was owed that education!!
Let me explain the logic of my young mind … I was a smart kid… graduated second in my small high school class. On February 17 in my high school senior year I left home one afternoon to go play in a high school basketball game. I told my dad goodbye and assured him that I would not get in a fight in the game this time (well, this is another topic for another day...). I came home after the game later that night to witness my uncle and my mom speeding past the school bus in a reckless manner as they were rushing my dad to the hospital. My father had a heart attack at home shortly before I returned home from the game and he died shortly after his arrival at the hospital.
My dad didn’t get to hear me say that I didn’t get in a fight with anyone on the opposing team that night. He didn’t get to hear my Salutatorian speech 3 months later. He didn’t get to witness me finishing college. He missed out on all of those things. The most painful part was that I felt cheated by not having him there during these key milestone events for my 17th year of life.
There was no college fund. Since my dad was the sole breadwinner for our family, I paid for all of my college education without any assistance from my parents, thus the need for the student loans. I felt that I deserved to have my education funded since I had experienced so much loss. I then reasoned that I should be released from the student loans that I originally committed to repay!
I started looking for ways to get out of paying my loans – at the time there were options available. More people felt the way that I did and there were agencies and programs available to assist. I applied for and was granted a forbearance to suspend my student loan payments for 6 months. No student loan payments! Much better!! After this 6 month payment suspension period was over, I received paperwork to apply for another 6 month forbearance. My response? “Can you repeat that fax number please? I’ll return the completed forms to you today!” I did and again, no payments for another 6 months!
Something happened to me during this second 6 month forbearance time frame. I occasionally would wake up during the night with this item on my mind. I borrowed the money, but I was not paying it back even though payment was due per the original loan agreement. When I signed the papers as a student, I was so happy to get the loan because it meant that I could attend college. In my heart, I vowed that when I got a degree and a job I would pay back every penny. While wide awake in the middle of the night as an employed college graduate, I realized that my actions were telling a different story. I was wrong and I knew it. I could not rest well as long as I was in agreement with my current student loan repayment arrangements. This is how I learned the principle of pay what you owe. I didn’t speak to any friends or relatives. I didn't pick up a bible. I didn’t consult my Pastor or other church leaders but I learned this lesson well. The Holy Spirit taught me this invaluable lesson even though I wasn’t seeking the Lord and I didn’t know that this was a biblical principle.
After the second forbearance period lifted, I received a letter asking if I’d like to apply for the last suspension that would be possible for this loan. Without even thinking about it, I waived the option to reapply for suspension and worked with the lender to resume payments. I eventually paid off the loan and even sent extra funds toward the principle as a part of my repayment strategy. This was such an accomplishment for me! I was so proud of myself that I shared the success of paying off my student loans with family, friends and strangers alike! No one knew of or understood the heart change that took place as a part of paying off this loan – until now.
During that same adjustment period, needing to mourn the loss of my dad, I began a grieving process that I had unknowingly delayed for 5 years.
I’ve never forgotten this lesson. I learned it well. This principle is a relevant one for each of us. In the days of bailouts, bankruptcy and entitlement mentalities, this principle is often ignored.
Pay what you owe.
The Lord is our source. He wants us to be take responsibility for what we owe and diligently seek him for our needs.
If you are one of many that have in the past or are currently operating in an income shortfall condition, I pray that this principle does not leave you feeling judged. Bad things happen to good people - even those that love the Lord. I'm grateful that as Paul noted in Romans 8:1, therefore there is no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus our Lord. Don't feel that you've blown it if you haven't followed this principle. Seek the Lord to direct your path in the area of finances. Ask Him to change your heart and renew your mind if you've become conformed to the ways of this world.
Again, the key focus of the Pay What You Owe principle is the condition of our heart concerning our financial obligations. We should not have a heart to get out of paying our obligations or get things for free. The end of the story may be that we are released from the obligation... I call that God's favor and give him thanks for those wonderful blessings. And so should you!
Pay what you owe.
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