Summary: A biblical widow listened to the advice of Elisha to get out of debt. The techniques that she used can get us out of debt too.
March 18, 2001 2 Kings 4:1-7
“Breaking out of debtor’s prison”
In the American religion of materialism, there are two words more sacred than any other: "Charge it!" Yet, consider the following two scenarios in evaluating the intelligence of using plastic:
1. Ellin is 30 years old. She has a $3,500 balance on her Citibank credit card at 18% interest. She makes the minimum payment each month. How old will she be when she has her credit card paid off? [70 years old]
2. Susan and Tom needed a new washing machine, so they went to Sears and found one for $299. They got a Sears charge card and made the minimum payment each month. By the time the washing machine was paid off, how much did Susan and Tom actually pay for that washing machine? [$1,199]
When people used to be in debt with no means to pay, they would get thrown in jail for physical bondage. We don’t have that in the U.S. anymore, but we still have financial bondage. It’s to credit cards and high interest rates. And credit card companies are more than happy to get you into that bondage. They know that once you are there, it is awfully difficult to get out. rates. Here is a stack of the credit card and loan applications that I received in the mail just this week. Each of them has some specific way of trying to entice me to apply for their card. [give examples of some of them] Maybe some of you here have fallen into this trap and have gotten into some financial bondage. You are not alone.
In the book of 2 Kings, we are introduced to a woman who was going through a serious debt crisis. Let’s take a look at her situation and see what God’s answer to her need was. I think that we will be able to see some principles which will help us break out of the financial prison that we are in.
1. Evaluate the need.
In order to help you evaluate exactly what your need is, you must ask yourself 4 questions. What is your situation? What brought you to the situation that you are in? What will you lose if the situation doesn’t change? What is your attitude toward the situation?
What is your situation?
In this mother’s case, her situation was very desperate. Her husband was dead. Normally in that society, when the husband died, the sons took over the responsibility of providing for the family. But obviously, her sons were not old enough yet to take on that responsibility. The family was in deep debt with no means to pay. The person that they owed money to was not understanding or forgiving. He had probably come to the house, banged on the door, and said something like this: “Give me my money, or tomorrow, I’m coming to get your boys and sell them as slaves!” She had lost her husband; she was getting ready to lose her boys. She may not have even known about the debt that was owed until she was confronted by the creditors.
Many women are totally in the dark about the family finances or the finances of their husbands if they have separate bank accounts or separate credit cards. Then when their husband dies, they not only have the grief of the death to deal with, but they also have the financial mess that their husbands left behind to deal with as well. [That’s what happened to Judy Morris. When Jim, her husband, died, she found out that his life insurance and pension were still in the name of his first wife. Judy had been counting on that money to pay off some debts. Now it was unavailable.] That was the situation here.
She needed to do something about this immediately. There was no time to waste. To top it all off, if her sons were gone, then she would have no means of providing for herself in the future either. She would be forced to borrow, beg, steal or prostitute in order to just survive. It was a big downward spiral.
Debt is like that. It gets worse and worse. Its hold on your throat gets tighter and tighter so that you are never able to get away. Just when you think that you’re going to be able to catch your breath, another bill comes due, and the air is knocked right back out of you again.
In order for you to figure out what your financial situation is, you and your spouse together, need to sit down and total up all your monthly expenses [list some of them]. Then you need to total your monthly income. If you work on an hourly basis, get the best estimate that you can. Then compare the two with one another. If your expenses are higher than your income, then you are in the process of going into debt. You need to either increase the level of your income or cut some of your expenses. You need to know where you are before you can figure out what to do about it. This is a process that you need to do as a couple. Don’t let it be just the spouse who usually writes all the checks. Both persons need to know exactly where you stand as a family. Otherwise, if one spouse doesn’t know how desperate the situation is, they’ll go out to Wal-Mart, see something that they like and buy it. Then they’ll bring it home all excited and wonder why the other spouse is so upset about their new purchase. It’s all part of the process of communication. No one likes talking about finances because it’s usually bad news. But the only way to turn the bad news into good news is to find out where you are, decide you don’t like where you are, and agree to do something about it.