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Do you want to be radical in your devotion to Christ? Do you want your life to count and not be a waste? Do you want to see the nations come to Christ and the world changed for the better?

Well, here’s one practical thing you can do right now on your way to those lofty ambitions: pay down your debt.

There are 610,000,000 credit cards in the United States, and every household with at least one carries an average debt of $16,000. Total U.S. consumer debt is more than $2.5 trillion. Think of all the money Christians have tied up in late fees and financial commitments that can’t be spent on the work of the gospel in the world.

How will you ever give sacrificially to your church if you are swamped in credit card debt? How can you even consider doing missions overseas if you’re swallowed up in student loans? What sort of flexibility will you have to go anywhere and do anything if your house is worth half of what you owe on your mortgage? What will you have to give to support a new church plant in your city or the crisis pregnancy center down the street or the seminary overseas if you have two car payments, two mortgages, and twenty thousand dollars in consumer debt?

I love the emphasis in our day on doing hard things. I love the passion for a big God and big causes. I love the gospel-centered enthusiasm and idealism. But more often than not new dreams don’t come true without old-fashioned virtues like temperance, frugality, and hard work. Heartfelt passion won’t change the world. But passion plus prudence plus perseverance just might.

So if you are serious about carrying your cross and giving your all to Jesus, you should take more seriously paying down all that you owe. I don’t think all debt is wrong. We have a mortgage. We’ve had student loans and car payments too. But for the sake of the gospel we have to keep whacking away at all we owe. If you want to be a radical Christian, try making a budget and living within your means. Think of all the missions money tied up in credit card debt? Think of the workers not being trained, not being hired, and not being sent out because we’ve squandered our American inheritance on easy credit. Think of the risks we haven’t taken because we took all our risks out with interest years ago. He is no fool who works hard to repay what he’s already lost so that he might serve the One he cannot out-give.

Make sure you are giving at least ten percent to your church. Don’t scrimp on that. But after that, introduce austerity until your obligations are under control. The Father and the Son may not expect you to pay them back, but Master Card and Visa do.

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17 thoughts on “All To Him I Owe”

  1. Paul Janssen says:

    Hear, hear! Couldn’t agree more.

  2. Excellent. Practical. Convicting.

  3. Nate says:

    Seminaries should be helping in this. They shouldn’t be accepting students who are in undergraduate debt and/or will have to go into further debt to study in seminary. “if a man can’t manage his household, how can he manage the church” is also one of the criterion for pastoral ministry.

    Unfortunately, as is the case with my alma mater, they are strong on theology and weak on money.

  4. Marilyn Williams says:

    This is well thought and written. But tithing should be the first step. After doing it faithfully as a child-I dropped it and the rest of my religion in college. Long before I finally met Jesus and made Him Savior and Lord, I got tired of never having enough to pay the bills-and knowing the Bible’s promises-started tithing-even though I wouldn’t set foot in a church-and wonders of wonders-the Lord did exactly what He says in His word.
    Now it is pure joy to give and know that the Lord is using it to bring others around the world to Jesus.
    If everyone who claimed the name of Jesus-just tithed-we’d have the world blanketed by missionaries and enough to help all those here at home to need help.
    Thanks for writing-Oh-yes I live without debt also-it’s the Lord’s blessing and a thrill.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Student loan debt is crippling the 20-30 something generation. I would love to see a discussion about the moral responsibility of Christan colleges to educate students about the debt load they are assuming.

  6. Seth Fuller says:

    By the grace of God I am not myself in debt, but for many others I think this article will be vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes of many. Many in the 20-30 age range are practically coerced to go into debt in order to afford college, because our culture has fully accepted the notion that one must attend to get a job. However, this is becoming less and less true, as many are finding proper employment nearly impossible to attain. The crippled health of the global economy is at a stage that has never before been seen in history, and the many ripple effects of this debt-based economy are an oppressive burden on us all, most of all on the middle class and more so for young adults. These are just a few broadly-mentioned issues that need addressed in an article attempting to speak on this important topic. For many it is not simply a matter of “living with one’s means.” Many people cannot do this without outside help. As brothers and sisters, we need to be ready to help one another in our needs, because I fear that things are about to get much much worse before they get better. These are very unusual times, and the usual “live within your means” cliche may not be helpful at this time.

  7. Jordan says:

    Pastor Deyoung, what are your thoughts on churches having debt? There are churches that pursue additional, expensive ministry opportunities while still having a large amount of debt (e.g., building a new campus building while still having millions of dollars in debt on a previous building). How do we balance the cost of ministry opportunities with the wisdom of paying off debt?

  8. Patrick says:

    While I would like to say that this is convicting, it feels more to me like a drive-by guilting among the vein guilting 20-something men to grow up. Being in my early 30’s and in debt from years of school (I’m currently working on my PhD with little job prospects) I’ve gotten a lot of guilt thrown at me over the years (you know for being a “boy who can shave”) with little Gospel mixed it. This topic is important, meaningful, and needs to be discussed. But it’s lacking grace for people who desire to change, who want to trust in Jesus with everything, especially finances. I’d rather focus on Jesus, then to lament on all the mission trips I’ve taken away from people because of my past decisions. We have a whole generation of young male believers who are being shamed, shamed, shamed for simply blending in with the cultural zeitgeist of prolonging adolescence. It’s not right, but drive-by guilting don’t inspire us to dig deeper into the Gospel.

    Rant over. I know that I read this through a subjective lens, but I think it’s still relevant. :)

  9. As the worship song goes, if you have four dollars and spend seven… that’s dumb! HT, Matt Chandler.

  10. Caz says:

    Um, where did you get your information about this “give at least 10% to your church”? Can you show to anyone that this is definitely a Biblical command for new covenant Christians? It angers me that vulnerable poor people get taken in by careless or greedy pastors – & it doesn’t exactly shine a light into the world. What next? Tell Christians they’re thieves (robbing God) if they don’t give 10%? And why insist on just 10%? A lot of commentators believe it could have been 20% or even 23 & 1/3% that Israelites paid – but I guess people might then move to a building that taught 10%…if only to pay down their debt without too much fake guilt…

  11. Josh says:

    Totally agree with you about the debt, but I’m curious about your stance on tithing. I’ve read several of your books, as well as your blog regularly, and you always seem to demonstrate that you’ve done your research. So I’m curious about your views on tithing. It has to be especially difficult being a pastor and discussing it. I recall some great points you’ve made before about supporting your home church, but I’d like to see a post some time on tithing in general. Should the Church Teach Tithing? by Kelly was an interesting read for me. Thanks.

  12. anaquaduck says:

    There are a lot of things that go to waste. When Jesus & the disciples presented the loaves & fishes to the 5,000 there was much left over that had to be collected, so as not to waste. In the process a wonderful lesson was taught to Phillip, in our needs, faith & obedience is required (John 6:6)

    There is no doubt that the bible teaches tithes, something foreign or offensive to some yet integral to living by the spirit. But with tithing is also the careful administration of what has been given with an attitude of thankfulness, in this way God is honoured.

    In modern society so much is thrown away, the lessons learnt about scarcity from depressions & war can quickly be forgotten & the temptation is there to give God our second best & not our first, we can save that for ourselves. In the first place, God has given… we respond in gratitude, the wondrous cross has a way of changing & shaping our lives much better than society with its easy money.

  13. Jesse says:

    It’s painfully obvious that Rev. DeYoung isn’t aware how much it costs to go to college these days. I agree that debt should be avoided at all costs, but I’ve read too many of these types of posts that imply that God can’t use you if you are in debt.

    And where does the Bible say that my tithes must be given entirely to my church? Supporting missionaries doesn’t count as tithing?

  14. Elizabeth Liddell says:

    Mr. Deyoung,
    It is the sweetest blessing that you wrote this just yesterday when I have been fighting through this exact topic for the past few weeks. I am a 25 year old ready and willing to be trained and raised up for the mission field as soon as the good Lord says go but I am currently paying back $25k in school debt. With a entrance level job it is hard to see that this task can ever be tackled. Part of me hopes to go with a mission organization that budgets my payments into support raising but the other part of me questions if it is biblical and appropriate to have supporters and churches paying for my school debt.

    Thank you for the reminder and encouragement,

  15. Alex J. says:

    “And where does the Bible say that my tithes must be given entirely to my church? Supporting missionaries doesn’t count as tithing?”

    I’ve always viewed tithe as the 10% I give to my church. To me, that defines tithe. Any other support I consider extra giving and not part of my tithe.

    This probably stems from my understanding of what the original intent of the tithe was in the Old Testament. To support the priests (and levites) and temple. This parallels my local church and pastors (and staff).

  16. Austin says:

    Alex, I think the point Jesse was making is that the 10% tithe was part of a covenant with God and the Israelites. That covenant has been replaced with another and the agreement for 10% is technically over. I think he has a point.
    However; when I read about how Jesus lived, how the first churches managed finances, and what the Bible says about my heart (it’s greedy, yes sir) then it’s tough to deny that I need to be giving. Probably giving a lot. Probably more than 10%. But most of all I need to understand that everything I have is from Him, and I need to use it all to further His kingdom.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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