Money Problems

by James Rudy Gray

Money problems are becoming one of the most prevalent issues that more and more people face. Today, the average American spends more than he or she earns in a year. Personal bankruptcies are about one million a year. Over 55 million Americans need debt help. The average amount of unpaid credit card debt for families is somewhere between $8,000 and $12,000. Personal debt in the United States is higher than ever before.

We are a materialistic culture and we want the things, the comforts, prestige, etc., that money seems to be able to provide. Our culture has cultivated a love for money that is slowly but surely eating away moral responsibility. Consumer debt in the 1990s was a staggering $800 billion. Now it is over $2 trillion! More and more family income is going to service debt, and fewer and fewer people are saving money. This is a recipe for short-term stress and long-term misery.

First Timothy 6:7-10 reminds us of a sobering reality: "We have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Today, I seem to be counseling more and more people who have serious money problems. For many, the prospect is bleak. How can we help people develop an attitude about the use of money that honors God and helps them?

There are many formulas for helping couples today and a number of good Christian financial counselors. We must begin with something very basic. God's people are stewards. We are managers of what He allows us to have. How we use it is a reflection of how serious we are about honoring God.

Getting out of debt should be a major goal for any family struggling with finances. Next, the development of a family budget is an essential. This is simply a plan that allows us to keep our spending within the parameters of our income. It is wise for a family to set aside in a savings account at least enough money to live on for six months.

It is also a good strategy to help clients understand the subtle power of advertising. By the time the average child graduates from high school, he or she will have seen over 350,000 advertisements. It is a truth worth emphasizing that if we do not read, hear, or see advertisements, we will not spend as much money.

Credit cards are common place today. Credit card debt is also putting a heavy strain on many people. The best way to use a credit card is carefully! The balance, as a rule, should be paid off monthly. By doing this, a couple avoids large interest charges.

Living with a goal to leave our children and grandchildren something is noble. Proverbs 13:22 says: "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children."

Counseling individuals with financial problems can be a daunting task. It will require patience and will often mean referring them to a professional. People who are struggling financially need hope, a plan, and the encouragement to begin a disciplined attitude toward stewardship.

James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.

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