By Stephen Phinney

One of my favorite treats is a caramel covered apple, particularly those with crushed goodies on top. Recently as I was contemplating our topic, God gave me an example that clearly communicates how the enemy deceives us into debt thinking. When Eve was looking upon the Tree of Knowledge and gazing at that dangling apple, I think she was seeing a pile of sin covered with the caramel of lust. The real apple, the one from the Tree of Life, is God’s provision of food and clothing, coated and dipped in contentment.

“If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8, NASB).

The apple from Satan’s tree comes in all sizes and forms, but his method of operation is always predictable. Any kind of want, beyond these two basic elements of life, begins the temptation process of the “caramel apple.” A fact that has always amazed me is that Satan actually makes people go into debt to eat from his tree – and people are willing to borrow to do it. The food from God’s tree is free and is spiritually and organically good for us.

It is not uncommon to find people who actually use credit to pay for the basic necessities of life. Only 25 years ago, that would have been quite uncommon. But today, 90% of credit card holders won’t even think twice about it. If people are using credit to purchase food and clothing, we can be fairly certain the money God IS providing to cover the two basics of life is being mismanaged.

Does something strike you a bit wrong about that picture? It would be like your father giving you five dollars to go to the grocer to buy milk and bread and you come back with candy. Then he sends you back to the store to exchange the candy for the milk and bread, you eat the candy on the way, and buy the milk and bread on your “dad’s account.” What child would do that? A child who believes their father will “grace” them on all stupid decisions.

“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” (1 Timothy 6:10, NASB).

This scenario reveals the state of our church today. Most “children of God” treat God like He is some kind of slot machine. This generation of believers uses grace like it is some “get out of jail free card,” somehow thinking that God is turning a blind eye to the child. It is this kind of child that grows into an adult who will borrow money to buy food and clothing – and cars, boats, tools, vacations, repairs, and anything else that is pleasing to the eye. It is easy to understand that a child does not have the comprehension of the final price tag of using someone else’s money to live. But as adults, we should expect children to embrace the error of living in terms of monthly payments.

MONTHLY PAYMENT CHRISTIANS: People who borrow to live usually get in the nasty habit of looking at the interest as such a small amount of money – while thinking that every loan is a short-term loan. This is “stinking thinking” for sure. In reality, the interest payments constitute a very large part of the total cost of the loan. Most of the time, people pay three times more for an item than it is worth when they borrow to get it. God is not in support of His people throwing His money into the winds of interest.

What God does expect is for His children to be good stewards of His money. The way we find a faithful steward is through the measurement God gives us in the Scriptures; he who is faithful with the small things can be entrusted to much.

"And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:9-10, NASB).

Those who live by the “monthly payment” trap should fear for their future. It is a self-rewarding system. Each time one pays off a loan, he is tricked into thinking he can pay off the next one, and then the next. The problem with this kind of thinking is: it does not count the cost of expenditures outside the budget, particularly emergency ones. This is why we need to set aside emergency monies each month – even if it is only $5 per month. Emergency expenditures are Satan’s second phase of his plan to throw a person into more debt. A simple plan, but it works almost 100% of the time.

When a person is in debt, he cannot use normal and natural resources to get those little extras. For example: When a person is in debt, any levelheaded counselor is going to advise him to sell off everything he can to pay down that debt – and he should. If a man who has no debt wants that particular “toy” or tool, he could sell something he no longer uses, or wants, to purchase the item he desires. This kind of budgeting is common sense living in God’s miraculous plan of economy. A man or woman who lives like this is free mentally, emotionally, and spiritually before the Lord and man. But I’m afraid this will never happen as long as the person is trapped in impulse buying.

I have come to learn, the hard way, that God wants us to pray about all of our decisions, particularly the financial ones. The reason for this is He is the One who actually gave us the money to be stewarded in the first place. We need to be perfectly clear how He would like us to invest His resources. Debt on the other hand would not survive without impulse buying – buying without praying and actually getting an answer. Satan is making it easier and easier to get borrowed money, so we can call it ours. If the world made it difficult to get someone else’s cash, the enemy would lose his footing in impulsivity. He certainly is not about to let that happen. Therefore, he will continue to make it easy to access other people’s money in order for borrowers to live. The end result is that people will not seek out wise counsel and prayerful considerations; thus, never getting to know the mind of God.

“Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs” (Proverbs 19:2, NASB).

People who are rushed with decisions usually end up hanging with like-minded people who keep their slide oiled for destruction.

DON’T PANIC, GOD WILL PROVIDE: They tell me that the majority of people don’t believe this literally; but for the sake of their reputations, they say they do. God has promised to provide for His children no matter what the child believes.

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 4:19, NASB).

Debt mentality is a covert form of saying, “God really won’t take care of all my needs!” In reality, the person is actually saying, “God will not give me all I want.” Needs are relative, unless we look at them through the eyes of God. When God’s children rely on credit cards, they are slapping the Hand that is to feed them. Most don’t wait long enough to discover if this “feeling” is a want or a need. It usually takes God to determine if a desire is a need. Even if we have the cash to purchase the item, it does not mean that God will approve the purchase. The only way to truly know if a purchase is God’s will is to unreservedly trust Him to provide the funds ahead of time. That type of living requires faith, the kind that pleases God.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NASB).

BALANCING OUT ABUNDANCE AND NEED: One of the common ways we see God providing for someone who is in need, and at times in want, is by the increase of a particular Christian. He moves upon the heart of the abundant one to give to the hands of the needy. Too simple? Not for me! In fact, it is God’s miraculous plan for His economy. He causes one to increase in order to give to the one who is in decrease. When the decreased one starts on the increase, He uses that increased one to bless another, who is in decrease. Sooner or later the cycle begins to feed itself. What typically happens is the selfish flesh usually stops the food chain and the system breaks down and people revert to debt. God is all about interdependence.

“At this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, ‘HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK’ " (2 Corinthians 8:14-15, NASB).

In conclusion, credit card mentality people become overspenders of God’s eternal resources and ultimately cannot be trusted by God or others. Not only do they overspend, but they pay too much for the items they impulsively buy. Debt people are never satisfied with what they have; they always want more. God has told us many times that those who love silver shall not be satisfied with that silver, nor will people who love the abundance of things (See Eccl. 5:10). Solomon learned that lesson the hard way.