Closing the Door on Debt
April 15, 2007
All right. This is something that’s really, really exciting. We have some ground breaking stuff to be able to talk about here in Miami and at the same time be able to synch up in Dallas.
If you have your Bibles, turn to John 10:9-10. Let’s stand while I read God’s word. If you’d like to, you can read along with me aloud. If not, you can do like this. [Ed mouths some words]
Here is what Jesus said in John 10:9-10. “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”
Please be seated.
Today, I am talking about life and how to have it more abundantly. Usually when we talk about the things of God we think about the tough things, the difficult things. The text I just read to you is a text that actually is from the words of Jesus. And he talked about the thief. The thief is the evil one, Satan. And he comes to steal, kill and destroy. Say that with me—steal, kill and destroy. And normally, when we talk about that, we think, “He wants to steal from me and kill me and destroy me.” And we think about lust, we think about anger, we think about slothfulness. But today I want to change that and turn that, because the evil one loves to attack us financially as well.
It is freaky, especially for the guys here, because most men think, “That’s my money and my life is compartmentalized. I have my spiritual life here, my recreational life over there. But money? My money is my money. You mean God is concerned about my money?”
Let me stop for a second because it’s not your money or my money; it’s God’s money. We can’t take money with us. God has given us everything we have; thus, he has told us how to manage money.
A while back I did a series called Sexual Revolution. I talked about sex, and I said this over and over, “When it comes to sex, sex is not just sex. It’s not just a man and a woman joining together. It’s more than that. Sex is spiritual; it’s a God thing. He’s the one that thought it up.” And when it comes to money it is the same way.
Money is not just money. Money matters to God. Money is spiritual. So when we receive that and understand that and appropriate that, I think it will change everything that we are about.
Jesus said, “I am the door.” He didn’t say, “I am a door.” He said, “I am the door.”
Then he said, “If anyone…” Do you know what anyone means? Anyone! “If anyone enters through Me, he will be…” What? I just read it. “…he will be saved; he will go in and out and find pasture.”
It’s a beautiful picture that I talked about last time of a shepherd actually becoming the door and the sheep entering through the shepherd. So Jesus extends his nail pierced hands to you and to me and he says, “Enter through the door. Because then you will be saved, you will be safe and you will be satisfied.”
Well, this is true in many different ways, but it is also true financially. That’s right; the God of the universe wants us to be saved, safe and satisfied financially. Yet the evil one, the thief, comes to steal our joy, to kill our relationships and to destroy our future. How does he do it? Yes, he does it through anger. How does he do it? Yes, he does it through lust. How does he do it? Yes, he does it through violence. But he does it subtly and also overtly through the financial realm. So that’s right, the evil one is after us financially.
It seems like it’s the American thing to do to be in debt, doesn’t it? I’m American, I’m in debt, and that’s cool. That’s just the way it is. It’s great to be in debt. If you’re not in debt, it’s like you’re abnormal. People are like, “What? You’re not in debt and you live in America?”
Americans love to spend money and many of us are drowning in the seas of debt. Many of us have opened the door of debt and we have gotten behind the door and now debt has locked us in and we’re screaming, “I’m in debt! Help me get out of debt!” And we’re in this terrible situation and it’s stealing from us. It’s stealing our joy; it’s killing our relationships—our relationship with God and also our spouse; and also, it’s destroying our future.
Now, many of you who are hearing me right now are thinking, “Ed, I’m feeling you. I am in debt. It’s messing me up.”
I read this past week that the average American household has $7000 worth of credit card debt. Are you ready for that? $7000! That’s a lot of money. Just think about that for a second. If you had $7000 of credit card debt and you make just the minimum payment, at 18% interest, it will take you 46 years to pay that off. 46 years!
At Fellowship Church, in all of our campuses, we will have about 20,000 people showing up. If it’s Easter or Christmas, we will sometimes have 45,000 people. That’s a lot of people. Well, let’s say for example you take 5000 family units from Miami and also from Dallas. And let’s say these family units owed $7000 to their creditors, specifically credit card debt. And let’s just say that those 5000 families made the minimum payment. If you take all those payments together, just the interest only payments, those 5000 families are paying $7 million a year just in interest. $7 million dollarinies! That’s a lot of paper, isn’t it? Think about what we could do with that money.
People get funny when you talk about money; yet, money is a God thing. God is interested in money. So when I talk about debt, where are you?
Now, it’s tax time, right? It’s not that popular, tax time. What do we do at tax time? No one likes it. We have to strip financially before the government. We just say, “Here I am, warts and all.” And we don’t like it. Well, what if we could financially strip before Fellowship Church this morning. What if we could say, “Here is how much I made over the last year; here is how I spent my money.”
What if we could put it on the side screens, line after line, item after item? What if we could see every check written, every credit card receipt? We could find out a lot about ourselves, couldn’t we? We could say, “Oh man, she loves entertainment. He is pretty disciplined. She is a mess. She is pretty out there.” And we would see how important God is. It is scary to think about that, isn’t it? Having to financially strip before others.
God knows about your money. He has blessed us, he has given it to us, and he wants us to become great stewards of it. Yet, too many of us are drowning in the seas of debt. It is killing us, it is stealing from us and it is destroying us.
84% of all couples say they’re under intense financial pressure. So this is an epidemic. Yes, it’s popular to be in debt. But what does the Bible say about it? The Bible talks about freedom. The Bible says we can get out of the debt; we can bust through that door and open the door to financial freedom. Because remember, Jesus said, “I am the door and anyone that enters through me will be saved, safe and satisfied—saved financially, safe financially and satisfied financially.”
But here’s the question: Why do we get into debt? Now that is a good, good question that I want to unpack.
So let’s see what Scripture says about why we get into debt. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters…” That’s the truth, isn’t it? “Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Why do we get into debt? Well, money rules us. Just like we heard in the song, “For the Love of Money”. Think about a big continuum. Let’s say on one side of the continuum you have people who are in debt. And maybe you’re there and you’re saying, “Ed, that is me. I am behind the door of debt, and it feels like I will never get out! Mommy, Daddy, help me help me!”
That’s on one end of the continuum. On the other end of the continuum let’s say you have someone who is out of debt, but is a control freak in the financial realm. They are watching every penny. They are not enjoying the blessings of God. They over‑manage their money.
So you have some who don’t manage it at all, they don’t know where it went. You have others who are so freaky that you can’t do one thing without them going on tilt financially. So you can be in debt and money is your master; or you can be out of debt and money is your master. The deal is living in the zone. That’s why I wrote a book several years about this, “In the Zone.” I don’t have time to get into it, but I encourage you to pick it up because it is about how to enjoy life, how to live in the sweet spot of God’s success, especially in the financial domain.
But let’s go back to the question I just talked about: Why are we behind the door of debt? Well there are several reasons. And these reasons are unpacked in Proverbs 21:20. Here is what the Good News says in Proverbs 21:20, “Stupid people spend their money as fast as they get it.” (I sure wish the Bible was direct.)
STUPID SPENDING LEADS TO DUMB DEBT
Say it with me, “Stupid people…” Okay, so stupid spending leads to dumb debt. Have you ever been a stupid spender? If you spend stupidly too often, and I can confess, if you spend stupidly too often, you will get into dumb debt.
Well, how do we spend stupidly? Number one—we impulse buy. I see it, I like it, I want it, I’ll get it. Impulse spending will mess you up.
The first time I saw impulse spending was in K‑Mart. As a little kid walking in the aisles of K‑Mart, the guy would come over the loudspeaker and say, “We have a blue light special on blenders.”
And I would see women just fly toward the blue light at a NASCAR‑type pace, like Jeff Gordon with their shopping cars. And they would buy blenders. It was totally impulse, that blue light. “I want a blender.”
And speaking of impulse buying, I had a bout with this recently. Lisa and I were staying at a hotel over Christmas for a couple of days and we walked outside of the hotel and I saw a sign that said “Auction.” I don’t go to auctions. I don’t know up from down at an auction. But it said “Seized property,” and I thought that will be cool.
I said to Lisa, “Let’s just go to an auction.”
And she said, “Okay.”
So we walked into this little room and we saw a few people there and I saw some items. The auctioneer was in the middle of the auction and he had this great accent. I was mesmerized by the guy. I was like, “Wow, Lisa let’s just sit down and check out what’s here.”
Then he began to talk about different items and then he said, “Here’s a beautiful bronze eagle. This is a steal. No one is here today, normally we have a big crowd but no one is here today and someone can walk away with a great investment.”
I don’t like eagles that much, but the more the bidding started the more competitive I became. I kind of impulsively motioned to him, like that, and he said, “Going once, going twice, sold!”
I said, “Lisa, we have an eagle, a bronze eagle. All right! That is okay.”
It didn’t cost that much, so everything was cool. So the auction continued and she said, “Honey, let’s go.”
I said, “No, no, no, there’s no telling what will be here.”
She said, “Honey, let’s go.”
But I said, “No.”
The guy was talking, and I was mesmerized. Then another eagle comes up. This thing was giant, and the people start bidding on it. When people stopped bidding the auctioneer was like, “I cannot believe no one is buying this eagle. This is a steal; this is absolute robbery. Surely someone else will bid on this beautiful eagle.”
And Lisa had my hands held down so I could not bid. And when the auctioneer looked at the guy behind me that was bidding and he said, “Going once, going twice,” I kind of motioned with my finger like that, and he said, “Oh, we have another bid!”
And he looked at me and said, “Going once, going twice, sold to the man from Texas!”
I had another eagle, a bronze eagle. God bless America. I was happy, but Lisa was angry. She was not thrilled that I impulsively bought two bronze eagles. Now, what am I doing with a bunch of bronze eagles? I said, “Honey, I will put the eagles on eBay and it will be no problem.”
Well, months later on eBay, Eddie the Eagle still has not sold. So do not impulse buy.
Why do we impulse buy? Why do we do that? I’m glad you asked, because I have one of the answers. Here they are, in my hands. The plastic piranhas—credit cards. I mean, these things are beautiful. They’re all colors and all different types. Here is my MasterCard. It says “World” on it. It makes me feel good. I am a part of the club, the MasterCard club. It says “Member since ’84; Edwin B. Young.” B stands for “Bad to the bone.” Gold level. See, MasterCard is my friend.
They lure us in. It’s incredible. Credit cards are interesting, because when you use credit cards it is painless. You just give the cashier the card and it is done.
Most of us, though, are on an American Express to debt; yet, we need to Discover a Visa to the Masters Card that will give us financial freedom. Isn’t that the truth? We do.
Here are two options with credit cards that are very practical. Number one, pay them off every month. Or, number two, cut them up. I will say it again. We either pay them off or cut them up. That is the game with the credit cards. Impulse spending will mess you slap up.
There is another aspect of stupid spending—the void spender. “I have a void in my life, something is empty in my life, and something is sideways in my life, so I will buy something. And when I buy something that will give me fast, temporary relief to the aches and pains of life. It will numb me out just for a second.”
But the problem is, once the shine wears off; once the new pair of shoes get scuffed, you are back to the same junk and funk.
The recreational spender is the third way we stupidly spend. “I am bored; I have nothing to do, so I just go to the mall. Some people work out, I shop. That’s my hobby.”
That can jack you up because all these things say, “Wear me, drive me, buy me, put me in your house.” You know, advertisers, think about it, spend billions so we will spend billions more. It works. Recreational spending.
Another way we stupidly spend is the image spender. Surely we don’t have that here in Miami or in Dallas. No, we are not concerned about image. You know, peer pressure? I like the word peer pressure, because we peer at our peers. “What do they have? What are they driving? What are they wearing? Where are they living? I deserve that. I work as hard as he does or she does.” And we compete. But once we catch up with the Joneses, the Joneses refinance and we’re all in trouble.
Stupid spending leads to dumb debt. Impulse spending, a void spender, a recreational spender, all of it will lead to debt.
OPEN THE DOOR TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM
So if we’re going to move from the door of debt; if we’re going to unlock it and go to financial freedom; if we’re going to discover what it means to be saved, safe and satisfied, what does the Bible say? How do you spell relief? You spell relief, B‑U‑D‑G‑E‑T. Say it with me, B‑U‑D‑G‑E‑T. I can’t hear you, B‑U‑D‑G‑E‑T. It is planned spending. It is you telling your money where you want it to go as opposed to wondering wear it went. Where did it go? You tell it where to go.
The Bible talks a lot about this. For example, Proverbs 13:11, you ain’t going to believe this verse! It says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”
Isn’t that interesting? It’s right here in Scripture. Proverbs 21:5, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”
The Bible says three things about planned spending. Now, before I get into planned spending, I want to tell you a story. Every time I teach about debt I think about this couple. I have been in the ministry many, many years. And when I first started out in the ministry a young couple walked into my office and they said, “Ed, we’re in trouble.”
I said, “What do you mean?” because they were sweet people, kind people, Christian people.
They said, “We’re in trouble financially. We jumped into a house that we have no business living in. We’re way over our head. We saw this car that was this beautiful gold color, and we got into this lease.” And then they said, “Ed, the payment book is as thick as a Bible and we are in trouble.”
They had been married I think like three or four years and they didn’t have any real financial coaching and they were not living by a budget and they were like, “What do we do?” They were the first couple that I ever dealt with in a counseling session that was just right behind the door of debt. It had been padlocked and they were screaming, “Help!” And I mean, if you’re coming to a pastor for that, you’re in some deep stuff!
Well, I talked to them about what the Bible says regarding what I’m going to talk to you about. I talked to them about a plan. And here is the biblical plan. Let me just rush through it.
The Bible says three things when it comes to money management. It says bring it, sweep it and enjoy it. Say that with me, “Bring it, sweep it and enjoy it.” What does it mean when it says bring it? The Bible says bring it. It is talking about the tithe. The firstfruits of everything that you have and I have belong to God. You might say, “Well, it’s my money.”
Well, you might think that, brother or sister, but that is not your money. Scripture says in Proverbs 3, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
Throughout Scripture God says the first of everything we have is his. The first 10%. Where does it go? To the local church. If Fellowship Church is your church, bring it here. If it’s somewhere else, bring 10% there. We’re not giving it, though. It’s already God’s; we’re just bringing it. Say it with me: bring it. We are bringing the tithe, the first 10%. Don’t get mad at me, those aren’t my words. It is what the Word says. So God’s way works, even if you are in debt, even if you are like the couple I talked to years ago that was banging on the door of debt. Tithe your way out of debt.
People say, “Well, maybe I should start with 3% or 4%.”
No, you begin to bring the tithe and God will supernaturally bless your finances. I thought about this several years ago. Either I bring the tithe and God will bless my finances or I don’t bring the tithe and I am on my own. Let me think about that. I am either with God in my money or I’m on my own. Hmmm. Well, I’m not smart enough, big enough, or bad enough to be on my own, so I am going God’s way.
God’s way works. When we begin to tithe, and I don’t care how far in debt you are, God will supernaturally show up and bless you and give you the discipline to live by a plan. So bring it.
The second one is, sweep it. Do that with me. Sweep it. Start saving money. Save, save, save. How many people in here go to Fivebucks? I’m sorry, I mean Starbucks. And I like Starbucks. I think coffee is God’s drink to man. I love it. If you are going to Starbucks, you are going to spend $5. I am not hating on Starbucks, I like Starbucks, but let me give you an example. Let’s say you like a triple shot latte, nonfat. That’s going to cost you $5. Well, let’s just say you decide for the next 40 years to forego the triple shot, nonfat latte. Let’s say you took that $5 and you swept into an interest bearing account. And let’s say that account kicked off 10% interest. Let’s say you’ve got $5, that is $35 a week, about $150 a month. In 40 years you would have a grand total of, I have to read this number, I did the math last night, $948,611. I will say it again. $948,611!
I am just giving you a Starbucks example. That is just $5 a day. Think of what you could do with 2% of your income, 3% of your income, 10% of your income. Sweep it, sweep it, and sweep it. Because remember Proverbs 13:11? He who gathers money little by little makes it grow. Also, Proverbs says, “Go to the ant…” You know what the ant does? We all have ants everywhere. Ants store stuff up. And that’s what we’re doing as we’re involved with this.
Also, we should enjoy it. Say it with me: enjoy it. Enjoy the fruits of you’re labor. Scripture says in 1 Timothy 6:17 (NAS), “Instruct those who are rich…”
Let me stop for a second; I have a confession to make. I’m rich. It feels good to say that. I’m rich. Guess what? You are too. Turn to your neighbor and say, “Neighbor, I’m rich, I’m loaded.”
Now some of you say, “Ed, get out of town. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You have not seen my portfolio; you have not seen my debt.”
Listen, do you know what? I have had the opportunity to travel around the world, and if you have more than a couple changes of clothes, if you have a couple meals, if you’ve got a roof over your head, you are rich against the backdrop of the worldly standard. So accept it, receive it. I’m rich.
[the verse continues] “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty or riches, but on God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
It’s a spiritual thing. So I am to enjoy it.
See, this is the genius of God. First, I bring the tithe. It’s all about telling God, “You’re number one. It all comes from you God.”
Then I sweep it. I can save money and build a nest egg for a rainy day. I’m smart, I’m wise, I can bless other people, I can help other people, and I begin to get financially free.
Then, I enjoy it.
That’s why, if we’re managing our money properly, we can shop for the glory of God. That’s why, if we’re managing our money properly, we can vacation for the glory of God. I’m not talking about under-managing. I’m not talking about over-managing. I’m talking about living in the sweet spot of God’s success, living in the zone.
Now, Dwayne Wade is an awesome basketball player. I’ve played a little basketball, but Dwayne Wade for the Miami Heat is unbelievable. Dwayne sometimes, when he’ll get really hot, the announcers will say, “Oh look at Wade, he’s in the zone.” The same way with Dirk in Dallas. You know Dirk, the big tall dude? Dirk can get in that zone.
God wants us to live in the zone. He wants us to be saved, safe and satisfied. He wants us to have the financial freedom. And the freedom starts with the door. So begin to live by a B‑U‑D‑G‑E‑T.
Small Tweaks Take You to Giant Peaks
Well, you might be saying, “Okay Ed, that sounds good, those three general things. You’re kind of broad brushing it. But how about specific stuff?”
Well, I have discovered that small tweaks take you to giant peaks financially. Let’s talk about some of the things. The first thing we need to do is, don’t compare yourself with others. Whenever I compare myself with you, or you compare yourself with me, we’re making a mockery of God’s creative genius. All of us are unique. I can’t compare myself to you. You’re different than me; I’m different than you. I’m different than you; you’re different than me.
The same is true financially. I can’t do it. So it’s unfair to compare. But we’re always comparing and contrasting ourselves, aren’t we? “Look what they have. Look what they bought. Look what they drive. Look where they live. Look where they vacation.” Stop it.
Practice the art of appreciation. I can appreciate what you have, what you own, what you have without having to have it or own it myself. Isn’t that good? I should look at it and think, “Man, it is great that he drives that car. But I don’t have to pay for it, I don’t have to worry about the door‑dings, I don’t have to insure it. Good for you. God bless you.”
Because the moment I start envying other people, here is what happens in my life. And this is something that I struggle with. Whenever I start envying others, I get myself off of God and I think about what they have. And then I think about what I deserve and I miss the blessings of God. That is huge. So learn the art of appreciation. Learn to say, “You have that; good for you. You drive that; good for you. You live there; good for you. I don’t have to buy that, insure that, etc.” So don’t compare and learn the art of appreciation.
Here’s the third thing: realize the lie. It’s a small tweak. Realize the lie. You walk into a mall and, as I said earlier, these objects will say, “Wear me. Buy me. Live in me. Drive me.” And it’s like they start speaking to you and to me. These things are lying to us. So just say this when you’re lied to, “Don’t Ever Believe That.” Say that with me—“Don’t Ever Believe That.” That spells debt. Don’t Ever Believe That. Because when we start believing that, we’re on our way to busting into the door of debt. Don’t ever believe that.
Discern your trigger points—that’s the fourth thing. Again, a small tweak. What are those things that cause you to impulse spend or cause you to drop the credit card? Maybe it’s fishing equipment. Maybe it’s automobiles. Maybe it’s furniture. Maybe it’s bronze eagles. I don’t know. What are those trigger points? Discern those.
If you have a gambling problem, don’t vacation in Vegas. That’s what I’m saying to you.
How many people do we have here who are married? If you’re married, raise your hand. Okay, married people, I suggest that you do something right quick. Also single adults, you can do this, too. But let me talk specifically to the married folk amongst us. I have developed a six point plan that we’re going to have on our website that you can start living by today. And I’m going to blow right through this. This will help you open the door to financial freedom. If you’re behind the door of debt, this is it for you.
Number one—wait overnight for big purchases. That’s the 24-hour principal. I should have waited before I bought at the auction Eddie the Eagle. I should have waited 24 hours to cool my jets. Then I would have made a wise choice instead of a dumb, stupid expenditure.
Number two—pay more than the minimum on your credit card debt (or any debt for that matter) if you can.
Number three—share the responsibility for debt. Now, you really mess up when you get married and you say, “This is my money and that’s your money,” and you have these separate accounts. Then you have people saying, “I am going to buy this, but don’t tell Daddy we bought this new shirt.” That’s stupid spending.
What does the Bible say in Genesis 2:24? “For this cause the man shall leave his father and mother and shall cling to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”
We join physically, we join emotionally, and we also join economically and financially. If you’re into the separate account thing, you’re a stupid spender. You’re together; you’re one flesh.
“Okay, Ed, I’m single, man.”
If you’re single, bring someone into your life that can hold you accountable and can help you with the 24 principal, pay more than the minimum, and the responsibility for debt. They can coach you.
Number four—have veto power. If you’re in debt, I would tell you the hundred-dollar rule is cool. The hundred-dollar rule is cool. If something is over a hundred dollar dollars, the man or the woman, they have the vetoing power over that. (unless of course, it is fishing equipment).
Number five—pay with cash. For a small piece of paper, it carries a lot of weight; that mean green. Pay with cash money. Those plastic piranhas will eat your lunch. Cut them up and pay with money.
The last one, number six, is for couples only. Teach your children. Oh, that’s a big one! Let me tell you about a dumb decision that I made as a parent. How many parents do we have here? Parents, hopefully I am not the only one that makes dumb decisions. Here is a dumb decision that I made for years. When my kids would see something, I would say, “No, no, no. We can’t afford that. No, no, no.”
Talk about a doggie downer! Wah‑wah‑wah, the poverty mentality. Here is what you should say, “Kids, your mom and I choose not to spend our money that way. We’re not going to spend our money on that. We choose not to spend our money on that.”
That way, you involve your children with the bring it, sweep it and enjoy it stuff. And you can tell them how God has blessed and how He’s going to bless and why God has this incredible budget and money management vibe throughout Scripture.
So go home and write those six things down, discuss them, and pray about them. If you’re single, invite someone in who can hold you accountable. And I’m telling you, it will be off the chain for you.
Speaking about debt, though, debt is all about Jesus, because we have a debt that we can’t pay. Have you ever thought about that? The moment we sin, and I just know how to sin, we create debt that we cannot cover. I don’t care what I do or you do or how many sermons I preach or how good you are or whatever; we have a debt that we can’t pay.
The good news is, God has paid the debt with the door. Who is the door? The door is Jesus. He has taken care of your sin and your junk and your funk. And he extends his nail‑scarred hands to you and he says, “Enter through me. I am not a door; I am the door. And I want to become your door.”
So the door to financial freedom begins right here friends; it begins with Jesus.
Oh yeah, you know the couple I told you about earlier? Let me tell you what happened to them, because every time I talk about debt I think about them. Do you know what they did? I began to talk to them and they got out of that lease with that car. They paid through the nose, but they got out of the car. They scaled down to one car and then they finally sold that house; it was an albatross. And then they jumped in this one car and packed up all their stuff and moved to Dallas/Fort Worth and began to live by this bring it, sweep it and enjoy it principal. And then they helped start a church called Fellowship Church.
You see, the couple I was talking about was me and Lisa. And I cannot tell you how God has blessed us and favored us because of planned spending. God’s way works, because when it comes to money, he is the Lord of that, too. And when you recognize that, you will be able to walk through the door of financial freedom.