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Culture of greed, debt mentality and biblical finances

Getty Images/designer491
Getty Images/designer491

The current popular trend in America today is to have no stopping point when it comes to debt or spending. Our culture of greed combined with multiple debt options breeds a mentality of, “If I want it, I can have it, and I’ll pay for it later.” In so doing, we compromise and mortgage our future while contradicting what God has called us to do with what He has given us.

The Bible has over 2,350 verses about money, materials, and possessions, with money being a chief contender for idolatry (Matthew 6:24). As believers, we could pose the question: Are we demonstrating our faith in our finances? But if God has so much to say about stewardship, perhaps a stronger stance would be: How could we not allow our faith to inform our finances?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, financial reports evidenced an uptick in household savings largely due to the government stimulus, a reduction of discretionary spending, and several other factors. However, this post-pandemic era is showing a trend of reduced savings and increased levels of consumer debt. High inflation paired with high-interest rates create a snowball effect that can quickly grow out of control. Thus, our stopping point (or “finish line”) has to be an intentional decision. We must all ask: How much is enough? That is a profoundly simple question with significant ramifications if left unanswered.

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Teaching financial responsibility to the younger generation is an invaluable gift, especially during crucial college years prior to making significant debt decisions. We’re in a 10 to 13-year economic cycle that our college students have yet to experience. While the older generations have been through market variability, this type of uncertainty is new to many young and emerging investors. Therefore, it’s essential that knowledge is shared with the younger generation experiencing scarcity, inflation, and high-interest rates for the first time.

An open dialogue is imperative and remains a core passion of the Center for Financial Literacy at Liberty University. We are privileged to offer students free resources, including online courses, workshops, and financial coaching. Our student coaches receive extensive training in the main areas of personal finance: budgeting, credit, debt, savings, giving, investments, living expenses, and student loan debt. The program focuses on establishing the proper values and habits through five principles:

1.Spend less than you earn. Keep your living expenses below your income level to avoid credit card and consumer debt.

2.Give generously. The act of giving breaks the power of money and aligns our heart with God’s priorities.

3. Set long-term goals. The longer your perspective, the better your decision today.

4. Avoid the misuse of debt. Debt may be inevitable but walk into it strategically. Make sure the economic return is higher than the economic cost.

5. Plan for financial margin. Always have a buffer to prepare for the unexpected.

To have a healthy behavior pattern financially, we must have a healthy belief system shaped by Scripture. The Center for Financial Literacy infuses biblical financial wisdom in a principle-based approach that targets our money beliefs and behaviors with the goal of pursuing godliness and contentment.

The center’s core Scripture is 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Contentment is a choice. Contentment says “what I have is enough.” Contentment creates a lifestyle-stopping point. 

Stacie Rhodes is Associate Dean of the School of Business, Executive Director of the Center for Financial Literacy, and Associate Professor of Accounting at Liberty University. She is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Financial Planner®, Certified Kingdom Advisor®, and holds a Series 65 license.

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