If you’re struggling with debt, you’re not alone. From student loans and home mortgages to the $1 trillion in credit card debt Americans collectively owe, it can feel impossible to not accrue debt. Bill English says the growing number of Christians who are getting stuck in debt is limiting the church’s ability to grow and give.

“I think debt is a form of bondage for entire churches. When most people who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ give an average of  2-2.5% of their income to the church,  you know something is wrong. I think the reason is simply because they don’t feel they can afford to tithe 10%, because they have so much debt and they’re spending money in so many places that they that they really don’t need to.”

The guilt associated with debt can become debilitating for many.

“When you have debt and you don’t feel like you can do what you normally would like to do with the people that you love, that can become both a distancing thing,  a separator, and a debilitator because there’s a part of you that knows you could do better, but you’re not doing it. That’s something that is going to produce guilt in your life.”

Because of that guilt response, many Christians, are ashamed to talk about their debt problems. Bill says the church should be a safe and supportive place for anyone struggling financially, which means we should first learn healthy money habits ourselves, and then be equipped to teach and guide others.

“The first thing we should not do is to blame those struggling with debt any more than we will blame somebody who is caught in any other kind of sin. We always need to be showing love and acceptance. Then we need to come along beside them and show them how to do it a better way.

There is hope to break free of the burden of debt and there’s no time like the present to start again.

“If you’re in a lot of debt today, I can tell you: today can always be the fresh start. Today can be the day when you start to do things right. If you start to live below your means and start to pay off your debts, over time you can become debt free, or at least get to a place where the debts you have are only against appreciating assets.”

Better money patterns include an emphasis on saving, productivity, and generosity.

“I’ve been teaching my kids to take 100% of your after-tax dollars, save 10%,  tithe 10%, and live on 80% of your income. If you do that consistently throughout life, you really should not have a whole lot of money problems. The problem is when you try to live on 95%, tithe 10%, and not save anything.”

“In the larger scheme of things, we’re only on this earth for was 70-80 years, while this earth has been around a long time and is going to be around a while, at least until the Lord comes. So it seems to me that investing in the Kingdom by giving away your wealth is something that all of us ought to be interested in who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Or, as famed preacher John Wesley put it,  “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”

Bill English is the Founder of Bible and Business.com. He is an Executive Consultant with The Platinum Group and serves as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Northwestern St Paul.

Breaking free from debt