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How to Get Out of DEBT
Good News Magazine
August 1960
Volume: Vol IX, No. 8
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How to Get Out of DEBT
Herman L Hoeh   
Church of God

Born: 1928
Died: November 24, 2004
Ambassador College: 1947
Ordained: December 20, 1952
Office: Evangelist

Money problems trouble more people than any other single problem, including health. Here's why, and how you can solve your financial worries.

   FEW PEOPLE know the SEVEN PRINCIPLES of financial success. Fewer still are willing to apply them if they learn them. People assume there is always a shortcut to financial security and prosperity. They want to take the easy road to quick gain, only to land up deeply in debt, frustrated and more often than supposed on the verge of suicide!

The BURDEN of Debt

   Deficit spending is fashionable today. It fundamentally began in 1933 when the people were promised a NEW DEAL. They were told that going into debt on a national scale was a temporary measure to prime the financial pump to get prosperity rolling again.
   Instead, it took a war to bring artificial prosperity. But those seven years were enough to teach the people the HABIT OF STAYING IN DEBT, the habit of buying things on time and paying later if still employed. It has become a national fixation. It is even spreading to other lands and nations. Credit is extended to practically everyone on practically everything. Debt is considered normal by most people.
   Some claim our public and private debt with mounting interest the cause of our apparent prosperity. But is it?
   Why, if being in debt is normal, are so many suffering from the terrible mental strain of being in debt? Why, in such seeming financial prosperity, are so many burdened about their jobs, about security, about paying off their monthly installments, about losing their homes, even about bankruptcy?
   It is time we faced these questions!

Must the Poor Stay Poor?

   It is not uncommon to hear the statement: "We're just poor folks and proud of it."
   But why should anyone be proud of poverty. Poverty is a SHAME. God speaks of poverty as a curse a penalty resulting from broken laws.
   Many of us, of course, cannot help being poor. It may be too late in life to change matters. Or we may have inherited unusual financial burdens. God knows your circumstances. God has chosen the poor of this world to whom He reveals His truth. Most poor people are more willing to listen to God than are the wealthy. Poverty breeds a closer consciousness of God and the need for God. But that does NOT mean that God's people have to stay poor!
   God prospered Abraham. He prospered Isaac and Jacob. They were all tithe payers. Material prosperity as a right of birth the Birthright became Joseph's. Our English-speaking world inherits that Birthright today, as well as the Blessing. Certainly God makes plain that He wants His people to prosper. John the Apostle was inspired to write: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (III John 2).
   Notice that ABOVE ALL THINGS in this material world, God intends us to prosper and be in health even as we are prospering SPIRITUALLY. Physical prosperity and health go hand in hand with spiritual prosperity.
   The reason this nation or any nation, for that matter is suffering from so much worry about debt and health is that no nation on earth today is spiritually prospering. Since all of us ought to be spiritually prospering, let's notice the rules, the laws that govern our physical prosperity.
   Though health is a MAJOR consideration in our financial well-being, this is not the place to bring up health laws. We have an article on Seven Laws of Health by Mr. Roderick C. Meredith.
   Now to examine the principles that govern our financial prosperity.

Case Histories

   Before we plunge into the laws of financial success, we ought to notice the personal experiences of individuals who have made tragic mistakes in their life, people who have plunged so deeply into debt that they may remain in debt for life or be forced into bankruptcy. Some of these cases are not only frighteningly tragic, but frighteningly common.
   Mr. Hugh Mauck, our Office Manager and Secretary of the Radio Church of God, has been generous in providing me with several common examples of indebtedness.
   Take the case of Mr. M.
   Would you have made the same mistakes that he did?
   Mr. M. has a very good job and earns above average salary. He accumulated several hundred dollars for the purpose of purchasing a little house for himself and his family. He made the mistake, however, of purchasing the house BEFORE he had sufficient funds to properly furnish it.
   Once he scraped together all that he possibly could to make the down-payment, he realized that he would have to overspend in order to furnish the place. He was offered very good terms and time payments that he felt he could meet. Having obtained the house and the furniture, and having signed all the necessary contract papers and terms, he and his family moved into the little house.
   It was not long after he moved into the house, however, that he began to realize there were all sorts of little needs for the house garden tools for the garden, and small items that took a few dollars from his wages every week. These few dollars here and there soon mounted up. At the end of the month he found that he did not have sufficient to make payments on the furniture. These payments began to get farther and farther behind. He neglected to discuss his problem with the furniture company. It was not long before he had to lag behind also in the house payments.
   By the time he had been in the house one year, he was billed for taxes and insurance. Naturally this was more than he expected. He now was faced with the problem of losing everything he had.
   What should Mr. M. have done?
   Mr. M. should have counted the cost before he purchased his house. Had he analyzed the situation, he would have known before he went too far, just what he was getting into. He could have saved for one additional year before purchasing the house, and he could have made arrangements to purchase the furniture a little at a time during that period, preferably for cash. He would not have had the interest on the furniture, and many of the little items for the house he could have picked up in advance throughout that year and THEN prepare to move into the house.

A Business Venture That Failed

   Here is another example:
   Mr. B. started a small business WITHOUT SUFFICIENT BACKGROUND or experience in the type of business in which he entered. After making his initial investment, he no longer had sufficient funds to hire a supervisor who did have the background and experience necessary to handle the situation. He tried to struggle on alone, and began to borrow money.
   He worked long, hard hours for the first year or so and was just barely able to keep his head above water. When he realized he was getting nowhere, heavy discouragement set in, and he gradually became slack.
   The business was soon lost and all of the original investment was absorbed. He came out broke, tired and penniless.
   What should Mr. B. have done?
   Mr. B. should have properly trained himself for this type of business, or he should have entered into a business in which he was skilled.
   Now take this case:
   Mr. A. was a skilled cement worker. He, too, had always made above average wages. He came from a city in the southeastern part of the United States where building and construction was a year around trade.
   Mr. A. had NEVER BELIEVED IN SAVING FOR EMERGENCIES. He was convinced that, should emergencies arise, he would be able to borrow money sufficient for the needs. But he had not counted on being laid off due to work stoppage.
   Having moved into the Los Angeles area, he soon came to the realization that cement work and construction were spasmodic.
   He found competition keener and jobs fewer in the larger city. He was forced to sell his car in order to live.
   Without sufficient transportation, he was unable to take advantage of many of the job opportunities offered to him. Several months went by before he realized he was fighting a losing battle.
   What should Mr. A. have done?
   Mr. A. should have first, before he left his home community, made a trip to Los Angeles and investigated working conditions, housing conditions, and living conditions. He would have known what to expect and could have prepared for it months or even years before he made this move. He would have been wise to have saved for emergencies. And he would have been wise had he analyzed, before selling the car, which possession of his was of least importance to his future earnings. Had he done this, he could have refinanced and kept the car, giving him the transportation needed to take advantage of the job opportunities which he had.

A Farmer Goes to Town

   Mr. W., in his middle fifties, is a man who has been farming all his life. He was a successful farmer on a small scale. Mr. W. has a wife and three sons. His eldest son was perhaps 26 years of age when he entered college. Although successful, Mr. W. was not able to finance his son's education.
   Approximately one year after the eldest son left for college, Mr. W. found it necessary to give up his farm and move to the city.
   This was a complete change of environment, which Mr. W. was not able to cope with. He had no experience in working or coping with the hustle and bustle of city life. He was untrained and unskilled. Naturally adverse conditions resulted, and he soon ran out of money his savings now were completely exhausted.
   He sold his possessions one after the other until there were none left. The younger boys were not of working age, and they soon faced starvation. Someone had to come to his rescue.
   What should Mr. W. have done?
   If Mr. W. had used foresight, if he had his finger more on the pulse of his business and knew exactly where he stood, and if he had begun to prepare for the crisis staring him in the face before he left his farm, HE WOULD HAVE PREPARED HIMSELF BEFORE IT WAS TOO LATE.
   This preparation could consist of either night training in school, training by correspondence course, or on the job training during the off season of his farm work.
   These are a few of the many examples that come to our attention. There is no end to the financial problems that our people have, or have had, mainly through lack of proper understanding, proper foresight, and proper planning.
   Some of these cases are practically beyond repair. The individuals involved must either start life afresh, losing everything they have; or they must remain in debt for years, slowly climbing out of the financial pit; or they must upon careful legal counsel and advice by a competent individual or minister in the Church commence bankruptcy proceedings.
   No matter if you are beginning to get into financial trouble or are deep in financial trouble, the first thing to do is to seek proper financial advice. I personally find that more people are in need of financial advice than advice on health! Many ministers in the Church have found the same thing true of their areas.
   This condition should not be yet it is because we have never been taught the seven principles governing financial prosperity.

The Seven Principles

   Many businessmen who know nothing about the Bible fully understand six of the seven principles regulating their prosperity. That is why they are financial successes. But without that seventh principle, many a businessman has committed suicide in the face of sudden, unexpected adversity.
   By contrast, not a few converted people know only ONE rule of financial success and are practically failures in life. Their only hope of deliverance lies beyond the grave! This should not be.
   Here is rule NUMBER ONE: PUT SPIRITUAL THINGS FIRST. Jesus explained it: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mat. 6:33).
   This is the one principle most prosperous people are unacquainted with. It is often the only principle that Christians, who seek a knowledge of God, have ever understood.
   This principle, if applied, is an absolute guarantee against starvation and grinding poverty. A knowledge of this principle is often the only reason that poor people are able to keep up their heads in the face of adversity.
   Ignorance of this one principle is the very reason that many wealthy individuals, in the unexpected moment of adversity, commit suicide. Newspapers are full of such cases men and women who know all the other rules of success, but who have no mainstay in times of adversity.
   This first financial principle ASSUMES YOU FOLLOW GOD'S LAW OF TITHING which brings a promise from God to supply your needs. IF YOU SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD His laws and government, you will naturally obey the law of tithing.

The Other Six Rules

   Everyone of these other six financial rules of success is found in the book of Proverbs, though they may be repeated elsewhere. It is not uncommon for businessmen to have a copy of the book of Proverbs handy at home or in the office. These principles are often handed down to succeeding generations in business operations.
   Here they are:
   Many a failure occurs because an individual gives up when there is still hope of success. Just a little more effort can often turn apparent defeat into success. Solomon was inspired to write: "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small" (Prov. 24:10). Does debt seem overwhelming? Don't quit. Keep working. Keep thinking. Keep planning. See your employer. See your creditor. TALK YOUR PROBLEM OVER WITH THEM. Don't sit at home and say, "It's no use!"
   If you have lost your job, hit the pavement. Find work. There is no excuse for unemployment. Buy a newspaper. Look in the "Help Wanted" section, or in the "Employment Opportunities" section. Go to an employment agency as a last resort. Too many are afraid to look for a job. They faint at the thought of being turned down. Solomon said: "If you faint" give up, quit, feel like a failure you don't have any backbone, any fortitude, any strength.
   I know a man in the Los Angeles area who suddenly lost a job through no fault of his own. His creditors immediately jumped on him. He did not quit. He rustled up TWO JOBS in order to meet his payments. He went to work at two jobs for many months until he got out from under his debt load.
   Some of you may be in an unemployment area. If so, the husband and father ought to go elsewhere and find work taking his family with him AFTER, not before, he has located and obtained a suitable job. There is always work somewhere. It is a matter of not quitting until you find it!
   Rule NUMBER THREE: BE DILIGENT, not slothful in your work.
   Two different places in Proverbs is this rule repeated: "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds [or whatever your occupation may be]: for riches are not for ever" (Prov. 27:23-24). And again: "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding: and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down... so shall poverty come... " (Prov. 24:30-34).
   Haven't you seen small businesses that had the same general appearances as that farm Solomon saw. And how many small farms look like this proverb today. Too many of God's people are slothful in their occupation. They are lazy and apparently do not know it! And how many workers are just as slothful, lying down on the job, seeking coffee breaks, tea breaks or whatever it may be.
   You will never be a financial success unless you are diligent in your work. I know several men who receive employment practically anywhere simply because they were diligent in their work. Even if they were not trained for a particular job, employers know they would be worth training. Unfortunately some use lack of training as an excuse for lack of effort, an excuse to cover slothfulness.
   Here is another proverb on this same subject: "Seest thou a man DILIGENT in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men (Prov. 22:29). Paul makes this a New Testament command in Rom. 12:11.

Seek Advice

   The next rule to remember is this: SEEK ADVICE; do not be self-wise.
   Notice how this fourth rule follows on the heels of the preceding one. "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him... The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason" (Prov. 26:12-16).
   And again these short proverbs: "... Cease from thine own wisdom... Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge" (Prov. 23:4-12).
   The wise person profits by others, rather than listening to himself all the time. It is the know-it-all who really knows nothing. You will always meet some man in your life who knows more than you do in some particular field. Listen to him. Weigh his advice. Don't act hastily on it. It could be wrong. It might not apply to your case. But above all do not take your own judgment for granted or be conceited in your past experience.
   Know your limitations and your strong points.
   Another mistake often made is listening to the man who talks the loudest or seems the most persuasive. Do not judge your advisors by their flowery phrases. Find the man who has plain "common sense" which gift is altogether too rare. Do not seek advice of the man who will flatter you. Literally dozens of proverbs in the Bible warn against the man who flatters his hearers.
   Find the man who will tell you the truth. If a man is willing to tell you the truth about your financial position, listen to him. He is probably right. If he leads you to see what poor judgment you have used, he is most certainly right! Without advisors and counselors, businesses, as well as nations, collapse.
   Everyone needs to develop thoughtful regard and make provision for the future. Hind sight is not enough. Notice the proverb: "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished" (Prov. 22:3).
   Is a lay-off in your factory around the corner? Make provision IN ADVANCE to meet the emergency. See that another job will be available. Have a little handy cash on hand. Above all DO NOT PLUNGE INTO DEBT WITHOUT MAKING ABSOLUTELY SURE YOUR JOB IS SECURE. And do not tie up what you already own as security unless you are willing and able to lose it if an unforeseen emergency arises. Some have foolishly tied up their car as security for furniture. They lost their job, could not meet furniture payments, lost possession of the car and NOW HAVE NO MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION TO AND FROM WORK.
   It is easy to put all your savings into a nice home on the assumption that all will be fine, that no small amount of savings will be needed. Remember this proverb: "Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and AFTERWARDS build thine house" (Prov. 24:27). Spend your money for education, training, tools, job improvement. Then, when you are qualified to hold down a good job, and have had the foresight to save some money for emergencies, is the time to enjoy the pleasure of building a home for the family. DO NOT PUT YOUR PLEASURES FIRST. This does not mean that a converted husband and father should neglect the home where his wife especially if she is unconverted must spend much of her time.
   Some unwise men have been so ill prepared to make a living for their family that they have allowed their wives to hold down a job to help buy furniture for their home. This should never be.

Final Two Rules

   Although many of us would find the last two rules of rarer use, a lack of their knowledge could spell immediate disaster if we become confronted with the problems which they cover.
   Here is rule NUMBER SIX: DO NOT TRY A GET-RICH-QUICK SCHEME. In the first place, Solomon warns us: "Labour not to be rich" (Prov. 23:4).
   God wants us to prosper, but to be rich is another matter. We have heard many schemes of people who intended to supply a large part of their profits to pay for all the radio work or all the cost of publication, etc. God does not finance His work that way. He works through many individuals together His Church made up of thousands of members.
   All get-rich-quick schemes are basically selfish. The way to prosper is to work diligently, plan ahead, invest wisely not follow some wild project for which one has no training, no matter how easy it sounds. Money does not come easily. It comes through WORK. "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough" and quite often bankruptcy (Prov. 28:19). And notice the next verses: "A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent... He that hasteth to be rich... considereth not that poverty shall come upon him."
   Lay aside your earnings little by little until you have enough to meet your emergencies. Remember the ant!
   And the SEVENTH RULE: DO NOT MAKE YOURSELF LIABLE FOR ANOTHER'S DEBTS. "Be not thou one of them that are sureties for debts. If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?" (Prov. 22:26-27).
   To be surety for a debt means to make yourself responsible for another's debts. Some people are "easy marks" others always take advantage of them. If you are not financially able to pay the full amount of another's debt, do not sign a paper or promise to cover defaults of obligations. Many have not only lost their beds, but also their shirts by this mistake! And finally notice Proverbs 11:15: "He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it; and he that hateth suretyship is sure."
   Brethren, these are living financial laws. These principles have been governing your life whether or not you have known of them. Some of you are needlessly poor because you have been heedless of these laws. Others of you are now so deep in debt that you face a lifelong uphill climb.
   Some have assumed that if they paid that that would undo all their past mistakes. Brethren this is untrue.
   Obedience to the law does not pay for your past mistakes. Christ's blood pays for past mistakes. God forgives you for breaking these laws in the past but the physical penalty of debt still remains. Remember that God forgave David for adultery, yet his child the result of that one act of adultery died. There is often a physical or financial penalty to be paid to men and society even though God has forgiven you of your transgression.
   Tithing enables you to have God's help henceforth. And many of you need that help dearly to square your past debts with men. But tithing is not the only principle regulating prosperity, there are six other rules.
   Unless your creditors cancel your debts, you still owe them. They are to be paid. The world, of course, knows nothing about releasing a debtor in the seventh year. See Deuteronomy 15. Unfortunately some of you brethren are being kept under an unnecessary financial penalty because you are not being released from past financial obligation as God's law requires of creditors. However, you are therefore required to continue payment of your debts until they are squared away.
   If you follow these seven laws and remain faithful in your tithing, putting first the Kingdom of God, you will prosper. Will you take God at His word?

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Good News MagazineAugust 1960Vol IX, No. 8
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