We've been counseled countless times (well, you COULD count them, I'm sure ... but don't you have more important things to do?) to avoid debt whenever possible.
(Believe me, student loans aren't fun. Sometimes, they're necessary ... but they're not fun. Neither are car payments, credit card payments, mortgages ... I think I can stop here. But, suffice it to say, when the money that you're earning isn't yours to spend as you like, it's not fun. In fact, it's stressful! So, please avoid being in that situation as much as you can. I'd prefer that you not be stressed out.)
In fact, our leaders have likened being in debt to being in BONDAGE.
There's a famous quote that comes to mind:
“Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours; it never has short crops nor droughts; it never pays taxes; it buys no food; it wears no clothes; it is unhoused and without home and so has no repairs, no replacements, no shingling, plumbing, painting, or whitewashing; it has neither wife, children, father, mother, nor kinfolk to watch over and care for; it has no expense of living; it has neither weddings nor births nor deaths; it has no love, no sympathy; it is as hard and soulless as a granite cliff. Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.” -- J. Reuben Clark
It's better to never get into debt at all. Sometimes, though, we come into it for reasons beyond our control (Emergencies, medical problems, theft, ...).
On the other side of the matter, we shouldn't work to be rich at the expense of everything else.
2 Nephi 9:30
But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.And, remember how it's stated in 1 Timothy 6:10, "The love of money is the root of all evil."
This is NOT to say that money is a bad thing. I like to think of money as a neutral thing ... we can use it for good or for bad things. ... So, if we're trying to be more like Jesus Christ, we're obligated to try and use it for better things.
Now, since this IS a church lesson, you KNOW that we will talk about tithing.
We're blessed when we pay our tithing. It is a sacrifice that we make. It brings us closer to God. And, when we choose to obey this commandment, we open ourselves up to more blessings. They won't ALWAYS be financial/temporal ones ... but they often are.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:10-11)
We are not limited to paying tithing ... we also are blessed to have the opportunity to pay a generous fast offering and to donate to many worthy causes.
Which is another reason it's good to make sure that we are productive ... so that we have the ability to help our neighbors (nearby and on the other side of the world). If we are able to take care of the needs of ourselves and our families, we will have more opportunities to serve others.
Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.If we have sufficient for our needs, it enables us to serve others. One of my past callings was being the Compassionate Service Leader for the ward. One thing I did was help arrange meals for sisters/families in need (either due to sickness/injury or when a baby arrived in the household). Sometimes, due to financial hardship, I wasn't able to extend some of these service opportunities to some sisters. Which was sad, since I KNEW that these sisters would have been very happy to serve ... but, at the time, they just couldn't.
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2:17-19)
Of course, that helped me to have greater sympathy and love for them.
And, I'm sure it helped them to develop a greater appreciation of the opportunity to serve. So it's all good.
Please do be aware that, in your life, there will be times when you serve and times when you will need to be served. Be gracious in accepting charity from others. And, when you're able, you can pass on that charity in your generous service to others.
When we develop Christlike love and compassion for others, we will want them to be able to be self-sufficient. This way they can have the satisfaction of the joy of work. It's rather disheartening to know that you are dependant upon others for your needs. We can help those around us achieve that independence.
We talked a bit about the Church Welfare Program and how it differs from most welfare programs.
With Church Welfare, those who are provided for are encouraged to work (either immediately or to help pay things back when they're able). We don't want to give a hand-OUT, but a hand-UP. We want to enable people to gain/regain the ability to escape debt and to be able to provide for themselves and their families.
Brother O, who joined our class this week, was able to give examples of how some bishops have used fast offerings to help those in need ... as well as some times when the bishop had received revelation that this wasn't a good use of Fast Offering Funds (and so refrained).
When we are able to be provident (meaning that we're able to be self-sufficient [while maintaining humility, since we will always be dependent upon God]), we will be able to assist others in their efforts to rise out of debt, homelessness, and their other temporal trials.
And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth.
And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.
What a wonderful world this would be if we were able to become self-sufficient and then, with the surplus that will arrive through the Lord's blessings, we blessed those around us, near and far ... helping them to also become self-sufficient.
When we help others, we are showing our thanks to God for His many blessings.
If you need some ideas of ways to help bless others, here are a few:
- LDS Charities homepage has lots of wonderful information, ideas, and opportunities listed
- Pay a fast offering (We're limited to 10% of our income for tithing. But you can always give more as a fast offering)
- Other charitable donations (Humanitarian Service, Perpetual Education Fund, Missionary Fund, Temple Patron Fund)
- Find volunteering opportunities
- Create little care packages for the homeless around the community
But, do remember, PLEASE make sure that your needs and the needs of your family are taken care of before you take on the world. The goal is to be self-sufficient, so that you CAN help others. You can't pull others out of a hole if you're down there, too (You might be able to give a boost, yes, but if the hole's too deep? It's not going to work. Everyone's just going to get frustrated. We don't want that.)
As we're in the Christmas season now, I'd like to challenge you to look for opportunities to serve and to share with those around you.
Now, go out there and be awesome!
Now, go out there and be awesome!