“If you owe a debt to a man on earth, you don’t have any offerings to bring to God.
I can’t receive from you what belongs to someone else. Those to whom you owe money will think more of me and Jesus if I don’t take from you what belongs to them.”
From a sermon by my father, “Preacher Clark”, in 1972
God’s standard of holiness for us includes rightly handling the money that God puts into our hands. Every heart that is right with God senses that it is right to bring to God His tithes and offerings, and every minister who is truly of God will guide the saints in their giving as much as in anything else. He will not accept from them money that belongs to someone else.
If you are making timely payments on your mortgage and car payments, then you are not considered by anyone to be living in debt; you are living in debt only if time for payment comes due and you cannot pay it. But as a young servant of Christ, I observed that if any in my father’s congregation made a foolish purchase that led to excessive debt and caused them to miss payments on necessities, he refused to receive offerings from them until that foolish debt was satisfied. They could choose to return the merchandise or property, or they could continue to struggle through and finish paying for it, but as long as they were in such deep debt, he required them to pay on it – and pay it off – before he would accept their offerings. Staying out of overwhelming debt, he taught us, is one way that the children of God can be good testimonies for the Lord, and I have seen in my lifetime why that is true. Every person or couple that I have ever known who could not restrain their lust to buy things they did not really need have always had spiritual struggles that others did not have. I have never seen anyone like that do very well in their walk with Jesus. My father was right.
If you owe a payment to a man, then the money you have in your hands is his, not yours. And if you waste that money on unnecessary things and then cannot pay him what you owe, you have made yourself a thief. If you give what you owe to anyone other than to the one you owe it to, even if you give it to God, you are a thief. We should all take seriously Paul’s exhortation:
7. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
8a. Owe no man anything, but to love one another.
It is sin to owe someone money and not pay it. It is a bad testimony to the world, especially to those whom you owe.
My father taught us that if we would obey God with our tithes and offerings, and use good sense with what is left of our money, then we would always be able to pay our bills. But if “the lust of the eye” leads us to spend our money on frivolous things so that we cannot make our regular payments when payment is due, we should not think that God will be pleased with any offerings we might bring Him. And if a pastor is so covetous that he will accept money that God will not accept, he is providing us with as bad a testimony about Jesus as we are providing for those whom we owe and cannot pay.