CHRISTIANS DO HAVE ALTERNATIVES TO BANKRUPTCY
BY IVY SCARBOROUGH
Q. Our family’s financial strain seems almost unbearable. Is bankruptcy only hope?
A. Debt and serious financial strain affect most Americans at some point. Sometimes financial stress is caused by circumstances beyond our control such as illness or the loss of a job. But more often it is the result of bad choices. The quest to acquire more possessions is a dynamic that drives economies, but it is also an underlying cause of much misery.
Economic forces produce powerful and sometimes profoundly damaging effects in individual lives and families. The destructive effect of debt is so great it can wreck marriages and emotional health. Avoiding–or escaping–the swamp of debt can literally save a marriage and preserve one’s emotional and physical health.
Though bankruptcy no longer carries the social stigma it once did, creditors and employers are wary of those who have filed bankruptcy. A bankruptcy stays in a person’s credit file for up to ten
years. Someone may see bankruptcy as an easy way out, but because of the problems it can cause related to employment or future credit, it is rarely without cost.
I do not believe, however, that a Christian should rule out bankruptcy as an option; I have seen the health and lives of too many people destroyed by long-term struggles with debt. Your health, your family, and the dedication of your time and energy to the service of God are more important. Besides, filing for bankruptcy does not mean you can never pay back your creditors; you may still choose to do so, but under terms and conditions that are feasible for you.
Individuals can get into serious financial straits by following patterns of poor judgment. You can change those patterns. But many people in financial trouble refuse to see their mistakes. They hope that eventually things will get better. Bankruptcy lawyers and financial consultants note that usually just the opposite occurs. Bad financial situations typically deteriorate.
When facing financial difficulty: (1) Be firmly honest and realistic with yourself. (2) Get financial advice from an expert–a CPA, financial consultant or other individual who has sound financial
management experience. (3) With the expert’s help, analyze what has gone wrong and what you can do to change the situation. And (4) Act immediately.
The Bible teaches: “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13, NIV). When we reach the end of our lives, it will not matter whether we had newer cars, bigger houses, more clothes or fancy vacations.
It will matter profoundly how we spent our time, loved our families, cared for others and served God. What is truly valuable will be abundantly clear to us then. It is far better to learn that lesson
Ivy Scarborough is an attorney and mediator in Jackson, Tennessee, who specializes in personal injury and wrongful death cases. He is a friend of the Tennessee District United Pentecostal Church. He may be reached at (901) 668-0037 or firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE FORWARD, WINTER 1999, PAGE 7. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.