The Christmas season is over, and the decorations are being packed away until next year. The special meals are done, and the used wrapping paper has been collected and stuffed into the trash cans for the city to collect. That can be depressing all by itself, but now the bills are starting to pile up for all that stuff we bought. Whew! Paying off what we owe can be no joke.

Sometimes we don’t have the money to pay for what we want or what we think we need. That is usually when we start borrowing. If life has left you with a lot of debt, you are not alone. The latest figures show that the average American has about $38,000 in personal debt–and that doesn’t include home mortgages. I hope you don’t owe that much. This is one time that I hope you are below average!

I’ve never had a large income, so I have had to carefully handle the money that I do have. I thought I would pass on some tips that have helped keep me out of financial trouble.

#1. Avoid debt. I have a credit card, but I don’t buy things I can’t pay for when the monthly bill arrives. Some debt for large, necessary items may be unavoidable, but I have always kept it to a minimum. I know that is hard, but it is possible if we really believe God. He tells us that “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). In other words, if God hasn’t provided it, I must not need it right now.

#2. Borrow money from yourself. Here is how you do that. After you get your high-interest loans paid off, put some money aside every month to build an emergency fund that is big enough to handle those unexpected expenses, like when a water heater breaks or the car’s transmission dies. That way, when a money emergency comes, you can “borrow” money interest-free from yourself.

#3 Honor God first with your money before you spend it on yourself. I have found that God has always taken care of me when I have shown my trust in Him by giving to Him first. I do that by giving to a Bible-teaching church. I just have to trust what Jesus said: “… your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. [food, clothing shelter] But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:32–33).

There is another kind of debt we all owe that is impossible to pay off. God is our Creator, and we owe Him everything, all our love, and all our praise. We owe Him righteous living that reflects His wonderful character. None of us have given that to Him. The debt we owe Him is much more than that $38,000 the average American owes.

God created the human race sinless, so we could live in a loving relationship with Him. Instead, we all decided to follow our own desires. Holy Scripture makes this clear. “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one…. And the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10–12, 17-18).

By not giving God what we owe Him, we have racked up a huge sin debt with our Creator. Thankfully, Jesus provided the solution. He volunteered to pay that sin debt for us by suffering the death we deserve. Shortly before Jesus died on the Cross, He announced, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). That one Greek word that is translated “IT IS FINISHED” in English has been found on tax receipts from Christ’s day as proof that a person’s taxes were completely paid. In other words, Jesus was announcing that our sin debt has been paid IN FULL. Jesus didn’t just reduce our debt – He paid it all!

This is why Paul passionately proclaimed, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:1–2).

When we turn to Him and accept His gift, Jesus will make our souls completely debt-free! This restores the loving relationship we were created to have with God. The Bible says, “When you were dead in your transgressions… He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14).

What happens to a person when they turn from sin and accept Christ’s gift of forgiveness? The result is somewhat ironic. When a person embraces Christ’s payment for their vast sin debt, they discover a deep sense of indebtedness to Christ. We can’t pay Jesus back for what He has done for us, although we can and will have a love for Him we didn’t have before. In other words, we become profoundly grateful. “… we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).

There is no greater feeling than knowing that our sin debt has been paid off for all eternity! That is even an even better feeling than having all your monthly bills paid off

If you haven’t done it already, I hope you will start off this New Year by putting your trust in Christ. Then you will know that one day He will “… make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).