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Jesus said, “I will build My Church…” There is a single organization that teaches the entire truth of the Bible, and is called to live by “every word of God.” Do you know how to find it? Christ said it would:

  • Teach “all things” He commanded
  • Have called out members set apart by truth
  • Be a “little flock”

Raise Your Spiritual Credit Score!

by Edward L. Winkfield

A financial analogy can help us better look at the most important matters during self-examination.

Imagine your deeds, decisions, habits and potential—your whole way of life—being reduced to a three-digit number.

Fair or unfair, this is how creditors judge those seeking approval. In the world of finance, your three-digit credit score could be the difference between being entrusted with huge or meager sums of money.

God’s Word uses a similar principle to motivate and inspire Christians. In the Matthew 25 parable of the talents, Christ’s faithful servants stand before Him to be judged. For the servants met with approval, the Lord explains the reason for their success: “you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (vs. 21).

Their attention to the little things paid off in a big way.

The connection between being approved for a car loan and entering “into the joy of your lord” (vs. 23) is not perfect. The same can be said of most parables. God uses these “similitudes” to explain spiritual matters. He uses physical things to which human beings can relate. However, all parables break down eventually. In Matthew 13:45-46, is the Kingdom of Heaven a literal pearl? Is the Word of God in Luke 8:11 actual seed? The point is clear.

Yet taking a moment to analyze something as customary as how lenders view a borrower’s credit worthiness does provide a fresh look at self-examination, something we are required to do every year prior to the Passover: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (I Cor. 11:28).

Thorough examination of our conduct over the previous year demonstrates proper reverence of the symbols—the bread representing Christ’s body and the wine representing His blood. A careless approach to this self-scrutiny brings grave consequences: “For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation [judgment] to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (vs. 29). This is most serious.

Clearly, “damnation” is not God’s will for us. By obediently following His command to examine ourselves each spring, we can raise our spiritual “credit score” as we seek God’s divine approval.

This analogy is not farfetched when you consider that God openly says we must seek to be “approved” of Him (II Tim. 2:15). The Greek word for “approved” is dokimos. It means “to put to the test by trial in order to produce truth and genuineness.” The word is closely related to “examine” used in I Corinthians 11:28.

People usually need credit for the things they cannot afford to buy outright. What God has in store for His people seems even more unreachable. The apostle Paul said, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him” (I Cor. 2:9). Our Creator stands at the ready to grant us such things.

It is through “the righteous judgment of God, that [we] may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God” (II Thes. 1:5). This reveals that the only way into the Kingdom is through a judgment. Yet God is not the judge exclusively. He gives us ample opportunity to judge ourselves (I Cor. 11:31).

This is not as easy as it may sound especially in the face of Proverbs 16:2: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes.”

Nevertheless, the stewardship required to achieve and maintain a high financial credit score brings with it solid, spiritual lessons.

Appreciate the Correlation

To get the most out of this financial analogy, we must understand the nuances of the credit system. Allow yourself to see the spiritual parallels as you read.

When people use credit, they borrow money that they promise to pay back within a specific time period. They typically must borrow funds because they cannot afford upfront to buy an expensive item such as an automobile or a home. This need presents a business opportunity for creditors willing to lend the funds to debtors with a promise of repayment plus interest.

God similarly seeks a return on His investment in us, which He considers our “reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

With actual credit, lending money represents a risk to lenders. They know they may not be paid back. To help determine this risk, the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) developed a statistical method known as a credit score. This tally helps lenders determine the likelihood of borrowers repaying their debts as agreed. This single number greatly simplifies evaluating a person’s dependability. Developing simple ways to gauge our spiritual readiness is also helpful.

The three-digit credit score represents a borrower’s credit risk. The number typically falls somewhere between 300 points (very high risk) and 850 points (very low risk), with the most responsible borrowers getting the highest scores. This is yet another similarity between this world’s credit system and principles of Christian living.

People with higher credit scores get more favorable lending terms such as lower interest rates and higher credit limits. They are considered more trustworthy due to their demonstrated ability to handle their finances. Being trustworthy means being worthy of additional trust (I Thes. 4:12).

The exact formula calculating a credit score differs with each company, but overall it is based on five primary factors. These are credit payment history, current debts, the length of credit history, the types of credit in a borrower’s portfolio, and how often a person applies for new credit. Similarly, Christians may not know the exact “formula” by which God perfectly judges His people (Psa. 98:9), yet He does give us the major criteria to look after.

A consumer’s credit status can change frequently, which means a credit score provides a snapshot of their creditworthiness. Springtime self-examination also gives a snapshot of where a Christian is at that point in his or her conversion.

Analyzing Spiritual Factors

Credit scores are freely available to consumers and have been for some time. Despite this, consumers can find themselves reluctant to request their scores and know where they stand financially. Perhaps the finality of it is too much to bear. According to credit.com, more than a quarter of Americans choose to never check their credit scores, saying it is unimportant to them.

For Christians, such ambivalence about where they stand is not ideal, nor is it allowed. They must periodically self-examine.

Any good financial advisor will tell you that raising your credit score starts with a good understanding of the five factors used to calculate it. A minister tying this to increasing one’s spiritual credit rating would do the same.

Your Spiritual “Credit Score” Examination Factors

Use the five credit score categories for an honest evaluation of your spiritual progress over the last year. Scriptures are provided to help with this assessment.

1. Payment History

Am I doing what I committed to do since baptism? (Matt. 24:13; I Thes. 5:17; Matt. 6:9-18; II Tim. 2:15; Psa. 77:12; Rom. 8:14)

2. Current Debt

Am I practicing repentance and forgiveness? (Acts 2:28, 3:19; Matt. 7:2, 18:21-22)

3. Credit History

Am I showing the appropriate level of fruits based on my time in the Church? (Matt. 3:8, 7:20; Luke 12:48)

4. Credit Mix

Am I managing my life in addition to serving others? (Mark 10:43-45; Acts 20:35; James 2:15-17; Matt. 25:23; Luke 16:10; Col. 3:23)

5. New Credit

Am I overcoming sins and weaknesses? (John 16:33; I John 4:4; Rom. 8:28; Phil. 4:13)

Payment history, current debts, how long the person has had established credit, the kinds of credit one has, and how often one applies for new credit all help identify major areas of exploration for a Christian. Each factor is rich with meaning related to self-examination and judging ourselves.

(1) Payment History: A key question for lenders is, “If I lend this person money or credit, will he pay it back on time?” The way these businesses determine this is based on past practice. In other words, lenders look at how applicants paid other obligations such as credit cards, retail department store accounts, installment loans, car loans, student loans, mortgage loans and home equity loans—all with different terms and payments. If they have 10 credit accounts, are they late on five of them? Have they recently filed for bankruptcy, or gone through a foreclosure?

Payment history is weighed the heaviest of the five factors and bears a strong correlation to self-examination for a Christian. In judging yourself, ask, “Have I done the things I committed to do at baptism? How have I handled my various responsibilities as a Christian?”

When you were baptized into the Body of Christ, you determined to pray regularly and to study the Bible (I Thes. 5:17; II Tim. 2:15). Depending on circumstances, this may have been hard to do over the past 12 months. Nevertheless, we committed to never let either of them slip.

As you review your spiritual payment history over the last year, honestly ask yourself how you are doing.

Are you dutifully obeying the tithe command (including second tithe) and giving offerings (Mal. 3:8-10)? Are you occasionally fasting to draw close to God (Isa. 58:3-9)? Are you fully keeping the Sabbath day as instructed by God (Ex. 20:8-11; Heb. 4:9-11)? Are you holding fast, fully committed to serving God to the very end, no matter what?

(2) Current Debts/Available Credit: Lenders look at the total amount of debt people carry before approving applications. If all their available accounts are “maxed out,” they are less trustworthy. However, if a person is using credit responsibly—paying it off regularly—it looks positive.

The Passover represents Christ paying our debts in full (Eph. 1:7). Upon repentance, baptism and receiving God’s Spirit, our slates were wiped clean. When we inevitably sin following this, we can go to God with a repentant attitude and ask for forgiveness (II Cor. 7:10; II Pet. 3:9). Over the last year, have you gone to God immediately to repent and ask for forgiveness following a transgression? Or have you allowed Satan, using shame or pride, to burden you, preventing you from going to your Father in heaven who is ready to forgive you (Psa. 86:5)?

How well have you treated others? Are you quick to forgive the way God is or have you “maxed out” your credit with Him (Matt. 6:14-15) by holding grudges against those who may have offended or wronged you?

(3) Length of Credit History: The length of time a person has had active credit accounts, known as credit history, is another important factor. Creditors like to see a long history of responsibly paying off debts.

Upon your calling, God sees you for the person you currently are and the person you ultimately can become with His guidance. We usually have trouble seeing both, especially early on.

The longer we are in the Church, God gradually allows us to see more of our flaws. This causes us to abhor ourselves (Job 42:6) and prompts us to change. If God showed us ourselves too early and all at once, we would become discouraged and likely give up.

Every Passover presents us with the opportunity to see a little more of our human nature. Those who have been in God’s Way longer should be able to handle more than those who are newly baptized.

Ask yourself, “Am I showing the proper level of fruits based on my time in God’s Church?” If you have been in the truth for decades, you should be much more equipped to handle the trials typical of a babe in Christ (Heb. 5:11-14). If you are new to God’s Church, He does not expect you to perform as a seasoned veteran. He knows it takes time to grow.

Thus, when assessing your spiritual “credit history,” have a balanced view instead of being too hard on yourself or letting yourself off the hook.

(4) Credit Mix: The fourth factor creditors look at is the different types of credit accounts an applicant has. It could be revolving debts such as credit cards or fixed debts such as a mortgage or auto loans. Managing each requires related but different approaches. Seeing how a borrower handles multiple accounts with different terms and payments is helpful.

Honestly assess how you have managed your life over the last year. How have you handled the various responsibilities put before you? Is your conduct during the week a proper reflection of your commitment as a Christian (Matt. 5:16)? Are you doing the things required as a spouse or parent? Are you drinking too much alcohol, viewing pornography or engaging in filthy communication (Col. 3:8)? Do you easily lose your temper? Are you praying for the success of the Work? Are you consistently serving others or do you sit back and watch others take the brunt of the responsibility?

(5) New Credit: The final factor is how often a person applies for credit. Constantly trying to open accounts or opening a bunch of new accounts simultaneously has a detrimental impact. Also, a score can be lowered if many lenders make “hard” inquiries on a report, meaning they are checking scores.

Over the last year, have you put yourself in situations that exploit your weaknesses? If you have a problem with gossiping, have you been engaging in the kinds of conversations that make it difficult to avoid it? If you struggle with being argumentative, are you provoking others to debate? If you were big into celebrating worldly holidays prior to your conversion, are you hinting around your old practices with family and friends?

Paul said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). We must fight to put away the old man.

By engaging in old habits, you open yourself up to be accused by Satan. He stands ready to put a “hit” on your spiritual credit report. To avoid this, follow Romans 12:21: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Note the places where you repeatedly battle the same problems. These are weak spots you must focus on and overcome. Yes, you will face trials and tests. When you do, however, remember that Christ told us to be happy. Why? Because He overcame the world (John 16:33).

Also take note: Checking your own credit history and credit score is known as a “soft” inquiry and does not affect your credit score. What better parallel to encourage you to self-examine on a regular basis? It only gives you the chance to improve.

Raising Your Stewardship Score

Christians must strive to be good stewards over both their physical goods as well as their spiritual goods. A steward is a house distributor, overseer or a fiscal agent. While the focus has primarily been the spiritual components, do not allow the physical lessons presented to fall by the wayside. Some brethren needlessly suffer financially due to poor fiscal habits. Use what you have read to oversee your physical house as well.

The parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16 is instructive. The steward was given much responsibility over certain riches but began to slack off over time (vs. 1). After his master called him out on his error, he did not hang his head. Instead, he scrambled to fix his situation. He knew his abilities and came up with a creative plan based on the amount of time he had left (vs. 3-4). From there, he went out and executed the plan, and was ultimately commended by the same master who previously accused him (vs. 8).

We too can fix the places we fell short over the last year. We can come to grips with our strengths and weaknesses and come up with a creative plan to do better. From there, we can go out and execute our plan within the time we have left. If successful, we can eventually be commended.

The parables of the talents and the pounds strike a similar tone (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27). They both illustrate servants being given something of value and the opportunity to increase it. Some take full advantage while others squander their chance. Allow these accounts to crystalize in your minds and drive you to action.

After reviewing the past year, if you feel that you have fallen into “bad credit” territory, do not give in to defeat. This does not mean you have to live with poor spiritual credit your entire life. Upon repentance, God frees us completely from the sins that bring the burdens of spiritual debt (I Pet. 5:7). This is vastly superior to trying to dig out of debt on your own. And, as God does His part to fix any “credit” problem you may have, you must do your part to help build and keep it up.

To raise your spiritual credit score, take a similar approach to a person trying to raise his financial one. Just as you would pay your bills on time to raise your real credit score, be sure to be a person of your word. If you commit to do something, whether to God or man, be sure to do it (Jms. 5:12).

In order to raise your actual credit score, never skip payments and reach out to the lender if you need help. Similarly, if you need help from God or the ministry, do not ignore the problem. Seek out the help you need.

Keep your credit card balance low and be sure to pay off your debts quickly to help your score recover. On the spiritual side, be sure to repent quickly when you err and ask for forgiveness. Also, be quick to forgive others.

Finally, checking your actual credit report regularly can help you stay on top of things. The same with checking your spiritual score.

Credit is not built (or rebuilt) overnight. It takes good habits and discipline to get and stay on track. It will almost certainly never be a perfect 850. Truth be told, your spiritual credit score is the same. We will never reach “850” until we become perfect as our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:48).

The steps required to raise your financial credit score all have practical application. As the Passover approaches, be sure to take the steps to be ready. Develop a plan to address all the areas listed here and many more. Listen even closer to sermons, and go the extra mile with Bible study. With both, actively ask yourself about areas in which you can improve.

Being a good steward over present physical matters is important, but our most important stewardship involves the things that affect our eternal future.

Be sure to review our article “Self-Examination: Receiving God’s Approval”. It sheds additional light on how to take a close look at your spiritual condition and is recommended reading ahead of the Passover.