I have a serious problem handling cash. Since I was a young child, I have always worked. As a result, I have had several economic problems and, on one occasion, at one of my jobs they discovered that I had taken some money. By the grace of God, I didn’t end up in jail; but because I haven’t been able to pay back that debt, my name appears on a list of people who are a bad credit risk.

Now I am doing it again at my current job. I know logically that I have to pay back what I have taken. But I sincerely don’t want to keep having this same problem. I am ashamed at the thought of my wife and children finding out. I’ve been reading books and listening to speeches about how to manage your finances, but can’t seem to get over the hump. Honestly, I don’t know what to do.

Dear Friend,

Thank you for telling us your story. You say that your problem is how to handle money, and I am sure you do have a difficult time spending your money wisely and preventing overspending. However, there is something more serious involved.

Taking money that doesn’t belong to you is not merely a problem; it is a criminal offense! You admit that you almost had to go to jail, and jail is for the punishment of illegal acts. When you think about the issue as just an inability to handle money, you are not acknowledging the dishonesty in your heart. Maybe you always think you will pay the money back, but you are stealing, nonetheless.

The first thing you should do is to ask God to forgive you for breaking the eighth of the Ten Commandments.(1) Ask Him to forgive you for your dishonesty and for whatever other sin you have in your life.

You are not alone in needing to ask for forgiveness. Every one of us has broken God’s laws, and each one of us must pray the same prayer of forgiveness for our sins. Because Jesus Christ, God’s Son, took our punishment when He died on the cross, you do not have to be punished eternally for what you have done.

However, there are natural consequences for your behavior that you do have to face. You must find a way to pay back all the money that you have stolen. You probably think that the people you have stolen from have much more money than you do, and that you can’t afford to pay them back. The reason you need to pay them back anyway is not because they need the money, but rather because you need to clear your conscience.

You will not like our advice for how to stop being a thief, but hopefully you will follow it anyway. The way to stop is to admit to your wife or a friend that you have this problem. Ask them to hold you accountable by checking with you every day about your temptation and about whether you have stolen any more money. Only by telling your secret will you be able to overcome it.

We wish you well,

1 Ex 20:15; Dt 5:19