Hi, Jack: Some friends I know work for an organization that does student ministry in the U.S. (at the collegiate level) and raise support for themselves and their families. They feel called to this and raise support by funding from churches (primarily within a certain denomination and sometimes from churches they have very little personal relationship with) as well as from friends, family, etc. Included in the support amount they raise is money to pay off student loans and credit card bills acquired before they were called into this ministry. My questions is: Is it Biblical to support raise in order to pay off student loans or credit card debt?
The IRS has rules as to what is accepted at legitimate expenses to which one can apply donations. These are administered through institutions recognized by the IRS, whether they be non-profit organizations working with students or local churches.
One student organization allows staff who are studying to submit receipts for ongoing education up to $5,000 a year. They consider this studying as helpful preparation for their ministry. It would seem that paying for study in the past ("student loans") would fall into the same category, even though the individual was not specifically studying to prepare for Christian ministry. All study helps us grow as individuals and prepares us more adequately for service.
Some Christian organizations, recognizing the high debt that individuals have accrued, allow their members to factor in "debt retirement" into their salaries as part of their budget. Other organizations have different levels of salary an individual can choose. Recognizing the need to retire debt, an individual can opt for a higher level which all know and can appreciate as a prerequisite for paying off high loans. One should have the privilege of making one's own decisions with regard to the use of personal funds. I would assume that these arrangements are made after careful consultation with those who make decisions for these organizations. Although this debt may have occurred before being called into their present ministry, it is still a very real part of their lives.
It is difficult to apply the word "biblical" to this question since the IRS didn't exist at the time the Bible was written! However, it would seem to me that it would be "biblical" to make sure that all parties, including the IRS, the organization, and the donors understand where the money is coming from and how it is being used and are in agreement with this. Even though Paul didn't give a detailed description of his expenses, he recognized his debt to his donors (note Philippians 4:10-20) and I'm sure was careful in his use of these funds.