Tag Archives: Debt

Debt and the Bible

6 Jun

Last week in “The Dangers of Debt”, I shared a bit about my first and last experience with owing money. While the gut-wrenching feeling I experienced during this time played a big role in my decision to can credit (even when it was extended to me by loving parents), it was the Bible that ultimately pointed me in the direction of debt-free living.

While the Bible doesn’t say that owing money is a sin, it does clearly indicate that the wise man does his best to avoid it. Proverbs 22:7 declares that, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” Proverbs 26:6 warns, “Do not be among those who give pledges, among those who become guarantors for debts.” And in Romans 13:7-8, the Apostle Paul admonishes believers to, “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Clearly, debt isn’t something to be entered into lightly or, if it can be avoided, at all.

Of course, keeping my promise to remain debt-free hasn’t always been easy. (Following God’s Word rarely is.) Over the years, I watched as my friends moved into nice homes, bought brand new cars, and started families of their own. While they weren’t necessarily living “high on the hog”, their lifestyles left plenty of room for new clothes, new toys, and new adventures. Meanwhile, I was living with my parents, driving a twenty-year old vehicle, and stashing every penny of my meager pay into savings in an attempt to form an emergency fund.

I won’t pretend that I wasn’t teased for my failure to “grow up” or that I wasn’t just a touch jealous that my life hadn’t “taken off” the same way that my friends’ had. I was working hard to obey God’s Word and give debt a wide berth, yet it seemed like it was my friends who were on top. At least, that was how it appeared until the recession hit.

It didn’t take long to realize that my “grown up” friends had been living beyond their means. Their “adult” lifestyle had been a façade financed by mortgages, credit cards, and government loans. I watched as they fought to keep their homes, their vehicles, and their dignity. Some of them even slipped into poverty, unable to support their own children. And for the first time, I was truly grateful for the commitment I’d made.

I’ll be the first to admit that living debt-free isn’t easy. It requires commitment – a willingness to stick to your guns when others tell you you’re foolish. It requires sacrifice – a readiness to put off the childish attitude that we want what we want when we want it. And it requires planning – a subject we’ll address in greater depth next week. Debt-free living isn’t for the weak, it’s for the strong, the diligent, and the self-controlled. And the freedom it gives is worth every ounce of effort it takes.

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The Dangers of Debt

30 May

Last week, we talked about the purpose of the tithe both in the New Testament and in the modern church, but good stewardship isn’t just about dumping a few dollars into an offering plate as a token gesture. It’s about handling the entirety of God’s gift to us well – our whole paycheck, not just 10%. If we’re to manage God’s gift to us well, we need to start by choosing not to throw bits of it needlessly away. And in few places are paychecks as quickly wasted as in the payment of debt.

My first and last encounter with this particular form of monetary carelessness came during my transition from Jr. High to High School. I had developed an avid interest in astronomy and the local Sam’s Club was carrying a beautiful Bushnell, 4.5” reflecting telescope. At nearly 3’ in length, it was a monster and I couldn’t prevent myself from drooling over it.

Up until this point, I had been making due with a pair of 10×50 binoculars. They were strong enough to show the phases of Venus, the thin rings of Saturn, and Jupiter’s moons. I could make out binary star systems easily enough or see the vague, gaseous outline of the Orion Nebula, but I longed for so much more. What I really wanted (and wanted now) were the views I got through the telescopes of my big-league astronomy club buddies. I wanted to hold the heavens in the palm of my hand and I knew that this telescope would allow me to do just that.

Seeing the magnitude of my desire, my parents offered me a deal. They would buy me the telescope. It would be both my birthday present and my Christmas present and I would be obligated to repay half of it. I quickly determined that $250 dollars was not an insurmountable debt (at least not in comparison to the treasures it would unlock) and agreed to the arrangement.

Of course, in my eagerness to possess this wondrous new toy, I hadn’t really taken the time to consider just how long it would take me to pay it off… or to create a plan for doing so. Looking back, it should have been obvious that on an income of $2-$5 a week, freedom was not going to come any time soon.

At this point, it’s important to note that this lack of planning was not due to any failure on my parents’ part. They had taken the time to teach me about money and, in reality, I should have known better than to blindly indulge the seemingly irrepressible desire to own a telescope.

Over the next few years, I spent my time struggling with a stomach-turning sickness whose onset always seemed to coincide with my use of the instrument. My payments had not been regular (there were other things I also “needed” to own) and, though my parents were not charging interest, they weren’t making any indications that their loan was about to be forgiven. Tired of dealing with the sense of captivity which accompanied my debt, I set up a plan to pay off the telescope. In a matter of months I was free and made a vow that I would never go into debt again.

While I’d like to say that I was a great innovator, my debt-free philosophy was hardly something new. In fact, the writers of the Bible had quite a bit to say about the dangers of owing money. We’ll take a look at their words of wisdom next week, but for now, feel free to share your own journey into or out of debt in the comment box below!

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