Debt: It's a Spiritual Issue

for the week of March 19, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

My friend David has a simple little ditty about debt that everybody needs to commit to memory: When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall. It's straightforward, honest, and insightful about the unpleasant life situation of too many people probably all of us at one time or another.

The inability to handle money is as much a spiritual problem as one's mishandling of alcohol. It may even be more socially respectable. After all, let somebody mention "living paycheck to paycheck" or confess "being in debt up to my eyeballs" and somebody will likely laugh and say, "Let me tell you the mess I'm in. You won't believe this . . ." Is fiscal irresponsibility really so trivial?

According to the Nilson Report, Americans are using their credit cards quite freely. The average cardholder's outstanding balance is $4,400 up 123 percent in a decade which saw personal income rise a smaller 72 percent. (Since most households have more than one credit card, $4,400 may not be a fair estimate of total family debt on high-interest credit cards!) The United States government recently reported that personal savings have fallen to the lowest monthly level in our history. Meanwhile, more and more state governments are pumping money into TV ads to ask citizens to buy lotto tickets. It's bizarre, don't you think?

Maybe debt is the "respectable addiction" of this generation. Credit card companies mail out an estimated 3.3 billion credit card solicitations per year.

Get Dave Ramsey's excellent book Financial Peace, and get to work on eliminating debt, building assets, and giving to God. Otherwise, tension rooted in debt will set you against your mate. It will distract you from your children. It will disrupt your spiritual life and become a barrier between you and God.

Sell an asset or create an extra stream of income to pay off the debt you already have. You'll be amazed by just writing down every dime you spend for a few weeks and eliminating the foolish and unnecessary impulse buying that drains so many pocketbooks.

It was Paul who wrote: "Don't run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other" (Romans 13:8, The Message).

Believe it or not, abusing credit is sinful just like abusing alcohol. And it is a spiritual victory to ask and receive God's help in bringing it to an end.

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