30 December 2012

'til Debt Do Us Part

For the last month, unless you dwell under a rock, you've undoubtedly been hearing all about the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ we face as a nation and what terrible fate awaits for all mankind if our elected officials don’t come to the rescue and pass some sort of law to save us from going over the edge.  But, both sides of the political aisle have ‘dug in’ and the battle over our nation’s moneybags looks to be bloody.

But, no matter which side of this debate you’re on, we expect congress to act in a fiscally responsible way.  But, why should we expect our government to act differently than we do? We tell our elected officials we want fiscal responsibility. We tell them to balance the budget, reduce the deficit, and to use zero based budgeting.

This is like the pot calling the kettle black. Fiscal responsibility must begin at home first. As Americans, we spend on average $1.33 per $1.00 earned. Why are we in debt? Because we have allowed ourselves to accept debt as the ‘norm.’  We have become so comfortable with debt, that the government spends $1.58 for every $1.00 it takes in.

The bible talks a lot about money and Jesus talked a lot about money.   Why is debt talked about so much? Why did Jesus talk about money so much? Because debt traps you and it binds you.

In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, one in ten verses deal directly with money.  In all of scripture, over twenty-three hundred verses talk about money.  That is five times as many that talk about prayer.  That’s five times as many that talk about faith.  Managing wisely God’s resources IS a profoundly spiritual topic. Surprise!

Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”  The Hebrew word that is translated as servant is the word ebed, which very literally means a slave or bondage.  If you are in debt, you are a slave and in bondage.

The vast majority of Americans are in financial bondage.  We are slaves to our finances.  How do you know if you are in financial bondage?  If you have ever said something like this, “I would love to tithe, but I can’t.  Because I am so afraid there won’t be enough to pay the bills.”  That is bondage.  If you have ever felt like God was calling you to do something, but you don’t have the money for it:  bondage.

If you have ever had “it” break again, (I don’t know what your “it” is that always breaks) and you don’t have the money to fix it, that’s bondage.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

If we live in the most prosperous country on planet earth, and yet, we cannot live within our means, and we need more than what we earn, hoping and thinking that will make us happy, our treasure IS in this world.  If our treasure is here, our heart is here as well, and that is a problem if we call ourselves Christians.

We have been led to believe it is normal to have a student loan payment, credit card payments, car payments, or house payments.

I’m sick and tired of normal.  I am mad that the church of Jesus Christ hurts financially:  that we as believers can’t give generously, and we can’t make decisions with freedom because it’s all financially related.  I hope you get mad too because that will motivate you to do something about it.

I am sick and tired of seeing God’s people hurting, fighting, miserable, and buying more, thinking that will bring happiness. They are just cutting their throats even more with self-inflicted financial pressure.

Businesses for years have been very successfully marketing debt, and they have succeeded in convincing a generation of Americans to feel good about being in bondage.
“Got another credit card in the mail.  Praise God.”

God didn't send that credit card!

Imagine this:  No student loan payments, no payday loans, no car payment, no credit card payment at 21% kicking your butt daily, or even no house payment!

Right now you are saying to yourself this is impossible.

It’s not impossible.  If you apply a few years of discipline and hard work, financial peace is possible.  Not only is it possible, it is one of the most freeing things that you could ever imagine.

Do not aspire to be ‘normal.’  Normal is fighting, hurting, worrying, and feeling stress and panic.  Normal is a life immersed in materialism.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…” says Romans 12:2.  

How are we going to get there?

Hard stinking work, sacrifice, discipline, faithfulness, and consistency.  Well known author and radio personality Dave Ramsey calls this determined behavior ‘gazelle intensity.’  If you have ever seen a gazelle chased by a lion, what does the gazelle have?  Intensity.  The gazelle is running for his life.  You are fighting for yours.

Proverbs 6:5, “Free yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter.”

As followers of Christ, we don’t keep our hearts in this world.  We will choose to not be a servant or a slave to anyone or anything except…Jesus Christ.

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