Monday, October 15, 2007

Debt: Sacrificially Speaking...

It is a simple fact that every single person (or family) lives off of a specific percentage of his or her (or their) total income. Some are able to live comfortably off 60-80% of their income, while many spend every dime--100%--just in time to get their next paycheck. Unfortunately, many Americans have begun living off more than 100% of their income. The ease of obtaining credit and the pressure to "have it now" have suckered us into buying what we want, even if we can't afford it...we can just swipe it and pay for it later (and for even more money because of outrageous interest).

Debt should be on the mind of Christians for many reasons. Notice just one as we think about living off of a certain percentage:

As Christians, we are expected to give regularly (1 Cor. 16:2) and proportionally (2 Cor. 8:3). Additionally, we should be willing to serve the Lord with our financial blessings (e.g., helping the needy, giving to reputable charities, etc.) (Mt. 25:31-46).

We must ask ourselves a tough question when we consider these financial responsibilities in light of debt (especially irresponsible debt like unpaid-off credit cards, payday loans, etc.): "Am I able to give sacrificially to the Lord if I'm living off more than 100% of my income?"

I don't think it's possible. Notice a little hypothetical math: If I make 10,000 dollars annually, and give $1,000 of it to the church (roughly $20 weekly), I technically give 10% of my income. If, over the course of the year, I put $1,000 on a high-interest credit card without paying it all off, I've just raised the ceiling of my living expenses without raising the level of income. Therefore, I've not really made any sacrifices in order to give that $20 a week to the local church. Theoretically, I could give $5,000 a year--and it would seem as though I was giving an amazing 50%--and turn to a credit card instead of adjusting my spending habits. I get almost anything I want and still give to the church. But that's not the point.

God knows we could use the percentage we give for additional things at our disposal, yet he wants us to trust him (and our elders) to use it in much better ways than we would personally. What if we read that the widow gave all she had--those two mites--but then went and borrowed two more from a Pharisee so that she could buy some more clothes or living amenities? It wouldn't be giving all she had if she kept going back for more beyond her affluence.

May we always consider our financial decisions in light of our relationship to the Lord.

"Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts." Proverbs 22:26