Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Slave Nation

Slavery was outlawed in this country a very long time ago. You all know the story. But a different kind of slavery exists today. A self-imposed slavery that few of us seem willing to free ourselves from.

The Bible speaks a lot about money. Most of it isn't terribly flattering. The one I'm most drawn to is where Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters...You cannot serve both God and money." That, and when Paul says, "Let no debt remain outstanding except the continue debt to love one another."

There was a time period in my life after a Promise Keepers conference where I vowed to get rid of all my debt. And, after about two-plus years, my wife and I managed to pull it off. At least, to a degree. We had no credit card debt, and only lived (for a while) on what we took in. But we still had car payments and a house payment. I'd convinced myself, however, that those weren't really "debt", since we had, essentially, collateral.

That attitude, however, I now see as flawed. Debt is debt. And debt makes me a slave to money, no matter how much I think it doesn't. The recent recession in this country is proof of this. People are foreclosing on homes left and right, home values have dropped to levels far below what people owe. So much for "secured debt".

And these same people (myself included) are slaves to money as a result. We are forced to live where we live, fearful of losing our jobs and our homes as a result, rather than trusting in the Lord.

At one time, I figured that if we had the faith of a mustard seed, the Lord would protect us from such calamities as foreclosure. But now I realize that if I had the faith of a mustard seed and trusted in God's plan, I wouldn't have had to hope God would keep me from financial ruin. The truth is, I'm living with debt now because of my own faithlessness, my own sinfulness.

God has blessed our family, to be sure. But I can't get past the fact that as I'm struggling to pay off the debt I've managed to rack back up again in the past several years, this money could have been put to much better use. Often, I imagine what my life would be like if I could say, "Hey, family, let's go out to dinner tonight," and be able to pay cash without worrying if I'll have enough at the end of the money without relying on credit cards.

I'm getting there. My wife and I are working towards being "debt-free" once again. In less than a year, we should be there. But then we want to go further. We want to stop being a slave to money. Buy cars with cash, rather than financing them, for example. Or, the ultimate goal, to have a home that belongs to us no matter whether I lose my job or not...a home that is paid off.

I wish I had lived this way from the start, never falling prey to the seduction of having more than I can afford. Consider the typical 30-year mortgage. Even if I never faced losing my job, and was able to keep up on my house payments, in the end, I'll be paying almost two times more for the home than what it cost. Consider it. For a $200,000 home, I could pay an extra $260,000 in interest. That's $260,000 that might go to work building God's kingdom, helping the poor and hungry, of taking better care of my family such as being able to replace those couches we have in our home right now that we can feel the boards through.

My short-term goal is to eliminate all "unsecured" debt within the next 12 months. Beyond that, I'd like to be free of all on-going car payments within two years, and ten years from now, have a home that is completely paid for. Because then, we'll no longer be slaves to money.

Perhaps you'll consider joining my journey.

I'll write more on this subject later...