I’ve been discussing how our family vision guides the decisions we make for our lives. You can read those posts here. A few years ago our family was in a mess financially. While Kerry and I have always paid our bills on time, our move here to Pueblo had us living outside of our means for a bit. Once we started using credit cards to pay for our groceries we knew we were up a creek without a paddle. We took out a debt consolidation loan (big mistake) and were in over our heads. We had seen some friends of ours posting on Facebook (of all places) about going through Dave Ramey’s Financial Peace University. We took the course online and it changed our lives. You can view Dave’s website here.
As we studied and prayed about the principles we were being taught in the class we began to feel that living debt free was a biblical mandate for our family. The Bible says “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” Proverbs 22:7. The first time Dave quoted this Proverb we looked at each other and said “duh!” It makes total sense that if we’re working to pay bills and lines of credit that we owe to someone else, we’re not really working for ourselves so we can serve Christ, we are slaves to the bank!
We’ve come a long way in paying off some (not all) of our debt. We have several more years to go to climb out of the hole we got ourselves into. We have paid off all of our cars and our credit cards. The only debt we have left is our student loans and the home we still own in Goessel. We didn’t set out to become debt free so that we could become wealthy, we set out to become debt free so that we could truly be free from being slaves to the lenders we borrowed from and so we could serve God.
Matthew 6:20-24 says 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
As a follower of Christ we shouldn’t put anyone or anything above Him. We should be seeking to serve Him, not the debt collectors and companies who hold the loans we take out to buy stuff we don’t need. Think of what we could do as a church if those who were in it were debt free. What kind of income would that free up to give to those in need and to serve others in the name of Christ? Or think about the time we wouldn’t have to work and we would have free to serve.
There are really about 2 main reasons that people go into debt. The first is often the most common, but the one that is least likely to be admitted (especially by those in the church), and that’s greed and discontentment. We are willing to go into debt because we WANT (not need) something. We WANT a new car, we WANT a bigger house, we WANT new furniture, we WANT to keep up with the people in the pew behind us. It’s hard to admit that we’re filled with greed and that we desire things of this world. We have a hard time telling that little 2 year old inside us screaming “Gimme Gimme Gimme!”….No instead of giving in to the WANT. I hate to admit it, but I’ve been guilty of being that 2 year old throwing a temper tantrum because we couldn’t afford the things that I WANTed rather than what I needed. When we were first married I was much more contentious about the things I WANTED. I would take every chance I could to bring up the thing I WANTED to my husband. I would use it as a tool to remind him that we didn’t have as much money as I wanted us to. I would pout about it, I would complain to others about it and I would remind him all.the.time. I wasn’t being content, I was behaving like a 2 year old crying for a toy in the store. Through God’s grace I have “grown up” and out of that stage and things are much more peaceful at home.
I Timothy 6:8 says “If we have food and covering, with these things we shall be content.” It sounds extreme in this world we live in, but are we willing to be content with the food and shelter we have and nothing else? If we’re so worried about getting more stuff it’s almost impossible for us to ever be satisfied with what we have. We’re so worried about working harder to get more more more that we’re willing to become slaves to get it. In a lot of ways, your checkbook says a great deal about what is important to you.
We are reminded again in Matthew 6: 25-34
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
The second reason that people go into debt is because they’re poor stewards of what God has given them. They fail to make a plan for their money. Instead, they either don’t have a budget or don’t stick to it. Dave Ramsey says “If you don’t tell your money where to go, you’ll wonder where it went.” God blesses us with whatever income and possessions we have. It is our responsibility to be good stewards of those things. We are to spend responsibly, invest responsibly and when necessary exercise self-control when we are presented with a WANT instead of a need.
Wives, I would caution you here to think seriously about presenting your husband with your “needs” and wants. Sometimes we can make do with what we have and save our family a few dollars here and there. Or be wise with where and how you shop. I know a family where the wife never pays attention to sales, prices of food or does comparison shopping. She just buys what she wants (often using the credit card to pay). Her family is not wealthy. Her husband works hard and they are in a large amount of debt. Imagine the stress she could take off her husband’s shoulders if she would work harder to shop wisely when she buys food. Do you really need a new washing machine or bookshelf when you could make do with what you have? I would love to have a new stand mixer with a bigger bowl. But does it work? Yep. Can I use it to mix stuff just like a new one? Yep. Do I harp on my husband about it? Nope. In fact, until he reads this blog I don’t think he’ll even know it’s something I’d *LIKE* to have. There are so many other places we can spend our money wisely than buying a new mixer or whatever it is that I might be *wanting*. Sometimes we have to be willing to be content with what we have so that we can be better stewards of the blessings God has given us.
It is important for our family to be debt free so that we can be free to serve Christ in whatever capacity He calls us. When we decided for me to quit my job and Kerry to look for full time employment we were and are bound by the debt we still owe. We are thankful for the employment Kerry now has and we know that God will provide for us. BUT…. but the stress of finding a job (or two or three) that would support our family would have been so much less if only we had been good stewards and made wise decisions from the start. We would love someday to have enough money to buy a home in the country and raise our family, but is that our priority and our main reason for working diligently to become debt free? No. Our goal is to be FREE from slavery so that we can be FREE to serve Christ.