What is Debt? Should I pay it off?

We knew better. Well, we should have known better. The problem wasn’t that we had never considered that credit cards and debt might be a little risky. We had heard rumblings and rumors of the “evils of debt.” My great-grandfather, who we called Papaw, sat me down once at the age of ten and looked me square in the eyes and said, “Clint, never buy something you can’t afford. Don’t put anything on credit. Save up and buy it when you have the money.” Like most people, somewhere deep inside, we knew better.  But, there we sat at our kitchen table surveying the bleak financial landscape of our lives. We were only in our twenties, yet we had accumulated in excess of $50,000 in debt…student loans, car payments and credit cards. We were in a deep hole and had no idea how we could ever climb out. You talk about stress in a young marriage. We looked up to realize that we were drowning and we had barely even started our life together.

It’s been said that before you can break out of prison, you must first realize you're locked up. You can’t be saved unless you realize you’re in trouble. The 12-steppers realize this and assert that the first step to getting help is admitting that you have a problem. We had a problem! It’s the same problem many of you have. The lending industry, the media, and practically our entire indoctrinated society have sold us on the idea of using debt since we were children. “Buy Now and Pay Later” was the common practice in my home growing up and seemed completely normal. Besides, everyone in those credit card commercials looked so happy.   The reality, however, never looks quite like the commercials.  

If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing (Anatole France). Your mom probably said it this way: If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? Forest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  It’s time to wake up and recognize that the mere fact that everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly stupid. Take a look around. The sheer amount of debt in our nation is staggering. Government debt, business debt, and personal debt are at all time highs. The average American household is spending $1.10 for every $1 of income. And the result of this madness? More than 1 million Americans will file for bankruptcy this year, and 56% of this year’s divorces will be the result of financial stress.

Do you think we have a problem here? It just might be time to WAKE-UP and stop believing the Gospel According to Madison Avenue. Buy Now…Pay Later…I can get anything I want with easy monthly payments. Unfortunately, the advertisements never tell the full story about what debt really looks like. 

What is Debt?

Modern man drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway on credit-card gas.
                                                                                                                                                        ~Earl Wilson

The dictionary defines debt as “something that is owed or that one is bound to pay to or perform for another.” Credit card balances, student loans, auto loans, business loans, and past-due medical bills are all examples of debt. And, look at that definition again. Did that say “bound”…as in bondage, captivity, enslavement? Debt is essentially an agreement you make to give up your freedom. In fact, Proverbs 22:7 says, “the borrower is servant to the lender.” This is because a portion of your time and money are now devoted to repaying the debt you promised to pay. I am reminded of the old song, Sixteen Tons, and the line that says, “I owe my soul to the company store.” The idea was that these old mining companies would virtually own the small, secluded mining town, including the town’s general store. These caring and benevolent companies would allow their workers to purchase their overpriced items on credit. You see, they knew that if they could keep their labor force indebted to them the workers would have no choice but to continue to work for the company to pay off their debts.

The borrower is servant to the lender –and the deeper in debt we are, the more like servants we become. We give up the freedom to decide where and how to spend our money because it is already spoken for. Most people are never able to realize their full financial potential because they are shackled by payments, interest rates, creditors and “keeping up with the Jones’s.”  In fact, in many cases we are forced to continue working at jobs we hate to pay for the stuff we didn’t really even want. We are citizens of the wealthiest country in the history of the world. And yet, we spin our wheels year after year hoping that some day we will be able to get ahead.


Open Your Eyes

If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life.   ~Billy Graham

One of the biggest barriers to getting ahead with money is in the way we view debt. Most of us have bought the lie so wholeheartedly that we can’t even imagine a life without payments. But take a moment, close your eyes, and imagine with me. Envision your life with no debt. What would life feel like if you had no payments and no more money arguments with your spouse. Imagine never again being stressed about past-due bills, harassing creditors, or the possibility of a repossession or foreclosure. Picture yourself having no worries about your children’s financial futures. Envision having money in the bank set aside for emergencies, and knowing that you will be able to retire in style. Imagine the impact that being financially free will have on your family for generations to come.

Are you starting to understand that debt carries a price much higher than the low monthly payment you were promised? You need to recognize that this is not a mathematical problem. The idea of “spending less than you earn” is a concept that that is usually understood by third grade. If the problem could be fixed with head-knowledge and mathematical understanding, no one would be in debt because everyone would realize how ridiculous it is. However, taking control of your income and expenses requires you to take a deeper look inside what you believe.

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. To get a different result, we must learn to look at things a little differently.

Let us know if we can help!


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