Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Before Dave Ramsey…

By Allen White 

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

Years ago, I sat in a budgeting seminar at a summer camp in western Kansas. The speaker gave simple, yet profound advice. “Spend only what you have. Get out of debt and stay out of debt.” It seemed there should really be more to it than that.

I was in college at the time and didn’t have any debt. No credit card. No student loans. I didn’t owe any money to anybody. I really didn’t worry about debt. I actually didn’t have any money to worry about at the time.

In the 25 years since then, I’ve unfortunately been enslaved to debt for the vast majority of those years. No one forced me into it. I was a victim of my own choices, which actually makes me the perpetrator.

Our family is in the process of digging out and is making great progress. Much like weight loss, debt doesn’t all come on at once, and it certainly doesn’t all come off at once either. It’s steady plodding.

The image of being someone’s master or slave seems far removed from where we live, but it certainly exists in this world. Through my involvement with Water of Life, this has become very clear.

In our work in India, Roland Bergeron, our founder, discovered quarries mined by child slaves. The scenario went something like this.

The mine owners would loan a couple more money than he knew they could ever afford to repay (usually in the realm of US$2,000-3,000). After time passed and payment wasn’t made, the mine owner would show up and demand one of the family’s children to satisfy the debt. The child became the slave of the lender.

While slavery is outlawed in the United States, the vast majority are enslaved to debt. (According to the International Justice Mission, slavery exists right here in the United States. In fact, your tomatoes might have been picked by slaves in the U.S.). If we don’t pay our Visa bill, no one is going to submit us to forced labor. But, they can send us to collection or bankruptcy.

Consumer debt really makes no sense. We pay for something many times over in a period of years, when we could have just saved up and bought it when we had the money. Or, we could have just waited for the impulse to pass and just done without it.

Most of us can’t afford to pay cash for a house. We’re probably not going to present an all cash offer on “Selling New York” any time soon – though I would work with Michelle Kleier, if that ever was the case. Enough financial dreaming.

The Bible has more to say about money than love, faith or most other subjects. How we handle our money is a key spiritual indicator in our lives. We can use money and serve God, or we can serve money and become enslaved to it.

Now that I’m not a pastor at a church, I can say exactly what I feel about money. It’s a cruel task master. God loves us. Money demands more. God is generous. Money is stingy. We would all do better giving our money to build God’s Kingdom and help the poor rather than sending it all to South Dakota or Wilmington, Delaware.

How are you handling money? Are you using it or is it using you?

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