In his book Money, Possessions, and Eternity, Randy Alcorn talks about the “debt mentality”. He says the problem with the use of debt as it is done so pervasively in our current society is that it is really based on 6 key assumptions:
- We need more than God has given us.
- God doesn’t know best what our needs are.
- God has failed to provide for our needs, forcing us to take matters into our own hands.
- If God doesn’t come through the way we think he should, we can find another way. Abraham tried this approach, which proved dishonoring to God (Genesis 16:2).
- Just because today’s income is sufficient to make our debt payments, tomorrow’s will be too.
- Our circumstances won’t change—our health will be good, we’ll keep our present job, our salary will keep up with inflation, and God won’t direct us to another job with a lower salary or lead us to increase our giving.”
The debt trap
Sometimes people find themselves in debt because of illness or other issues beyond their control, but these are the exception. Most often we are in debt because of the choices we made.
I want it now
I decide I want what I want and I don’t want to wait, so I’ll just pull out the plastic and buy it. Often times it’s what we saw our parents do. It’s certainly what we see our friends do.
I neeeeeeed it!
We can easily forget the difference between needs and wants. I need reliable transportation to get to work. So I buy a $40,000 SUV with 4 wheel drive. (Have to stay safe in the winter, you know.) But do I really need a $40,000 car or did I want it? Truth is I could have gotten a very reliable used vehicle for a quarter of that cost that would have met my need.
I deserve it
I work hard for my money so I deserve to have some nice things! Really? Do you also deserve the bondage that comes from being in debt up to your ears for the rest of your life? I want you to have some nice things. I believe God wants His children to enjoy some of what they earn. I don’t want those things to have you, which is what happens all to often.
Forgetting who is in charge
As Alcorn’s assumptions point out, one of the problems with debt is that we get mixed up with who is in charge.
We get ourselves in a mess, then we ask God for help. But the reason we are in that mess is because we kind of did what we wanted and now it’s God’s job to make it work. But we never considered if God wanted us to make those purchases or if the timing was right.
Perhaps God intended to bless us with what we wanted in some other way but we were too impatient to wait and we missed out on the blessing.
We also can’t see the future. We don’t know what’s coming 6 months from now. A year from now. Or even tomorrow for that matter.
The problem is by using debt to get what we wanted, we have essentially taken control and made God our servant. I’ll make the decisions and God is little more than our Get Out Of Jail Free card if things don’t go as we had planned.
Allow for grace
While many times we do ask God to bail us out from our poor decisions, I also believe we do need to allow ourselves some grace. When we were trying to get out of debt several years ago there was a part of me that struggled with praying for God’s help. I knew that I had violated most of these assumptions in getting myself in a mess and there was the ugly little legalistic voice in my head that said, “you made your mess; don’t expect God to fix it for you now”.
If you are in a mess and are wanting to make a change, don’t listen to that voice. Think of it this way. If your child made some mistakes, but now seemed legitimately sorry and was trying to make amends would you turn your back on him? If we would welcome our child back with open arms, how much more our Heavenly Father? I believe God is delighted when one of His children decides to begin making wiser decisions.
Check your motives
If you think debt is OK, I challenge you to consider these 6 assumptions. Is your debt bringing honor to God? Or are you being presumptuous and taking the place of God in making the decisions that led you down that path.
If you have made decisions with money that you regret, welcome to the human race. We all have done dumb things from time to time. The next time though you decide you really need something and you plan to use debt to acquire it, remember these 6 assumptions and consider your real motives before you swipe that card.