Debt is an enemy of a purposeful life. It robs us of our margin, holds us back from our passion and threatens our loyalty to God. In fact, debt may well pose the greatest threat to being able to invest with purpose and give generously to God’s Kingdom. Even the United States of America, a great superpower, risks its national security due to uncontrolled debt. In fact, to start out the month of May, the Treasury Department announced it would borrow another $3 trillion this quarter alone to subsidize “economic rescue efforts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” reports CNBC.
The Bible is full of warnings about spending too much. For example, Proverbs 22:7 informs us, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” And in Romans, Paul admonishes, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except for the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).
Living Beyond Our Means
If we find we need to borrow, we should have a plan to pay it back sooner than the period of the loan. Otherwise, we wind up paying far more than the original cost. The most striking example is the National Debt of the United States. The USDebtClock.org, which tracks America’s rising debt at dizzying speed, was introduced on February 20, 1989, by New York real estate mogul Seymour Durst. The clock began by reporting a national debt of “only” $2.7 trillion. By 1991, it was increasing at $13,000 per second. In fact, it “began accumulating so fast that the last seven digits became totally illegible,” Time magazine reported. The clock actually broke in 1998 because it couldn’t handle the total of $5.5 trillion. In 2008, a digit was added because the debt had grown to $10 trillion. Over the next eight years, the nation’s debt rose to more than $20 trillion, and today it is nearly $25 trillion.
“Trillion” has become a meaningless word to most people. It’s an astronomically high figure — with 12 zeros. Bear in mind, a billion is one thousand million. If you had a machine printing dollar bills, and it printed a dollar every second, 60 seconds a minute, 60 minutes an hour, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, do you know how long it would take that machine to print $1 trillion? Cranking nonstop, it would take more than 31,709 years.
Why is this important? Because the government is living beyond its means, and we’re all paying interest on the debt, which compounds, creating more debt. The obligation for each individual taxpayer, as of early May, 2020, now exceeds $201,000, and the total unfunded liability per citizen is more than $447,000. Who will pay for all of this? Our children and grandchildren. The Bible is specific, piling up debt is a dereliction of duty: “For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children” (2 Corinthians 12:14). Paul says parents should provide for their children and not weigh them down with debt.
The Lure of Credit Cards
Personal credit card debt is out of control for millions of people. The average American had a credit card balance of $5,331 in March 2019, according to TheStreet.com. Total average household debt neared $50,000 in 2018, according to the Federal Reserve, not including a home mortgage. Americans with education debt “owe between $20,000 and $25,000 on average,” CNBC reports.
God’s Economy vs. the World’s
Problems with debt begin in the human heart. Scripture informs us, “’Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed,’ Jesus told a crowd. ‘Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’” (Luke 12:15).
In his study, “Stewardship: God’s Plan for Financial Success, Family Edition,” author Randy Alcorn notes wanting ever more material goods contrasts with a forward-looking, eternal outlook in which trusting God and giving back to Him is more important. In God’s economy, giving is the coin of the realm — not getting. Debt keeps us from giving our best to our Creator, Who, after all, owns everything.
Many Bad Outcomes
There are many consequences of a debt-laden lifestyle.
- causes worry and stress
- causes denial of reality
- leads to dishonesty
- is addictive
- is presumptuous
- deprives God of the chance to say no or to provide through a better means
- is a significant loss of opportunity
- ties up resources, making them unavailable for the Kingdom of God
Instead of striving for more worldly acquisitions, we should follow the advice of Jesus, Who said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
It comes down to trusting God’s provision rather than the empty material promises of the world. When we are able, we need to save money and invest wisely — but not in ventures promoting immorality. Everything we do should advance God’s Kingdom.
Art Ally is founder of Timothy Plan and biblically responsible investing.