“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” – 1 Corinthians 7:23
On a recent retreat I had the privilege of serving communion. Over and over, I looked a brother or sister in Christ in the eye and said, “This represents the body and blood of Jesus, broken and shed for you.” It reminded me that, indeed, we have been bought at a price. It also reminded me that consumer debt is not primarily a financial issue; it’s a spiritual issue.
When I had $20,000 of credit card debt, I experienced first-hand what it means to be “servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). Living under the weight of consumer debt is no way to live. But it’s especially no way for a Christian to live. It’s contrary to our design. After all, when Jesus said he came that we might have “life to the full” (John 10:10), he wasn’t referring to living at our full credit limit!
To be sure, there are circumstances beyond people’s control that sometimes contribute to their debt: a divorce, unemployment, health issues. But in every debt workshop I’ve ever led, when I ask people on surveys how they got into debt, the vast majority, no matter what they’ve been through, acknowledge that living beyond their means played a role.
Before plunging into a get-out-of-debt program, it’s essential to get at the root cause of your debt. For many people, it’s an enslaving attitude of the heart or mind that leads to the enslavement of debt. It’s thinking that we need this or that in order to be happy or worthy. It’s thinking of debt as normal, unavoidable. A friend confided that his debt came from periods of unemployment, not so much because of financial need, but because of a need in his soul. Without an income and a job title he felt like a nobody. Using credit cards to buy whatever he wanted was his futile way of trying to regain a sense of worthiness and identity.
Do you carry a balance on your credit cards? Do you make payments on a vehicle? There are specific action steps that will help accelerate the payoff of such debt, which I’ll discuss next month. But the first step is to get at the root cause of your debt. Pray for discernment and see if you can uncover any attitudes of the heart or mind that contributed to your debt. Then begin to replace them with the truth of God’s Word. Our identity and value are not items we can buy at the mall. Truth is, they’ve already been bought. But not by a slave master. By the One who came that we might have “life to the full.”