The sin of debt

Published 10:40 am Monday, November 26, 2018

by Nathan Decker

“A Man in Debt is so far a slave.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s a trap. My wife and I fell into it one year early on in our marriage. We wanted to spoil our children.  We bought into the commercial fever that is so infectious this time of year. We wanted to give the kids a Christmas they’d never forget. We wanted to be told we were the best parents ever as their smiling faces ripped paper and bows from boxes containing joy. And so off to the store we went, credit card in hand, to spend more on a holiday than our budget would allow.

“It’s okay, we’ll pay it off next month,” we told ourselves. But January brought its own share of troubles, so we held off until February. February meant flowers and chocolates for my wife.  I wanted to give her the best Valentine’s Day ever. I wanted to see her smile, give me a big hug, tell me she loved me. And so off to the florist I went, credit card in hand, to spend more on a holiday than our budget would allow. 

Spring brought second Christmas (aka Easter) followed by Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June. July and August were spent on vacations, and by the time September arrived our credit card company contacted us to let us know they were increasing our credit limit, since we were so close to maxing it out. New school clothes and October Halloween décor and sweets — over and over again we went off to the store, credit card in hand, to spend more on a holiday than our budget would allow. By the time Christmas rolled around again, we realized our mistake. 

Love isn’t bought. Our young children spent more time playing with the boxes than the toys they contained on Christmas morn. The flowers wilted, the candy disappeared. My mom and dad have gotten to the age where they have all they could possibly want, or as my mom puts it, “Don’t give us anything you don’t want to inherit.” My children ask for a lot of things, but they also know the difference between want and need.

More and more, our society is a debtor’s society. We spend more than we make; we owe. Debt enslaves us financially and keeps us from fully being the free people God created us to be. Our finances affect our closest relationships often causing unnecessary stress and strife. Debt is sinful. God teaches us in the Bible that the only thing we should owe one another is love and forgiveness. God’s desire is that we live within our means, save for rainy days and for dreams, and give generously from the abundance with which we are blessed. 

This Christmas, don’t go in debt trying to love people with things. Instead give them a note, a call, a hug or the gift of time. Jesus doesn’t want his birthday to be the reason we inflict financial pain on our relationships. If you have someone on your list who has everything, give to a charity in their honor instead of giving them a knickknack that will only end up collecting dust. I love to give gifts, but the more time I spend with God, the more I realize the most precious gift can’t be ordered on Amazon or get picked up at Walmart. This Christmas, love one another enough not to go into debt up to your eyeballs. Love through the little things you can do and say. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

“Love one another, owe no one anything, except love; for the one who loves another has fulfilled God’s commandments.”

– Romans 13:8

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.