The Spiritual Danger of Chasing the Debt-Free Idol

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Lee's picture

A chainsaw is an immensely capable, effective, and efficient tool when the need is for trees to be cut down, storm damage removed, firewood acquired, or any number of other uses.  In the hands of a skilled person and used properly and with great care it is absolutely irreplaceable--nothing else will do.  Misused or brandished carelessly it will maim or kill. 

 

Debt is equally a tool--possibly of immeasurable benefit; potentially of unrivaled harm. 

 

Balance.  We need to learn balance. 

Lee

Darren Mc's picture

This is just my personal experience, but I was involved in a church a few years ago that caught "debt-free fever." Soon people were judging one another by how big their savings account was or the fact that they could buy a used (always used) car with cash was a sign of spirituality. I wish I was debt free, and we are working to that end, but one can be living their life completely within the will of God and be bankrupt because of hardships God brings them through. I appreciate the tone of the article. Some people and churches go overboard on the topic of debt. 

No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel will prevail against the LORD. Proverbs 21:30

Jim's picture

"Soon people were judging one another by how big their savings account was"

 

Details best avoided in conversation:

  • How much one earns 
  • How much one's home cost (although anymore this is fairly easy to find out!)
  • How much one has saved for retirement
  • How much one is in debt

Even with our own adult children: They do not know my salary or how much we have in savings or retirement. 

 

James K's picture

A rival "christian" money group to Dave Ramsey warns against the idols of pursuing debt-free life.  Sigh.  Moving right along...

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Lee wrote:

A chainsaw is an immensely capable, effective, and efficient tool when the need is for trees to be cut down, storm damage removed, firewood acquired, or any number of other uses.  In the hands of a skilled person and used properly and with great care it is absolutely irreplaceable--nothing else will do.  Misused or brandished carelessly it will maim or kill. 

 

Debt is equally a tool--possibly of immeasurable benefit; potentially of unrivaled harm. 

 

Balance.  We need to learn balance. 

Debt is a tool?  What absolute nonsense.  The borrower is slave to the lender.  God intends for you to use that?  Sigh.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

christian cerna's picture

Perhaps they are right. Americans as a people are generally materialistic, wasteful, and consume more than they really need. I often see people make expensive purchases for no good reason, other than, they were bored and wanted to try something new. 

 

How many problems and worries we could avoid, just be being more thrifty, and learning the difference between a 'want' and a 'need'. 

Lee's picture

James K wrote:

Debt is a tool?  What absolute nonsense.  The borrower is slave to the lender.  God intends for you to use that?  Sigh.

Of course it is a tool.  There are lots of tools that, at their core, are evil and dangerous, but necessary.  In the big picture war springs to mind as an illustration.  Not a redeeming quality about it, and the sooner the world is without it, and, if at all possible, personal and family avoidance of it, the better.  But hard to argue either Scripturally or experientially that it is not a useful tool. There are any number of things that fit into the category. 

 

Unless you buy your house for cash (ultra small percentage of the population) you utilize debt as a tool.  The list could go on and on.

 

Debt is not the enemy.  The world, the flesh, and the devil are the enemy. 

Lee

James K's picture

War has no redeeming quality? Seriously? Maybe the Joshua campaign into Israel or David against Goliath were actually pointless in your mind, not really sure.  Maybe you were joking.

The reason more people don't pay cash for their homes is because they do not think they need to save up to pay cash.  They borrow money for everything and wonder why they don't have money to buy anything.

People give less to actual ministry needs because of debt.

Debt might not be the enemy on the same scale as satan, but it is still very much an enemy.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Rob Fall's picture

Try buying a +300K home with cash from savings.  Unless you save for thirty years (the same as a standard US mortgage), you're going to stay a renter. 

James K wrote:

War has no redeeming quality? Seriously? Maybe the Joshua campaign into Israel or David against Goliath were actually pointless in your mind, not really sure.  Maybe you were joking.

The reason more people don't pay cash for their homes is because they do not think they need to save up to pay cash.  They borrow money for everything and wonder why they don't have money to buy anything.

People give less to actual ministry needs because of debt.

Debt might not be the enemy on the same scale as satan, but it is still very much an enemy.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Jim's picture

Examples of good debt:

  • Transmission goes out on the car. Going to cost $ 1500 to replace. Car needed for work. No cash. Put it on the credit card
  • Intent to live in an area for more than 5 years. Issue is rent vs. own. Cost of owning (including mortgage interest) is less than the cost of renting.
  • Medical school

Examples of bad debt:

  • Funding an education for degrees that don't pay well: Eg Sociology, women's studies, theology, philosophy, music
  • Clothing on credit
  • Borrowing to invest (buying on margin)

To aspire to be debt-free is in my mind a good thing:

 

 

Ken Woodard's picture

How can a person teach that debt is bad when the parable of the talents says that the person that hid his should have at least lent it out for interest? Virtually every person in "retirement" lives off of money that has been lent out as an "investment". How can it be wrong to borrow but ok to lend?

 

I find it unwise to be totally against "borrowing". Unless you inherit a nest egg you will either have to rent or get a mortgage to buy a home. You have to live some where. Buying, even with a mortgage is cheaper monthly and builds equity. Renting provides no return.

 

On the other hand, buying other things on credit is the expensive way to live. The interest adds to the price of an item. That is unless there is something on sale today that is a bona fide need that is cheaper than the price plus finance charges.

 

But since the Mayans say it is over tomorrow hurry out and buy that Jaguar you always wanted.

Jim's picture

Ken Woodard wrote:
Virtually every person in "retirement" lives off of money that has been lent out as an "investment". 

 

Just a point of clarification from a guy with a degree in finance: An investment is not equal to a loan.

 

So let's say there's a retiree who has 10,000 shares of The Coca-Cola Company (KO) (about $ 370,000 at market close today). That investor is a part-owner (a miniscule-owner because KO has 4.48 billion shares outstanding). KO is not obligated to pay that owner anything. Indeed some companies pay no dividends at all (many examples but Google Inc. (GOOG) is an example of a company that pays no dividends. Coke has decided to pay owners a dividend of $ 1.02 per share. Before that dividend is paid, all expenses, taxes, loan payments, salaries, etc are paid. So the owner is really last in line to be paid. 

The retiree with the 10,000 shares received $ 10,200 in investment income in 2012. Of course he will have to pay taxes on that! 

For a smaller example, consider my Mother who had several hundred shares of GM stock before the bankruptcy and bailout of GM. As a stockholder she lost all of the value of her stock. Likewise when American Airlines filed for bankruptcy the value of their stock went to zero. I personally have lost all of the value of a stock when a company filed for bankruptcy

christian cerna's picture

A debt is never a good thing. 

A person gets into debt, because he doesn't have the money required to purchase something.

As long as he is in debt to someone, he is not free.

As Jim pointed out, there is a difference between a debt and an investment.

DrJamesAch's picture

Jim wrote:

"Soon people were judging one another by how big their savings account was"

 

Details best avoided in conversation:

  • How much one earns 
  • How much one's home cost (although anymore this is fairly easy to find out!)
  • How much one has saved for retirement
  • How much one is in debt

Even with our own adult children: They do not know my salary or how much we have in savings or retirement. 

 

I would add to that list:

* Do not let them know that you have a life insurance policy! LOL

Dr James Ach

What Kills You Makes You Stronger Rom 8:13; 7:24-25

Do Right Christians, and Calvinisms Other Side