Monday, June 28, 2010

Biblical Wisdom: Debt-Free Living

Some things are so deeply ingrained in my worldview, that I scarce can read about the way others handle things without a deep sense of puzzlement. That which seems to be common sense is so consistently and assiduously avoided by many of my contemporaries that sometimes I genuinely wonder whether people even rationally ponder the decisions they make. Today, as I was reading Talleyrand's post on Fairy Gold, I was struck with exactly such a feeling. Talleyrand discusses that which offers illusory temporary wealth at the expense of long-term happiness and financial well-being, and his post hits the nail right on the head. He writes:

Higher education is a form of fairy gold. When student loans started becoming the rage decades ago, the idea was to make higher education “accessible to everyone."

Another example of fairy gold is our governments deficit spending and the deficit spending of the American public, with credit cards and home loans and car loans, all making them feel wealthy on the belief that more money would always come.
While I am always subconsciously aware of the fact that numerous Americans do have large student loans and readily spend beyond their means, whenever I stop to actually think about the implications of such choices, it truly baffles me. Why would any intelligent person take on any personal debt, outside of a mortgage or a business venture? Yet, I know countless people who are overwhelmingly laden with debt. Student loan, in particular, seem to be a ridiculously unwise and burdensome choice, given that one is exchanging a significant part of one's future for an increasingly valueless piece of paper.

However, in thinking about it further, I realize that it is truly a blessing that I have such a strong aversion to debt. Quite obviously, not everyone has been blessed with a similar outlook. My father is to credit for my views on the subject. When I was growing up, in our daily Bible Time, we often would read through the book of Proverbs. As we would read through the chapter of the day, my father would often highlight certain verses and offer his own commentary or stories relating to them. One of the topics that he discussed frequently during our times in Proverbs was the topic of debt. There are plenty of verses on finances in the Bible, and a good number of them are in Proverbs.
Proverbs 22:7 - The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Proverbs 22:26-27 - Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; if you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you?

Proverbs 28:22 - A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.

Proverbs 23:5 - Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.
My father had many stories to tell regarding how people handled their finances and how things did or did not work out for them. His stance on debt was not merely a theoretical one, or one that was merely adopted because of a few verses. Instead, he had extensive practical experience, and had conscientiously avoided debt throughtout his life. His teaching on financial matters, which he based on Biblical principles, has been very influential in my life by helping me to ponder how to manage my own finances as an adult.

Today, many people have large quantities of fairy gold. The wealth they think they have is merely illusory. For those who don't have a healthy opposition to debt, what they have had to exchange for that fairy gold is often more costly than they realize. Talleyrand describes the process and its end result:

Now here’s where to people have made a bargain they really haven’t realized they have made.

When they signed up for student loans, they were giving up their children. That was what they were really selling.
And, on a national scale, regarding people living beyond their means:

What was sold for all that debt? America will no longer be a superpower, the standard of living for people in this country is going to drop 30-50%.
Now that the time to pay the piper has come, many people will find that their fairy gold isn't as golden as it seemed. All this could be avoided by exercising a little Biblical wisdom, avoiding debt, working hard, and not pursuing the various get-rich schemes of today. Yet, we are a nation that has forsaken God, forsaken the clear teachings of the Bible, and forsaken wisdom. The only ones we harm by rejecting truth and wisdom are ourselves. God is not mocked. Though it initially puzzles me why people behave the way they do, it ultimately makes sense. My father wisely follows and teaches the Biblical principles pertaining to finances. In a nation of folly, a little wisdom goes a long way. I am greatly blessed to have received wise Biblical instruction in this area of life.


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