In the UK, more than 3 million people have debt they may never clear and for 5 million the debts will take more than a decade to repay. In Holland, one in six households have problematic debt. Debt is a burden, a worry and fuel for
depression. It can cause serious breakdowns in relationships. It is not just single mothers with no support, the unemployed or those struggling in low paid jobs. The statistics show the problem occurs over a wide range of income levels.
I remember lying in bed as a 15-year-old listening to my parents arguing in the room next door about bills they couldn’t pay. My dad was unemployed and bought stuff on credit from a mail order firm for the family out of a good heart. Having witnessed what debt can do in a family I vowed never to borrow any money; and I never did, with the exception of a mortgage (which is now paid off).
We can so easily get sucked into a vortex of buying, often with just a few clicks. Advertising is subtly tempting us to, as Will Smith puts it, “to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like!” Spending can become a rush of power and pleasure, mounting in some cases to addiction. Psychologists say that consumer debt is as much about mood as actual need. Credit cards can open a door to easy buying, but this may be an open door to trouble.
The Bible warns about debt, telling us that borrowing can remove our freedom to use our money as we want because creditors have first call on our money. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)
So, how can we remain free? First of all, don’t buy stuff you can’t afford! Better to save and pay cash, or if you use credit cards, make sure to pay the balance each month! The Bible does not prohibit borrowing but it warns of the dangers when not being able to pay back fully and on time.
An important question to ask is, ‘does it make economic sense?’ For instance, borrowing for education in order to get a (better-) job, or for a car which you need for your work or for some investment in your business makes sense. Borrowing for consumer goods never makes economic sense because the value depreciates quickly.
Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, “but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) I really believe we should all strive to become debt free. Your mood will improve significantly!
Start listing your debts, try to find a little extra money to spend on repayment and make a plan using the snowball calculator here.