It’s Christmas season and a new year is about to begin. This is certainly a good time to talk about finances.
A friend of mine one time said, “You know these are tough economic times. My hair line is in recession. My stomach is in inflation. My mind is in depression.” Now that may be funny but let us talk about finances at this time.
PBS network had a special called “Afluenza.” Notice these interesting facts. In that show they revealed that the average American shops six hours a week and spends forty minutes a week with their children. The average American, by age 20, has seen over one million commercials. More Americans claimed bankruptcy than graduated from college last year. In ninety percent of divorce cases, money problems and arguments about it played a role in that divorce. So what we are talking about now is very relevant and very biblical.
Did you know that majority of the population is addicted to spending?
Here are some facts from Business Week:
Total household debt in the US is more than 100% of our disposable annual income last year. It is unfathomable to know that the total consumer debt is at 1.7 trillion dollars. You can visualize a trillion dollars as a stack of $1000 bills placed one on top of the other, flat side on top of flat side, reaching 67 miles high!
What about the use of credit cards? The personal credit card debt carried by the average American is $8,562 and the total interest paid in 2001 was $50 billion…. an average of $1000 in interest per consumer.
I also can’t believe it when I found out that the average consumer carries 8 cards and 20% of cards are maxed out. There were 1.3 million credit card holders declaring bankruptcy last year. Bankruptcies have exceeded 1 million per year every year for at least 7 years now.
It is also sad to know that (IRS report) 85% of those reaching age 65 do not have $200 in the bank.
Something is obviously going seriously wrong. More and more people are spending more than they make each month. And it’s a dangerous trend – for each person as well as for the country. These facts may be from the USA but I am sure, the problem exists also in other parts of the world.
Maybe this is you. IF so I want you to know it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way out of debt – and the patterns of behavior that cause it.
Here is what I believe. Debt is not the root problem. Debt is a symptom. Materialism is the root problem (1 Tim. 6:9-10, Luke 12:15).
What is materialism? Materialism is that attitude that seeks happiness through the accumulation of material things.
When our kids were still young back in the Philippines, I took them to a garbage dump. I pointed to them where all the toys, appliances, furniture and all kinds of STUFF end up. I wanted them to see that what people think can make them happy end up becoming trash. There is temporariness in material wealth.
Commercials constantly broadcast, “Buy this and you will be happy. Get rich and your problems will disappear.” It is a lie. Materialism will never fill the empty space inside of us. What does the Bible have to say about materialism?
1Tim. 6:9-10 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Did you catch that? The love of money causes people to wander from the truth and actually pierce or stab themselves with all kinds of grief.
Our savior Jesus has this to say:
“Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot” Luke 12:15 (The Message)
Materialism contradicts this verse. Jesus says our lives are NOT defined by what we have. But when we spend and spend, getting ourselves into debt to have more things – what do you think that says about us? When you fall into the trap of materialism you are saying that at least to some extent you believe your life is defined by what you have.
Materialism is not a rich man’s disease only. Even those who don’t have much fall into the trap of believing they will be happy if they had a little bit more – their materialistic urges are simply fulfilled at a Flea Market or Walmart rather than Nordstroms.
God didn’t make us for that kind of life – he has made us for Abundant LIFE! He has made us for REAL LIFE. Notice what Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Abundant life is not defined by material possessions.
Abundance is about our surrender to God. It is freeing to release our control to the One God who knows best and cares about us completely. Abundant life is based on an increasingly intimate relationship with God. It is the one that is full of God’s eternal provisions — good and eternal things. This includes the real permanent joy that sets followers of God apart from those striving after earthly things.
I believe God understands our human frailties and how easy it is for us to get deceived by temptation of materialism. The writer of Hebrews tells us to keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what we have. It also says, that God will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). These verses tell us that what is more precious is our personal intimate relationship with God. It tells us that knowing how much God cares for us is real wealth.
The only way to get out of debt for good is to replace materialism with contentment that springs from a place of trust in God who provides for ALL of your needs. There is no other way.