Get Debt Free or Die!

Get Debt Free or Die!

Stephen W. Shives

There is a hunger inside each of us to be free. At birth, our cry is one that screams, “Let me out of here!” From that moment on, we are harnessed by a world that teaches there is not really any such thing, as total freedom. And since the beginning of the creation story, we have continually sabotaged our own best efforts to experience it.

God told Adam and Eve, “You are FREE to eat of any tree in the garden… except for that one! You must not touch it or eat of it; because if you do, you will surely die.” Now, we know how long that lasted. So while they did have freedom, they were also being taught that true freedom requires us to maintain certain disciplines. And so it is, with the accumulation of debt.

 Proverbs tells us, the borrower is servant to the lender. Yet, from the moment we position ourselves to acquire something we cannot afford, we put ourselves under an obligation that gradually eats away at our freedom. Our nation was founded on the premise that every man and woman deserves to be free, but today we are over 14 trillion dollars in debt from spending money that does not belong to us. And the trend is not likely to stop anytime soon.

 While most citizens are critical of our government leaders’ spending habits, it is obvious that debt has become a way of life for the majority of households. Debt is accepted as “Standard Procedure” for nearly every entity, as a means of reaching a particular status in the public eye. Small business loans are granted to “boost” the economy, regardless of the fact that most of those new businesses will fail within the first few years, (or by the time the money runs out) and never repay the loan.

The typical household, pursuing the “American Dream” today, with a mortgage, car payment, school loans and average credit card debt, is spending 40-50% of its income towards interest on borrowed money! Why is it not so obvious? This fact alone should be enough for people to say, “No more!” But someone has got to lead the way to freedom.

Even the church (and I write this from the perspective of a church leader) has severely tarnished its ability to lead by example in this area. How is it that we boldly proclaim from scripture that you can trust God to meet your needs, when the institution itself, struggles over financial issues. Perhaps the biggest oxymoron that comes from pulpits today, is the message that God wants His people to be financially free, while the church swims in its own pool of mortgages and administrative debt!

The truth is: God DOES want you to be free from debt! You were designed and created to prosper.

Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you; to give you hope and a future.”

The word “prosper” is one of promotion. We usually refer to prosperity where money is concerned; but God’s plan for us goes way beyond monetary gain alone. To prosper, literally means to be promoted. It is a word that denotes a breakthrough and success. In other words, God wants to push you into good things! He wants to promote you in a world that desperately needs a good example of His goodness!

But promotion requires us to be in the right position. No one gets a promotion at work, when they consistently show up late, with a lousy attitude and do a sorry job on top of it all. If that person ever has a chance, he or she will have to get into position. (sort of like a runner at the starting block) And that positioning starts with a decision.

I remember waking up one morning frustrated at my financial situation. For years we had done quite well; but somehow, something had gone seriously wrong. We were going in the hole every month, and had been for a good while. On top of our bills, mortgage and living expenses, we were in debt over $30,000 to credit cards! How did it happen? Things had gotten so out of hand, we were borrowing money to pay for borrowed money!

Now, let me put this in perspective. Our total debt at that time was somewhere around $120,000. In many cases that’s not really a huge amount of money. (especially when it includes a mortgage) But at that particular time, my annual income was not more than $15,000. If you do the math, you could say it was the equivalent of being $1.2 million in debt with a $150,000 annual income; and getting worse by the day!

I am not sharing this experience from the perspective of financial advisor, Wall Street guru, or a “Million Copy Best-Selling Author” who wants to sell you the answer. I am the average guy next door, who has always enjoyed making a modest paycheck for a good days work; and likes to get his hands dirty. (Literally AND with a typewriter!) I want you to know, that no matter how big of a mess you may think you are in, there is a way out.

Today, by the grace of God, we are completely debt-free; and it is no longer something I view as optional. I define being financially free with one word: OPTIONS. When you wake up in the morning and realize that half of your day does not have to be spent working just to pay the interest on your loans, you feel free. It frees you up to do things you really want to do. It frees you up to make decisions about more important things.

Starting TODAY, you have to position yourself with the decision to become free! And you will never make that decision until you get mad enough to do it. Don’t be a slave to this any longer! The moneychangers of this world want to keep you obligated to them for the rest of your life. And if YOU don’t do something about it starting now, that’s exactly what will happen. You will go to your grave leaving debt behind for your children to pay!

The first step in following through with your decision is to STOP DIGGING THE HOLE! Not gradually; not next week; stop digging now!

Here’s the thing about debt: Debt creates an illusion. When I was a kid, like many kids my age, I wanted to be a magician. The problem is, I never really got that good. And while I could fool some of the younger kids on the street with my tricks, the older ones would laugh and say, “That’s not real magic!” With debt, you can create an illusion of wealth. A fancy car, nice home, luxury vacation, fine jewelry and yes, even hefty contributions to worthy causes, all scream “Success!” But when you borrow to achieve any of these things, you are merely creating an illusion. And while you may impress some people, (usually the ones who don’t really care about you) others will know it’s not real magic.

Can you do it? Can you withstand the temptation to be something you are not? It will take time. $30,000 did not appear on my credit card statements overnight, and likewise, it took time to turn things around. But it did START turning that very same morning, when I said, “No more! I will not borrow another dime!” It takes courage and faith; but once you set out on the journey, don’t look back. It has been seven years now, and I can say with integrity, the apostle knew what he was talking about when he wrote in Philippians 4, “My God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory…”