A friend sent me this link about Five Things that are Worse than Being in Debt.
I read it. And I don't exactly disagree. It's just that I think so much more could be said.
See, I cut my eyeteeth on the joys of frugality and the virtue of staying out of debt. I squirreled money away like the Long Winter was coming. I knew how to do it, and I was going to do it, too.
We started out married life debt-free, frugal in habits, and determined to work hard.
Then we got hit by a whole bunch of Life. Medical bills upon medical bills. Business failure upon business failure. Unexpected moves. Kids and then more kids. The Long Winter turned out to be a lot longer than anything we could have prepared for.
We missed that whole part where you get into debt having fun and spending frivolously. We got in debt while we were living in small houses, cutting our own hair, hanging cloth diapers up to dry, and eating beans and rice.
And I felt burdened and condemned, because I thought debt was always a punishment or a consequence of foolishness. Every time somebody talked about the virtues of good stewardship or how God had blessed their commitment to staying out of debt, I felt a knife to my heart. I must not have been careful enough, I must not have been good enough, or God must not really care about us.
But I'm starting to realize that I had it all wrong. Debt is no more automatically a sign of God's disfavor or even our mistakes any more than wealth is automatically a sign of God's favor. Debt is like sickness, sometimes the consequence of bad choices, but sometimes just the way things are. And like sickness, it can be a gift from God.
Because, ultimately, God doesn't give a rat's left whisker whether our net worth is $5,000,000 or -$5,000,000. God is after our hearts. And my heart loves money. It loves its own wisdom and self-discipline. It is sick, and it needs to be healed.
So here's a few more things that are worse than being in debt:
It's worse to love money than to be in debt
If you're just substituting getting your satisfaction and security from the size of your bank account instead of from the size of your house, then your commitment to better stewardship hasn't gotten you anywhere spiritually at all. Love of money has many subtle forms, and it's one of the biggest things that gets between us and God. Yes, the Bible talks about debt as servitude. It also says we can serve God even as servants to someone else. God is not limited by our circumstances.
We cannot measure our spiritual status by our net worth. And if voices are telling you that you can, then it's time to turn those voices off. Because they're lying to you.
It's worse to fight over money than to be in debt
I have a contract with a divorce attorney whose clientele consists mostly of well-off professionals. I go through their finances with a fine-toothed comb to make sure everything is listed for the division of property. Some of them have managed their money well, some of them haven't. They're in his office just the same.
Yes, debt can be a stress and stress can lead to fighting. But it doesn't have to. And if different perspectives on money are causing stress, if you think less of your spouse because they're not as committed to living within your means as you are, then it's time to drop it. Because nobody gets richer from divorce except lawyers.
It's worse to be proud than to be in debt
I've always been pretty impressed over my own ability to save money. I looked down on those who spent money unnecessarily and lived outside their means. I was surely thankful that I was not such as one of them.
I'm not even going to carry this further, lest I find a new grounds for being proud of myself.
It's worse to say no to the adventure than to be in debt
There were a few choices we could have made differently. We could have waited to have kids until our income was greater and more stable. We could have stayed put two years ago instead of moving and changing careers. We would be in a much better financial position from either of those. But I'm not sorry we did those. I don't think those were foolish choices. Money can be earned later, but time never comes back.
I'm not advocating reckless spending or irresponsibility. I hope to work hard and keep living frugally and maybe this time at last we'll be able to pay things off. But I'm beginning to learn that that's just a personal goal, not a spiritual goal. God is with us and blessing us just as much in debt and loss as in financial stability.