How Debt Steals Future Freedom

When we feel trapped by a life circumstance that we think could be solved by more money, we often attempt to stop the anxiety-ridden thought pattern by pressing the “escape” button and turning to debt so that we have enough money to treat the circumstance.  We feel briefly free, content, and peaceful, as our life becomes a little bit easier because we have a little more money.

Financial peace of mind…financial freedom…financial contentment…all of these phrases reflect our desire to be rid of the anxiety that our money decisions cause.  We can easily fall prey to our own personal “thought loops” about finances.  We replay current or future financial situations over and over in our heads. My wife calls these thinking patterns “tapes” (or should we say CDs or even MP3 files?…) that play in our heads.  She often tells younger people to replace an old “tape” with a new one.

The problem is, after a time, we realize that by obligating ourselves to a long-term financial commitment, we have narrowed our options for the future.  This means that when tomorrow’s thought pattern of financial anxiety begins to play in our heads, it does so with more intensity and more ramifications and fewer escape routes.  Scripture becomes true in our lives once again as, “the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” (Proverbs 22:7) In the long-term, debt restricts our freedom, every time.

Scripture does not say that debt is a sin; however, it is clear that debt steals freedom.

What I’d like to share with you today is a different way to “change the tape,” as Judy would say.  I believe that financial contentment is directly linked to the belief that God owns everything.  If I attach my heart to the belief that God truly controls every material good on earth and that He has given me what I possess in my present financial situation, I can be content with where I am, financially, because I am convinced that He has given me my portion.  I love the way that the Amplified translation of Scripture puts the following verse:

Hebrews 13:5-6 “Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?”

I am not saying that all debt is wrong.  Sometimes, a borrowing decision makes sense.*  However, learning contentment in our present financial circumstances stops the thought “tape” so that we can prayerfully sort through our goals, priorities, and objectives in a financial decision that may end up involving some debt.

So, next time you are tempted to interrupt your anxiety by turning to debt, remember that lasting contentment is found in acknowledging God’s ownership and recognizing that what He has given is enough.

* In my book, A Complete Guide to Faith-Based Family Finances (with Jeremy White), I mention four guidelines for making a debt decision.  They are: 

  1. When money is borrowed, the item it was borrowed to purchase should either grow in value or pay an economic return greater than the cost of borrowing. 
  2. You should never borrow without a guaranteed way to repay the debt.
  3. You should only borrow when you have peace of heart and mind.   
  4. You should borrow only in situations when you have unity with your spouse in the decision.