December 15, 2002
Back in the late seventies, a well-meaning Christian friend and music producer of mine tried to console me one afternoon as I fretted over a rather large and burdensome credit card debt I had accumulated during the course of a gospel music recording project he and I worked on together in Dallas. We had both so immersed ourselves into this “God-given opportunity” that we, “by faith”, had assumed the Lord would “bless us” by seeing to it that all of our borrowing and bills were miraculously paid while we were busy about “His work”. My angst was further intensified by the fact that I also owed a sizable sum to a local bank for the recording project itself. I’ll never forget my friend’s foolish counsel:
“Look at it this way, Paul; The Lord has blessed you with a good credit line. At least YOU can pay off your Master Charge (MasterCard) over time in installments. Look at me -- I’ve been living off of my American Express Card ever since we started this project. The balance is due and frankly, I don’t know HOW I’m going to pay it.”
Long story short – he and I eventually went back to the real world after that “God given opportunity” was “in the can”. I don’t know how long it took him to pay off his American Express bill but I do know that I struggled with the resulting debt for years. And, just for the record, (pardon the pun), that “God-given opportunity” still gathers dust on a shelf in my roll-top desk almost 25 years later. Some blessing, huh?
You see, while endeavoring to take “my wisdom” to the world in song, the Lord took me to the woodshed for ignoring His Word. Metaphorically speaking, my carnal journey through the wilderness of Contemporary Christian Music ended up with me singing lamentations in “Babylonian” dancehalls for the next couple of decades. Such was the bitter fruit of my scriptural ignorance, spiritual immaturity and misplaced faith.
“Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men”. - 1st Corinthians 7:23
“The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.” - Deuteronomy 28:12
Whether you prefer to read this scripture verse as an explicit command from God to NOT BORROW MONEY (which I personally do) or simply interpret it as a promise of provision to those who are faithful and obedient, the lesson is clear. God’s own SHOULD NOT and SHOULD NOT HAVE TO borrow from Babylon to build in Jerusalem.
It takes absolutely no faith in God to get a loan from a bank. Atheists and agnostics do it all the time. Yet, many biblically errant Christians today, under the encouragement of their well-meaning pastors pledge money that the Lord has neither given them nor promised them for exciting ecclesiastical endeavors and worthwhile causes that are driven, more often than not, by emotion and consensus rather than by the Word of God. In spite of the obvious contradictions involved, they ironically refer to this practice as “stepping out on faith.”
I suppose it is my own dreadful experience with the slavery of indebtedness through disobedience that compels me to warn believers about the dangers of borrowing money -- even to do “God’s work”. Like so many other cultural norms of our day -- drunkenness, divorce, adultery, promiscuity, profanity, violence, homosexuality and abortion -- debt too has become just another of the once forbidden, now fashionable options for the postmodern church. How convenient of us to forget Jesus’ words:
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” - Matthew 6:24
When we make the mistake of imitating those OF the world we wish to save FROM the world, we ourselves become LIKE the world and therefore part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Unfortunately, we see a lot of this in today’s church growth movement. I believe this is some of what Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23:
“He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.”
Unequally yoking ourselves, our family and our church to the enemies of the Cross with THEIR money in order to carry out the “Lord’s Will” actually accomplishes the reverse of what He desires for us – to be free in Christ. Loans teach us to put our faith and confidence in people, places and things rather than in the Living Word. In doing so we become dependent on the creation rather than the Creator, confusing His Will with the will of men and in doing so return to the very bondage from which we were once freed.
“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” - Proverbs 22:7
Over four years ago I warned the pastor of my former church that we should be getting OUT of debt in preparation for hard times ahead, not taking on more and more to build a bigger and bigger barns. Unfortunately, my plea fell on deaf ears. Today that church struggles just to pay the interest on its thirteen million dollar debt. Hundreds of traumatized and disillusioned members have since moved on as well as most of the once-loyal staff and STILL that misguided shepherd clings to a “vision” that told him to borrow more money and build more buildings.
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” - Romans 13:8
Many out of the financial mainstream have been warning for sometime of severe economic hardships ahead for our country due to the unprecedented number of personal and corporate bankruptcies, unmanageable consumer and corporate debt, downsizing, corrupt pro forma accounting practices, innumerable job loses, mega-merger mania, dangerous derivative trading by the nation’s largest banks, under-funded corporate pensions, little or no personal savings, horribly lopsided P&E ratios, morbidly obese trade and budget deficits, runaway government spending and a grossly devalued dollar – which, by the way, is now worth about four cents or four percent of what it was in 1945 – all this, with yet another war and “major terrorist event” on the way -- according to the White House.
It’s no secret that most of today’s "fair and balanced" news personalities and financial advisors are being paid huge sums of money to persuade consumers that hard times are over and that better days are before us, so as to sustain the illusion of prosperity and drum up support for today’s snarling bear market and spiraling economy. I dare say we don’t even know what hard times really are anymore.
They’ve successfully convinced the “patriotic” masses that the United States of America is the “wealthiest nation in history” -- even though the luxuries we so shamelessly boast of were, by and large, purchased with borrowed money; houses, cars, boats, businesses, real estate and magnificent toys that most of us really don’t own but merely make payments on with as-yet unearned income. It is said that today’s average American is only one paycheck away from the street.
Consider, if you will, just for a moment, what you actually own in this life, (bought and paid for), that you would be able to keep, if say you lost your job and couldn’t find another for several months or years, as was the case for so many during the Great Depression. Are we really as wealthy as we act these days or are we just fooling ourselves making minimum payments on borrowed blessings?
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked…” - Revelation 3:17
© 2002 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved
Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and regular columnist for News With Views, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print. Paul may be reached at [email protected].