In the American religion of materialism, there are two words more sacred than any other: "Charge it!"
- Yet, consider the following two scenarios in evaluating the intelligence of using plastic:
1. Ellin is 30 years old. She has a $3,500 balance on her Citibank credit card at 18% interest. She makes the minimum payment each month. How old will she be when she has her credit card paid off?
2. Susan and Tom needed a new washing machine, so they went to Sears and found one for $299. They got a Sears charge card and made the minimum payment each month. By the time the washing machine was paid off, how much did Susan and Tom actually pay for that washing machine?
(Answers: 1. 70 years old; 2. $1,199)
- Obviously, credit card purchases are not the wisest of decisions.
- In the midst of everyone shouting "Charge it! Charge it!" without giving it a second thought, the Bible gives us another c-word to replace "credit" on our path to financial happiness: that word is "contentment."
- The difference between seeking financial happiness through credit versus seeking it through contentment can be neatly summed up in this way:
The world tells us financial happiness comes by having what you want; the Bible tells us the key is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.
Some of you are thinking, "You know, pastor, you’re right. My credit cards are maxed, but I can’t really say that I’m any happier. (In fact, I’m stressed out from not knowing how I’m going to pay all these bills)." What is the next step?
Here are a few specific things to consider to move from "credit" toward "contentment":
1. Act your wage.
- There are a lot of people making $30,000 trying to act like they make $35,000; there are a lot of people making $50,000 trying to act like they make $60,000.
- A recent Census Bureau study found that almost 3 million Americans with incomes above $68,700 (the wealthiest 5th of the nation) had trouble paying for basic necessities such as their mortgage, food, and utilities at least once in 1995. Even the rich aren’t living within their incomes!
- People will often say, "I just can’t live on what I make." A more accurate statement would be, "I can’t support my lifestyle on what I make."
2. Consider having plastic surgery.
- Do you know how to have plastic surgery? You take out your plastic [credit cards] and clip them in two.
- At the very least, even if you don’t destroy your credit cards, you may need to make a commitment to get the balances back down to zero.
3. Don’t take it to the limit.
- Most people stretch right to the limit on their purchases: "How much can I afford?"
- Instead of asking, "What do I really want?", try substituting "What do I really need?" as you consider a purchase.
4. Realize that if you are not happy with what you have now, you won’t be happy with more.
- We are always looking for that purchase that is just out of reach right now to be the one that will finally bring the happiness we’re seeking, but the happiness from that purchase is always fleeting. Then we look for something new that is just out of reach.
5. Get all the facts.
- There is good, solid, biblical advice on the whole picture of your finances.
- A good starting place is Dave Ramsey’s book Financial Peace. Larry Burkett and Ron Blue are also good authors.
- They can give you a total plan for attacking this problem in your life.
It’s a simple choice. You can have the debt and the maxed-out credit cards. You can have contentment and financial happiness. But you can’t have them both.
Which do you choose?