Summary: Fifth in a series exploring life crisis, based on the promotional materials provided by Outreach in their "Who Cares" campaign. This message explores financial debt.
(This message extensively based on the sermon starters provided in the "Who Cares" package materials from Outreach.)
Have you ever experienced something, or some time in your life when things got so bad that you couldn’t do anything but laugh? Ever been there? Just had to laugh it off? Well, we have actually reached that point regarding today’s topic. One of the most popular commercials out there is one that you have probably laughed right along with.
(Video of Commercial clip - Stanley Jones of Lending Tree)
But it’s really no laughing matter, is it? Did you know, the current national debt stands right around 8 trillion dollars. I have no idea how many zeroes that is, but it goes up roughly $1.5 billion a day. However, that’s the government’s problem, right?
Fortunately, so that we too can experience the reality of an out of control debt, the level of consumer debt is also growing rapidly. Credit card debt alone now stands around 800 billion dollars, or about $8,500 per family. Only you know whether you are a part of an above average family, or not.
And while commercials such as that of Stanley Johnson provide us with some comic relief, and an escape from the reality of the ever growing pile of bills, the suffocating burden of financial debt is no laughing matter.
Who Cares? Video Clip
Maybe more than any topic in our series, there will be very few people under the sound of my voice today who can not relate to financial struggles, spending battles, and even the burden of debt. Increasingly, Americans are using credit cards to cover basic living expenses, and that’s a dangerous trend.
Here was the scenario for our household –
- 26 years old w/ a new baby boy
- Tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from college and seminary
- Had purchased our first home
- Had leased our first brand new,4 door car
- Things were tight, but doable
- Until we were informed of our health insurance carriers bankruptcy
- More than $10,000 in medical bills were left unpaid
- Still doable – barely – but doable
- Until we were informed by the senior pastor that within 48 hours we were both to have our desks cleared out
- Unemployed, new parents, in debt up to our eyeballs – without income
- Credit Cards – to buy groceries, put gas in the car, pay basic living expenses
- In big time financial trouble
Everyone take out your wallet. Ladies, grab your purses. You don’t have to raise your hand. In fact, please don’t. But do look inside and answer in your head, how many of you have at least one credit card in your wallet or purse? How many have two credit cards? How many have three? More than three? And how many with unpaid balances?
According to one of the most recent reports the average American household holds twelve Visas, Master Cards and various other cards. Credit card companies send out more than one billion new credit card offers every year.
Way back in 1972, 35 years ago, Walter Cavanagh and a friend bet a dinner to see who could accumulate the most credit cards. Eight years later he won the bet - and broke the world record – by applying for and getting 1,003 credit cards, weighing 34 pounds and entitling him to $1.25 million in credit. His ultimate goal - 10,000 cards.
Of course, Walter is definitely an above average performer. All told, on average Americans have $17,000 in non-mortgage debt. The result is that more than 1 million Americans file for bankruptcy every year.
There was a man whose wife’s credit cards were stolen, but he didn’t call to cancel them. The reason, he said, "The thieves were spending less than she was." Indeed debt has become a big problem for many of us.
Suze Orman, an American financial guru writes, "Debt feels like the heaviest burden of life. It weighs down your spirits, keeps your mind occupied and makes you feel bound -- because you are bound."
Almost sounds Biblical, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor.” Not much we can do about that. “And the borrower is the slave of the lender.”
There aren’t many things that can wreak havoc in our lives like debt can. It is a frustrating thing – and here’s the really not so funny part – we do it to ourselves! When we exceed the amount that we have to spend. When we spend more than we make. When we go overboard in debt. We do it to ourselves, and we set ourselves up for a number of frustration.
There’s physical frustration. For most, the physical frustration usually amounts to no more than upset stomachs and sleepless nights. But debt creates unhealthy stress on the body, and remember, we are to be stewards not only of our finances, but also of the bodies God has given us. This means that we need to take into account our body’s natural reaction to being stressed out under a weight of debt.