I’m probably going to offend at least some of you in this post. I never set out to intentionally make anyone angry, but I plan to be brutally honest about something that I believe is a huge problem in America and extends all the way into the Christian church. It is a disease that is eating the heart out of America as a nation and a large number of its citizens as well on a different level.
America touts itself as the “land of the free”, and there are some areas where Americans have a great deal of personal freedom. I wouldn’t argue with that at all. On the other hand, we live within a system that is designed to enslave every adult and keep them that way their entire lives. This form of slavery is not only legal, it is sanctioned by the government.
I remember getting my first credit card. I was in my middle twenties and just bought a used car. The finance officer at the dealership gave me a huge lecture about how I needed “more credit history” so that next time I tried to buy a car I wouldn’t have such a hard time getting the loan approved. He embarassed me somewhat and I took his words to heart. Within 5 years I had several department store credit cards, an American Express card, and maybe even a Visa. I was playing the American financial game. The really cool thing, see, is that after a while you don’t even have to apply for cards. They just send them to you, or at least they did back then.
Couple that with the advertising industry, whose primary product is discontent. Discontent that can only be resolved by what? Spending money. Buy more stuff. Newer stuff. The latest gadgets. Vacations. New cars. Bigger houses. The list goes on and on. Oh yeah, and the great thing is, you don’t actually have to have the money. If you have a good credit score (or sometimes not so good), you get to borrow it. In fact, they are more than willing to lend you far more than you sensibly should borrow. No doubt, it’s on you to make sure it doesn’t get out of control.
Don’t look to our government for an example of avoiding this kind of trouble. China owns 1 trillion dollars worth of America’s debt. Read that again slowly. China owns 1 trillion dollars worth of America’s debt. This will no doubt have lasting consequences. Some say it’s already happening, that the American government is sitting idly by while millions of people suffer in Africa because China is making a big profit off weapons sales there. And China doesn’t want us to get involved. So we don’t. Because that’s what you do when someone owns you.
Taking it down to the personal level, how are you doing? How many people or institutions own a piece of you? The mortgage company? The bank that holds the note on your car? Credit card companies? In the past, you could owe someone money and work it off. That was called indentured servitude. You were a slave for a fixed period of time until your debt was repaid. In modern times, your creditors don’t want your debt repaid, they want it perpetuated. If you make a minimum monthly payment on your credit card(s), the odds are it will take nearly forever to pay them down to nothing. And if you ever DO pay off your credit cards, new credit offers come out of the woodwork. They WANT you to owe them because it’s a much better deal for them than it is for you.
As a follower of Jesus, I have to wonder how living beyond my means can ever honor God. I don’t believe it does, because it makes me beholden to someone other than Him for my provision, trusting in the bank more than God when things get a little tight, or maybe I just see something I really want. I am not talking in a vacuum. I have lived beyond my income and suffered the consequences. That’s when I realized that the American dream – big houses, new cars, the latest technology, whatever, is a trap. It can strip you of the true freedom you desire and leave you in chains. Money can be a useful tool, but a harsh master. “The things you own end up owning you.” Be careful.