Why be debt free? What’s next?

What would you do if you were debt free?  Surely your standard of living would increase, and your stress level about money would drop.  But could there be something else?

Money is a tool.  The Bible warns about making money more than it ought to be.  Money itself is morally neutral; however its misuse can decay a person’s character.  To contrast, the prudent use of money can make a person highly effective, generous, and grateful.  In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The goal of My Big Fat Irish Wallet isn’t to make you rich just so you can consume and live opulently.  This isn’t about “building bigger barns.”  The goal is to help you succeed in personal finance so you can be the most effective person you can be and not be held back by living month to month.  Are you serving a mortgage bank?  A credit card company?  A time share? Perhaps you’re serving an auto lender.  Your master might even be a student loan servicer!  When you’re bogged down and playing “catch up” with all of the bills you juggle, you’re not making progress.  That’s frustrating.  Would you be excited to tell your 12 year old version of yourself where your money goes?

To get out of debt, you need a reason.  If you would like to get out of debt for the sake of getting out of debt; and maybe because it would free up your income so you can even use a new kind of debt, then you might be wasting your time getting out in the first place.  Don’t get all lathered up about “getting out of debt” if you intend to get back in.

So what is your reason?  Do you have a charity you’re passionate about?  Do you want to send your kid(s) to college debt free?  Have you always wanted to live on a spread of land with a home you love?  Do you want to take your family on vacations you’ve only dreamed of in the past?  Do you want to go to remote parts of the world and build homes for the poor?  Do you want to buy books for kids who can’t afford them? Do you want to get electricity and clean water to developing nations?  Maybe you’d like to feed and clothe the homeless right in your back yard.

All of this “getting out of debt” stuff is the painful, short term sacrifice that you make to produce a better future.  Getting out of debt can be very hard, and you might see the people around you doing some of the things you are “dreaming” about.  But the cruddy, sacrificial, painful part is a short term sprint you need to accomplish before you begin the marathon that is the rest of your life.  Rip it off like a Band-Aid, or don’t do it at all.

So when you’re plowing through the debt snowball we discussed, always keep the long game vision in mind.  In the Gospel of Luke 11: 5-10, there is a parable regarding prayer.  I believe there’s more depth to flesh out than just prayer though.  It’s about persistence generally.

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.  And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Jesus is quite literally telling us to be persistent.  Be repetitive, and if you set your mind to do something, do it fully.  Don’t give up.  If you have a setback, get back on the horse and get going again.  Remember, getting out of debt isn’t an end in itself.  It’s about removing obstacles in your life that stand in between you, and what you were meant to do.  Get on fire to remove these liabilities from your life, because you can’t very well serve your lenders and also serve your dreams.

Getting out of debt is smart.  When you calculate the opportunity cost, it makes sense.  When you figure out how much you can invest, and how wealthy you can be, it can be exciting.  But it’s also liberating.  Proverbs 22:7 (Thanks Dave Ramsey for beating this into my head) states “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

Do you like being a slave?  Neither do I.  Don’t be a slave any longer than you have to.  You can’t very well serve two masters.

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