Your Money and Your Morals

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     A recent article published in the American Interest Magazine written by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, entitled, “A Nation In Debt” addressed the problem of debt in the USA.  Whitehead is co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University.  She coined a phrase that I found interesting, “a population of debtors and bettors.”  Here is the quote, “Tens of millions of working Americans who might join the class of savers and investors under more favorable circumstances are being recruited into a burgeoning population of debtors and bettors” (p. 2,  
     The present generation seems to be consumed with debt and the desire to “get-rich-quick.”  They spend and gamble their way into poverty. Is this the result of the secularizing of our society?  Have we abandoned Biblical principles that kept us out of debt and bankruptcy? 
     First, the consumer mentality is alive and well in the USA.  The “I want it now” attitude is prevalent.  Have we lost the ability to put off gratification?  The ability to put off gratification is a sign of maturity.  We wait and we defer.  We exercise self-control and self-discipline.  We sacrifice in the short run in order to have more in the long run. 
     Second, consumer credit makes it easier to have what we want today and pay for it later.  The problem is that many people simply cannot say “no” to themselves and get deeper and deeper into debt.  Covetousness is the sin of desiring more and more.  The Bible legislates against this sin (Col. 3:5).  It is a work of the flesh.  The credit card industry is “anti-thrift.”  It desires consumerism and wants you to buy, buy, buy.  This industry promotes long-term consumer dependency on expensive credit.  Between 1989 and 2001, credit card debt almost tripled, from $238 billion to $692 billion.  By the fall of 2007, the amount of consumer credit had reached $937.5 billion, a 7 percent increase over the previous year.  Credit card companies benefit from such high levels of consumer debt.  Could greed be at work here?
     Third, the “get-rich-qick” attitude is alive and well in the USA.  Have we become a nation that is anti-work?  Gambling has become one of the fastest growing industries in America today.  The lottery is a government agency that is anti-thrift.  Here’s the most significant fact.  Most of those who play the lottery can least afford to do so.  Players with lower incomes tend to spend more on the lottery than those with higher incomes.  Even more to the point, people with lower incomes spend a larger share of their incomes on the lottery!  A household with an income under $12,400 spends 5 percent of its gross income, but a household with an income of $124,000 spends about one-third of one percent of its gross income.  The poor get poorer and our own state governments actively seek to grow their markets by seducing the poor.  Gambling violates several Biblical principles.  It violates the nobility of work (II Thess. 3:10).  It stimulates covetousness and greed (Col. 3:5, I Tim. 6:6-10).  The apostle Paul warns about the love of money and the desire to be rich.  Those who pursue such pierce themselves through with many sorrows.  Paul gives a formula for success:  “godliness with contentment is great gain.” 
     Here are some Biblical principles that need to be restored in America.  We need to restore the principle of thrift.  “A penny saved is a penny earned!”  Stewardship demands that we take care of the material things that God has blessed us with.  Stewardship (I Cor. 4:2) means that we do not own anything and that God owns everything.  We need to be faithful in our oversight of what God has blessed us with.  We need to remember that work is honorable (Eph. 4:28).  We must reject gambling as a sin because of the covetousness and greed it inspires (Col. 3:5).  The love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim. 6:10).  Many are serving the god of mammon rather than the God of heaven.  This needs to change and it can change if we are willing to love God supremely.