Photo by Andrew Brown

As I drove home from doing an errand (taking my bills to the post office), I passed a man holding a sign: Hungry. Can you help? And yet last night on the news I heard for the second or third evening in a row that indicators point to a recovering economy here in the US.

What does economic recovery from the Great Recession look like? According to that latest news report, indicator of an improved economy is that consumer debt shot up in the month of November, more than it had in three years.

Yea! We’ve taken on more debt. What good news!


I understand the thinking. The real issue is consumer confidence. After all, if you take on a car payment, you must be reasonably sure that you’ll have the resources in six months, twelve months, twenty-four months to still be making those payments. So debt equals confidence.

But isn’t confidence a pretty shaky thing to stake economic recovery on? For one, confidence can be misplaced. All those loans that led to home foreclosures proved that point, didn’t it? Were all those folks who took out loans when they didn’t have the income to pay them back, confident that the banks would gladly adjust their payments instead of foreclosing? Or were they thinking they’d all get pay raises that would match their increased payments? Or perhaps they were confident they would win the lottery.

My guess is, however, they weren’t confident at all. They were ignorant. They wanted what they wanted and they didn’t think through what they were getting themselves into. Instead, they listened to the sales pitch that made the offer so enticing. They’d always wanted to own their own home. And the interest that first year would be so low. How could anybody pass up such an offer?

I’ve been there, though the stakes weren’t so high. Still, I listened to the sales pitch. I even “researched” and thought I was getting a worthwhile product, at a bargain that I couldn’t pass up. Except, when I went to finalize the deal, new terms were thrown at me and I had to decide at that minute or lose the opportunity. So I went for it. And the “good deal” ended up being a bad deal and the product ended up being nothing like what I’d expected. I’d been suckered.

So I know it can happen.

What I find troubling is that our economy has apparently arrived at a place where the financial experts think it’s healthy when we owe more than we can pay. It’s good for the banks, I guess.

That fact alone ought to make all us Main Streeters rise up and say, No more debt! How many times must the banks have their way with our money before we figure out we should do something different?

Not only did the banks approve unsustainable loans, they then got into the business of gambling over whether or not people would default. No wonder they were slow to re-finance.

The thing is, this whole debt culture obfuscates the teaching of Scripture about money and where our confidence should lie. Paul teaches that we should be content whether we have plenty or are in want. But our culture tells us contentment can only be had after we’ve purchased the Next Great Thing. Of course, in two months there will be a new Next Great Thing, so we are almost immediately thrust back into discontentment — unless we borrow and buy.

Scripture also says we are to let our requests be known to God, that we are to trust Him to add food and clothing while we are to seek His kingdom and His righteous. Our culture says food and clothing isn’t enough, that we deserve More. If that’s true, but God hasn’t provided More, then I must figure out a way to provide it myself.

I’ve been there, too. It’s a trap.

I don’t know how to fix the economy, clearly. It’s a knotty problem with ever widening global implications. But at some point, I believe Christians need to decide whose system we’re going to operate under — the debt-inducing one of our culture that depends on consumer confidence in hoped-for future income or the contentment-inducing one of Scripture that depends on believer confidence in the promises of God and in His character.

As for me and my house, there’s only one way that makes sense. 😉

Published in: on January 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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