The Cost of Debt

Here we are at the springboard of a new year. And the first news headlines are about our prime minister’s concerns regarding the global credit crisis and steering our nation on a stable course through the financial turbulence.

At this time of year money figures particularly highly in everyone’s thoughts. Those recovering from hangovers may find their headaches intensify as depressing bank statements, credit card demands, and mortgage notices plummet through the letterbox.

But whether it’s your personal bank statement or international financial woes, money represents energy. It can flow for good, raising living standards and generating prosperity, or for ill, skewing the global economy with imbalances and mushrooming debt, making wars, and damaging lives.

But then it always has. In the Bible - rather more abundant with good financial advice than is generally believed - the slavery which formed the background to the Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt arose not from invasion but from debt, as Joseph’s starving brothers offered to sell themselves to Pharaoh. A horror of debt threads through the Old Testament as a result.

In today’s thriving western world, slavery is much more subtle. We laughingly say we are wage slaves, toiling to pay the mortgage - a perfectly reasonable means of getting on the property ladder.

But when debt is allowed to balloon unchecked and become the norm, as it has for many this Christmas, it enslaves and enfeebles us, just as it did Joseph’s desperate brothers, robbing us of self confidence, and threatening the well-being of our families, as we work all the hours God sends to service the repayments.

Some fall prey to the idiocy of using high-interest credit cards just to buy the week’s groceries, and some, Heaven forbid, even use the card for their exorbitantly priced, but socially important daily Starbucks. It’s no wonder that relationships become strained as couples scramble between maintaining their ever-important ‘image’ of success and simply trying to exist from day-to-day.

As we look forward to the challenge and promise of a New Year, let’s ask ourselves whether our debt ridden consumer lifestyle is little more than the modern equivalent of the Romans’ bread and circuses? Working off our debts makes us too tired and busy to question decisions made by our political leaders or fight injustices in society. Debt and the goodies it buys, keeps us quiet and so further impoverishes our civic life and our collective well-being.

So let us dare to audit the effect of debt on our lives, and yes, its effect on our spiritual lives too. Most of us can’t cut up the credit cards at once, nor pay off our mortgage , but at least let’s start to question the hidden price of our spending, and why we think it so necessary?

Why should we let debt undermine our lives in such a fashion, only to become bereft of our spiritual contentment?


Loving Father, help us to recognise our purpose in life and pursue that purpose with strength and courage. Help us to fulfil our needs more simply and our prosperity through our spiritual wealth rather than mere tokens. And throughout this year, help us to recognise what matters most, through those we love and those who love us. We ask this in Your name. Amen


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