by Neal Windham, Spiritual Formation Pastor
Note: In keeping with the father-to-son flow of the Book of Proverbs, the devotions this week come from Musings of a Prodigal Father, which I wrote for my son Luke upon graduation from high school in the late 90s.
“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” – Proverbs 23:4
America lives with debt in staggering proportions. I remember when Pop used to pay about $100 per month for three years to buy a new car. That’s with interest. But then, cars used to cost around $3,000. (I am feeling quite ancient right now!) True, they didn’t have all the nice features we’ve come to expect with the modern counterparts. But they sure were cheaper. Today, people think nothing of buying a vehicle that’s nearly ten times that, Houses are expensive, too. Back in 1986, I paid $53,000 for a house which, in other towns, would easily have gone for twice that. The good news is that the house is worth a lot more today. So, as debt goes, it’s nice to buy something which gains value, and houses are among the few things couples buy that do. My advice? Buy what you really need, and need what you actually have. For Americans, it’s often hard to see clearly on this point.
The biggest culprit is credit cards, Luke. Trouble is, with credit it’s so easy to think you’ll pay the bills off on such and such a date, when all these unexpected things – car repairs, medical bills, additional insurance – keep cropping up. Always best to pay for the non-essentials (things like entertainment) with cash. My advice is to pay your credit card balance off every month if you can. You may have heard our friend Bob say, “I’d bet my credit card balance on that.” That’s because he doesn’t have a credit card balance. He pays the balance off every month. True, he’s bragging, but America needs to hear that it is possible to own a credit card and not pay interest. When you get a card, get one with a low-interest rate, just in case you can’t pay the entire balance for some months. Be careful.
More than anything, I just want to say, Live simply. Learn to make do with less. Honestly, if you make a point of being generous with God and the church, locate an affordable dwelling with reasonable utilities and taxes, purchase adequate insurance, drive a reliable vehicle, eat sensibly (but not extravagantly), put enough back for retirement and a rainy day, and spend some on family and personal entertainment, you’ll be content. And that’s the key, contentment. Learn to live within your means.
I’d love to be like the Apostle Paul, Lord, content in every circumstance, knowing what it is to be in need as well as what it is to have plenty, having learned the sacred of mastering every situation, well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Neither riches nor poverty; just give me my daily bread, please. In Jesus’ name. Amen.