The Spiritual Battle behind Debt
. (If you have not read them already it would be a good time to read the posts “Its Morality Stupid” and “Debt Part One”)
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Scripture tells us that our battles are primarily spiritual and we see the physical ramifications of those battles. So why is it that when it comes to debt that we see it as a financial battle?
Have you ever stopped to think about the spiritual battle that goes on to lead us into debt? There are some clear challenges to our faith every time we choose to borrow. Think back to the last time that you borrowed money or put a purchase on credit. Let’s take a look at a few standard scenarios. I know these because I have done them myself.
The impulsive purchase
You are in the store to buy school clothes for the kids. You see something for yourself or even extra items for the kids. They are such good prices and the sale is this week only. I will just put in on the credit card and pay it back over the next couple of months. Besides the kids need new clothes, I don’t want them to be the only kids that are wearing last year’s fashions.
What are the spiritual battles here?
A lack of contentment with what God has provided (Philippians 4:11 “… I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”)
Pride (I want to be proud of how my children look. I want the world to believe I am capable of providing well for my kids). Psalm 138:6 “Though the LORD is on high, Yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.”
Covetousness (I want to have the same things as others). Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet…”
A focus on outward appearance rather than inward character 1 Samuel 16:7 “… man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
A people pleaser rather than a God pleaser
Ephesians 6:6 (NKJV)
6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
Impatience (The “I want it now” attitude does not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit)
Galatians 5:22 (NASB)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NKJV)
8 The end of a thing is better than its beginning;
The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
A lack of prayer (You have not because you ask not)
James 4 (NKJV)
4 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receive, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Note that individuals are not the only ones that make impulsive purchases. Businesses do the same thing and so does the government. We in California continue to be unable to balance our budget but a few years ago we voted to borrow billions of dollars to build a high speed rail line. Now we have spent all of the money and haven’t built anything at all.
The emergency purchase
Not every debt based purchase is impulsive. I have often experienced an emergency arises when I am short on money and I have resorted to borrowing. Examples have been car breakdowns and appliance breakdowns. What are you supposed to do if your car breaks down and you don’t have the money to fix it? Do you just not go to work? That doesn’t solve anything if you don’t go to work you will never have any money to do anything. How could borrowing money in this situation be a spiritual battle? First let’s look at the battles above and see if any of them apply.
A lack of contentment with what God has provided.
This probably doesn’t apply but it could. We live in a world of luxuries that we view as necessities. Often we believe that two cars are necessary when we could get by with one car, public transportation, carpooling, or a bicycle. Maybe God wants you to change to one of these modes of transportation because it will force you into relationships that can work to His glory. Maybe Satan has been winning a battle by isolating Christians to private transportation.
This may not apply either but it could. It could be that pride forces you to borrow rather than to humble yourself by asking for assistance.
Years ago my Uncle Robert’s hardware store had a fire and experienced extensive damage. He tells of the many Christian friends that came out to help with the clean-up. At first he resisted their help. Then one of his friends pulled him aside to straighten him out. He explained that God had called him to help out and that if my Uncle resisted the help he was resisting God and denying them the opportunity to serve God, by serving him. That conversation changed my Uncles perspective. The next few weeks were a wonderful time of Christian community and sharing.
How many opportunities do we miss because of personal pride?
Getting a car repaired would not be in the realm of covetousness but often we don’t settle for just getting it repaired. Instead we use it as an opportunity to buy a new car and keep up with the Jones.
A people pleaser rather than a God pleaser.
I think this one does not apply.
This one also doesn’t apply much as impatience but there is some application. Recently our dryer broke down. At first it started acting up; sometimes it would heat up and other times it would not. Then it stopped heating up altogether. The first response would be to call a repair man, but we didn’t have the money on hand. Of course we could have borrowed. I know enough about dryers to fix it myself but it was a matter of setting aside the time especially through the holiday season. So we spent quite a bit of time hanging up clothes outside to dry. It brought back some memories of my childhood and a renewed appreciation of what my mother went through in the early years before we had a dryer. Eventually Donnie and I got around to looking at the dryer. We watched U-tube videos on how to fix a dryer. We prayed for God’s guidance. We identified the suspect parts and I sent Donnie to buy new ones. Even the replacement parts cost more money than we had. So Donnie went on line and found the parts for half the price. Another week of patient waiting and the parts arrived. Donnie and I worked together to put them in and, Praise the Lord, our dryer is working again. Patients gave us some good experiences, it taught us something about shopping around for good prices, it taught us some new skills, it lead us to pray, and it gave us some good times of fellowship. I think the Kingdom of God was advanced on this one and the Kingdom of Satan shrunk again.
This morning Lacie came in and told me how much she was enjoying washing clothes today now that the dryer is working again. I think there was a new joy in what could be a normal drudgery.
Some translations of the Bible will use the term longsuffering, others will use the term patience. The terms mean basically the same thing but there is a slightly different connotation. Patience places the emphasis on waiting where as longsuffering adds the idea of continuing to endure an unpleasant situation. I think both imply a hope of something better in the future.
In my experience most “emergencies” don’t suddenly come upon us. Cars don’t suddenly breakdown. Cars are machines that require regular maintenance and replacement of worn parts. You can check your owner’s manual and it will tell you when maintenance is required and when parts are expected to wear out. These events become “emergencies” when we don’t plan for them. For people that plan ahead they are called regularly scheduled maintenance. For those who don’t plan ahead they are called breakdowns and emergencies, and they typically cost more. The key here is that in order to afford regularly scheduled maintenance or to plan for emergencies takes a little bit of longsuffering. You need to do without some things in order to save. Often you need to live in less than ideal situations, but that type of longsuffering makes all of life a little smoother and it pays off in the long run.
A lack of prayer
I think prayer applies to this situation in two ways. The first is that sometimes God uses circumstances to get our attention. If He already has our attention as demonstrated by a life of daily prayer there is much less of a need to get our attention.
The second is that sometimes God has already prepared a remedy for our “emergency” but we borrow money to save ourselves instead of seeking God for the salvation He has prepared. I have heard stories of people that had broken down cars and borrowed to buy a beat-up used car. Only to find out later that God had already laid on someone’s heart that they should give them a car. An opportunity lost and a victory for the Kingdom of Satan. One person has entered into the bondage of debt. Another begins to question whether he is hearing the promptings of the Lord correctly and doesn’t experience the joy of giving. An opportunity was lost to glorify God and for Him to show His power, provision and love.
Once again this type of emergency borrowing is not limited to individuals; it also applies to businesses and government. A few years ago we had a local ballot measure to sell bonds for needed storm water system repair work. We had record storms and we were experiencing flooding in many areas because of debris that had built up in the system through the preceding years. Major cleaning and repairs were required. But the truth was that this wasn’t an emergency that crept up on them all of the sudden. We had a drought for the preceding eleven years. The tasks that should have been done were not because there was not a strain on the system. All of the monies were spent on increased salaries and other things. Now the maintenance and repairs had piled up and we were in trouble. If they used the money to clean up the system during the 11 years of drought they wouldn’t have had flooding on the storm year.
Leveraged borrowing is borrowing money for investment purposes. The idea is that I will borrow money at a low interest rate and I will make a much better return and then pay back the money. This could apply to a speculative investment, a business expansion or a host of other things. Typically this is driven by a love of money and impatience, both of which are warned about repeatedly in scripture. There is also this idea that we are going to make it big. It is not just making it big but we have cut God out of the equation. We make it big through our own efforts. This leads to pride and independence from God; another victory for Satan.
I have heard people say things like, ‘No, you don’t understand. I am doing it for the Lord. When I make it big I will be able to give more to the Church and God will get all of the glory.” That sounds nice but there are a few things that are wrong. Where was God in the situation? How does God get glory for something that there is no evidence that He participated in. Another is that you really don’t need to make money for God. God is not poor. He doesn’t need your money. You need to give to God for your benefit not His. God doesn’t need you to borrow money for Him. If your venture would fail would you give God all of the blame?
James warns against this type of reasoning. It is arrogant presumption and it is called evil.
Do Not Boast About Tomorrow
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
A life dependent on the mercy and constant provision of God is the righteous life of faith that honors God and advances His kingdom. An independent self-sufficient life is an unrighteous life that lacks faith and helps to empower the Kingdom of Satan.
Individuals, businesses, and government all participate in this type of speculative borrowing. It has become embedded into our economic system. The Government is constantly talking about borrowing as part of creating an economic stimulus. In a few weeks congress will once again get together and vote to raise the debt ceiling. I wonder if they would do it if they understood it as a spiritual battle. If the question was posed as, “All who want to raise the debt ceiling and advance the Kingdom of Satan raise your hand and answer Yea. Those who are opposed and think we should turn to God and seek His salvation answer Nay”.
We are involved in a continuous spiritual battle. I use to think that the battle raged in the heavenlies and affected us here. Now I am growing in my understanding that everything I do either advances the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Satan.