Debt and Meltdowns

We’ve all seen the supermarket meltdown.  Mom and little Johnny are in the checkout line and little Johnny sees the candy.  Johnny asks Mom for a Snickers, Mom says “No, sorry” and that’s when it happens:  the meltdown. 

Johnny turns into a Snickers diva because life isn’t worth living without chocolate.  He screams, falls on the floor in tears, frown the size of the Gateway Arch in Missouri, Mom is embarrassed, and everyone else is either judging her for being a bad parent or awkwardly trying to ignore it.

Mom has had a long day, she’s too tired to deal with it, so she gives in and Johnny gets the Snickers.  Meltdown averted…at least until next time.

It’s easy to judge Mom and little Johnny here.  “How could she give in like that? Doesn’t she know she’s only training him to use meltdowns to get his way? He needs to learn he can’t always have what he wants when he wants it.”  I agree!

Here’s the problem.  When we use debt, we’re acting like little Johnny!  The credit card company is the mom who gives in to our meltdowns.  We see that big screen TV or new car we want and we gotta have it!  Our bank account says, “No, sorry you don’t have the money.  If you want it, you’re going to have to save for it.”  Meltdown time!

“But I really really want it.  Life isn’t fair.  This is America!  I’m supposed to be happy!”  The credit card company comes along and says, “There, there, little Johnny.  I’ll tell you what.  If you really want it, you can have it right now!”  Meltdown averted…at least until next time.

The apostle Paul lists “self-control” as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:23).  Peter says it’s a key virtue for Christians.  “In your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control…” (2 Peter 1:5-6a).  Paul warned Timothy about those in the last days “without self-control.” (2 Tim. 3:3).

I was little Johnny for most of my working life.  If I wanted it, I bought it.  I refused to accept that I couldn’t afford something.  “Can’t afford” meant “not creative enough with my financing.”  If I could just tweak the terms and conditions on a loan, I could get my Snickers!

Over the last two years, it’s been brutal to learn financial self-control.  I’ve learned if I want something for $1,000, I can’t have it right now.  I need to make a plan to save.  Instead of swiping the credit card or adding it to my truck loan, I may have to save $250 a month for 4 months.  Ouch!  Can you imagine telling little Johnny to wait 4 months for a Snickers?  That’s borderline child abuse!  Besides, who has 4 months?  I may not even be alive by then!  I may not even want the Snickers by then!

Christians, we need to check our hearts.  I understand not all debt is motivated by a meltdown, but a lot of it is.  We must have self control.  “Can I afford it?” does not mean, “Can I convince the bank to loan me the money?” It means, “Do I actually have the money in the bank?” If I don’t, I can’t have the Snickers right now.  It’s painful, but it’s reality.

In the meantime, take comfort in knowing “I can’t have the Snickers right now” doesn’t mean “I can’t have the Snickers ever.”  We’re just going to have to wait.  The Bible has a lot to say about patience and contentment too.  Instead of having a meltdown, let’s give thanks to God for all the things we’ve been blessed with, be content with what we have, and wait on the Lord’s timing.

What do you think?  Has debt ever saved you from a meltdown?

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