Back when I was a younger man, I got in a bit of trouble with debt. I had recently obtained my first credit card, and I quickly discovered how easy and enjoyable it was use. Psychologically, it seemed, there was a significant difference between buying something with hard-earned cash and buying something with the swipe of a card. And besides, none of my purchases were big ones: a pizza here…a cassette tape there (yes, it was that long ago). But it wasn’t long before I had run up a bill that was well beyond my ability to pay.
Now, others have written extensively about the “bondage” that debt can bring, and this really isn’t the right forum in which to rehash their arguments. But if you’ve ever owed more than you could easily repay, I suspect you are well aware of the issues. You start to waste precious resources on interest payments rather than debt retirement and/or satisfying current needs. You deal with the anxiety of missing payments and impairing your credit worthiness. The list goes on.
In the midst of my struggles, however, I came across a verse that appears in today’s epistle lesson from the Daily Office. I actually wrote it down on a piece of paper and started carrying it around in my wallet so that every time I was tempted to make an unnecessary purchase, I’d receive a short scriptural reminder of what was really important. The verse says simply:
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)
Over the years, I’ve become a lot more cautious about taking on new financial obligations, and this has allowed me to use the resources God has entrusted to me for purposes far more worthwhile than paying off interest owed. But more important, I’ve become more aware of that continuing debt of love and gratitude that I owe to the One “who—though He was rich—yet for my sake became poor, so that I through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9) And that’s a debt that I will gladly owe.