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The Spiritual Cost of Debt

Some people get into debt because they lose their jobs, get ill or run into other unavoidable problems out of their control. But most people get into debt buying things they can’t afford with money they don’t have.

The common myths that get people into trouble are:

  • More stuff will make us happier
  • Debt can not be avoided
  • More money will solve our financial problems

The bottom line is stuff will never make you happy for long. Once you get the next best thing, some other next best thing comes along. There are a zillion things to buy. Forget taking that old bedspread along for a picnic. Now you can buy a special tufted picnic blanket to color-coordinate with the picnic basket on wheels and the matching plastic plates and goblets, along with a bin to store them in when they are not in use.

Here is a thought: “Just because some company decides to make something, doesn’t mean we have to buy it”

Consumerism can be an addiction and it can consume you just as much as other pursuits can, and that’s not helpful to your soul, much less your pocketbook. If we keep spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need, it’s a huge spiritual issue. It means we don’t trust God. If we really trusted God, we wouldn’t need all that stuff.

The way we spend our money is an expression of our faith. We spend our money, time and thoughts on the things which are most important to us. Looking at where you spent your money, time and thoughts over the past week, where are your priorities?

Pope John Paul II, in a 1998 homily, described consumerism as a false antidote to spiritual emptiness. “Christ alone can free [us] from what enslaves [us] to evil and selfishness: from the frantic search for material possessions, from the thirst for power and control over others and over things, from the illusion of easy success, from the frenzy of consumerism and hedonism which ultimately destroy the human being,” the late pope said.

How you spend your money is an indication of how you integrate your faith into every aspect of your life. That’s not to say that spending is inherently wrong, or that treating oneself to some nice things is always bad. But how much you buy depends on how much you can afford, and that is where most people fall into a black hole.

It’s amazing how content we can be living a very simple life if we would only take the time to do it.

The Bible speaks frequently about money and wealth. Jesus tells a parable about a man who had a very rich harvest and didn’t have enough space in his barn. He takes down the barn and puts up bigger ones, and in the evening the man dies, showing the futility of accumulating worldly goods.
 
Catholics who’ve dragged their way out of debt say not owing money gives them a sense of joy and freedom and gratitude to God. They live out their understanding that everything they have comes from God. With that understanding comes thankfulness and generosity toward those in need, a sense that God will provide in good times and bad, and a decrease in the desire to have more and more.

Everything that we have, including our money and possessions is God’s, not ours. As Paul reiterated in Acts 17:25, “it is [God] who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.” When you realize this, and live it, it suddenly became a lot easier to get away from the grasp of consumerism.

Debt can be avoided based on making conscious choices about your lifestyle. Money will never solve financial problems unless you learn to manage it God’s way.

The church has all but completely failed to preach the gospel regarding the need for fiscal awareness in our personal finances. In many parishes, the only time the priest talks about money is during the annual giving pledge, a capital campaign or when the budget is not being met. And rarely do you get any guidance at all about responsible spending from the pulpit. Catholic churches need to start talking about values-based spending and helping families, specifically young families, escape for the overwhelming consumerism out there.

Debt is bad – Saving is good – Giving is fun – Stuff is meaningless (Angela Correll)

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