A few weeks ago, I did a post on the bailout and realized I had more to say about the current situation of the America economy, so here goes:
Previously, I mentioned that America is in trouble because of our greed. Due to our greed, most consumers have learned to spend money that they do not have.
Since the college I attended was nestled in the mountains, many students had mountain bikes. In fact, it was part of the getup for many. If you had a mountain bike, you were also mandated by the code of the mountain to wear Chaco’s and shorts (even in the winter), and you had to sport some facial hair (even for the ladies). One of my friends wanted to be a part of this elite club. He had the outfit, but he didn’t have the mountain bike. One of the mountain hippies told him that all he had to do was to take out a student loan and he wouldn’t have to pay on it until after he got out of college. So my buddy who had good scholarships took out a student loan for a thousand dollar mountain bike.
And he was still paying the minimum payments on the bike years after college. And the bad thing was that he paid much more than a thousand dollars in the long run. He paid more than he anticipated because he was another victim to financial mistakes. These monetary blunders are some of the most dangerous since they don’t appear to be urgent, they are rarely acknowledged. You can immediately see the consequences of certain mistakes, but financial decisions are tricky. You can easily make a decision that immediately affects you in a good way that will paralyze you for years to come. Oftentimes, the immediate gratification causes you to overlook the consequences of bad financial decisions that might not catch up with you until literally years later.
Let me explain. When my friend purchased his mountain bike, he had immediate gratification. He was instantaneously riding bikes with the mountain hippies and I was still playing Mario Kart inside the dorm. All he had to do was sign a form, they cut him a check, and he was riding a few days later. And he didn’t have to do anything concerning that loan for years.
The loan companies will tell you that the loan is at a low interest rate. And they are right. But this purchase will cost you more than you think it will. It’s honestly not about a mountain bike; it’s about the need for a budget. It’s about a choice to live wisely all the days of your life. It’s the decision to choose contentment. It’s about evaluating the ever-tempting American Dream and deciding what type of state in which you are going to live.
Some financial decisions will cost you more than what you’ll ever be able to afford. If we take Jesus at his word, he told us that we could not serve both him and money (Lk. 16:13). Maybe our spending decisions are more of a spiritual decision than we ever imagined.
We try to live by a rule in my house: never spend money that you don’t have (outside of home, car, or education). Our country is filled with institutions with money on paper but hasn’t come to fruition because everyone is using credit. All of a sudden, the country gets hit with the fact that the money simply isn’t there. What if you started only spending the money that you had? If you didn’t have the money for something you wanted, you just didn’t get it. You waited, saved, or simply practiced self control. What would our country looked like if people started only spending money that was actually there?
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.