Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Feb. 10, 2002
Nine times a day I receive an e-mail message offering me the perfect solution to getting out of debt. Evidently there are many people who are willing to help other people break the bondage of debt. And I know several people who need relief from their burdensome indebtedness.
Money problems often lead couples to the divorce court. Staying married is not easy and it is made even more difficult when a couple lacks harmony is the use of money. Perhaps only adultery is more destructive to marital bliss than the failure of a husband or a wife to handle money wisely.
Many couples race headlong into marriage without counting the cost. My wife and I did. We figured love was all we needed. But we soon learned that love wouldn’t buy groceries or pay the rent. Fortunately we met the test and our marriage survived those difficult days when money was scarce and debt was wrapping its clammy hands around us.
I remember well the first loan we ever made soon after we were married. We borrowed $200 from a bank in Auburn, while I was still a student. We paid it back at six per cent interest over the next 12 months. Seems like too little to have borrowed, but 50 years ago $200 was a lot of money.
We paid off that first bank loan a month early. My good friend and mentor, Bro. Si Mathison, advised me to always repay the bank early. He was right. Banking people pay attention to the way people pay off their loans.
Nowadays who needs a loan? Banking institutions have lured us into the deadly debt pit created by credit cards. No need to worry about having money. Just use plastic money. Then when the credit card bills start piling up, you have the honor of paying your bill at the rate of 18 per cent interest. And to show you how kind they are, the credit card companies will be happy for you to pay only $11 a month for the next 30 years while that interest keeps adding up.
I love what the author Larry Burkett suggests that we do with our credit cards. He says, “Turn your oven on about 400 degrees, put your credit cards inside, and come back in about three hours.”
Credit cards are, of course, not all bad, provided you use only one or two and pay off the balance at the end of each month. Otherwise sooner or later you will not own your credit cards; they will own you.
Now that we are in the fourth quarter of our lives, we are thankful that over the years our debts that not destroy our relationship. Slowly we learned how to live within our income and to avoid the death grip of the debt monster.
But the truth is, none of us can ever get completely out of debt. As long as we live we will always be in debt. Sure, you may be fortunate enough to not owe anybody any money. But there are many other kinds of debt.
My parents lived almost a hundred years. But that was not long enough for me to repay them for all they had done for me. I remain in debt to them in a hundred ways.
I have many friends whose love and understanding I have not always deserved and for which I am unable to repay them. Until I die I will remain in their debt for their priceless gift of affirmation and encouragement that saved me from myself a thousand times.
Perhaps a story from Pope John the 23rd’s life will illustrate what I mean. After John became the pope, his own mother was among the first visitors permitted to have an audience with him. She was a simple woman who had lived most of her life with very little of this world’s goods.
As she and the members of her group were ushered inside to greet the new pope, she observed that each person knelt to kiss the pope’s ring. When her turn came, she too knelt and kissed her son’s ring. Then she held out her hand and said, “Now, Son, you kiss this ring. For if it was not for this ring, you would not be wearing that ring!”
I am sure the pope realized at that moment his great indebtedness to his mother, and to many others who had made a difference in his life. I don’t know but I have an idea that the pope ignored the usual protocol and lovingly embraced his mother in his arms.
I do know that there are times now when I feel the urge to gather my loved ones, and my friends, in my arms and thank them for all that they have done for me. I am greatly in debt to their kindness. I owe so many so much.