Credit cards provide a lot of benefits - convenience, safety of not carrying as much cash, tracking of expenditures and sometimes even reward points – but at what cost?
In a fast-paced world it is easy to see the benefit of just a quick swipe, but there are a lot of hidden “traps” that are often undetected and take a toll on us and society at large. Here are just a few for the Christian to consider:
• Using a credit card can be choosing to spend beyond our ability to afford. Growing up, many of us learned to “Save first and then pay cash”. That delayed gratification served us, our parents, grandparents and generations of Americans well. Earn it, then spend it. In today’s world, the typical young married couple wants to get all the “things” that their parents accumulated over 25-30 years of marriage…in the first 5 years of their marriage…and they do…through the use of credit! In today’s now-oriented society, we have stopped applying the principle of delayed gratification…and we are paying for it dearly in high interest payments.
Think about it this way, if you don’t like that our federal government is spending way beyond its means and stealing from our future social security and our grandchildren’s future; should we, at the individual and family level also be spending beyond our means? Most Americans, even most Christians are doing just that in today’s culture and our excess spending via credit often means we are not putting away sufficient resources for our own retirement. Our spending today is often stealing from our own tomorrows!
God wants us to trust His provision as being enough and to be content to wait instead of using a credit card when we don’t have enough finances to cover our expenditures. While there are times when use of credit is possibly advisable, more often than not, we can unintentionally develop a bad habit of utilizing credit instead of saving and planning.
I heard a saying years ago that I like a lot: If your Outgo exceeds your Income, your Upkeep will be your Downfall!
Hmm, something to think about as it relates to our own spending and the upcoming election.
• Credit cards can become habitual. The marketers behind credit cards are smart. They offer incentives to help us plunge deeper into a deeper dependency upon them. Using a credit card has even been encouraged as being good for our credit and necessary to earn a good credit score. While this can seem sensible when we consider the ability to pay our bills, it can also develop into a bad habit without us even noticing.
• Credit cards can cause our debt to rise exponentially and trap us in a vicious cycle. The premise behind a credit card is one of being subject to the whim of the lender, who can hike interest rates and communicate in small fine print so it is not easily detectable to the busy consumer. Suddenly the debt we thought was manageable becomes out of control and overwhelming. Transferring balances only worsens the solution unless we have a disciplined way of escape. One man used the analogy of “I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul…and getting all the other Apostles involved too!” :(
Our society bows its knees to the god of convenience, and while some convenience can be a blessing, we dare not allow ourselves to thoughtlessly pay and give without considering the source. Everything comes from God and goes back to Him. He is the Owner of it all and we are His Stewards. For the Christian, God is glorified when we consider our finances to be His and to steward them well. Using a credit card for convenience and because it is what is required in many instances (payment over internet or renting a car, for instance), is obviously necessary. But paying off those debts right away is wise as well. We believe there is a proper use of credit and a misuse of credit; but too often for too many people, those lines become blurred.
In the end, our ability to make and pay money all comes from God. Why not use it all for His glory and provision, instead of paying a lot of interest and hidden fees and becoming trapped in the bondage of debt? God is the God of Freedom; including Financial Freedom! That’s what He wants for you and I to experience, Financial Freedom instead of bondage to debt.