Debt In America & How That Affects Intergenerational Stewardship

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America continues to do some soul searching in the realm of finance. One sides wants to spend, and the other side wants to cut. FoxNews reports, “The Obama administration dug in Sunday on its vow to reject proposed spending cuts by congressional Republicans in upcoming budget talks but declined to say whether the president would veto their proposals or allow a government shutdown.”

It’s interesting because elected officials do represent the landscape of America whether we like or not. How is this? Many Americans are spenders while others are savers, and this manifests itself in too many families because a vast number of households have regular heated exchanges on spending, saving, and debt accumulation. This must be dealt with because, at the end of the day, it is impossible to create and sustain a vision of any intergenerational stewardship without making a long-term game plan of some kind, and this means sacrifice.

Our society, including the Church to some extent, has so canonized personal peace and affluence (as Francis Schaeffer would say) that we refuse to deal with debt. Why is this? Simple. “What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:32-ESV). I have had many conversations with some Baby-Boomers and those older than that who could care less about the next generation, although there is a very sacrificial core that has not dropped the torch of fiscal discipline. To those who have dropped the torch, they recognize the reality of our impending debt crisis and what this will do to our country, but it’s just not on their radar. They commonly say something like this, “By the time it all goes downhill, I’ll be gone, so I don’t care.” That is the epitome of selfishness and the total lack of generational vision.

In times past, the aging generation sought to sow the seeds for a stronger future generation, but that is not the case today. After all, if this is the best it gets and the dead are not raised, then we need to ‘git’ while the ‘gitten’ is good. To tell you the truth, I have been left nearly speechless, nearly. Instead of just letting things pass by and accepting this assumed inevitability, I charge this generation to awaken from its slumber and not forsake their children and their grandchildren. Repent, and believe on Christ, for the dead are raised, and judgment is coming. You must deal with debt, and forsake this welfare statist philosophy that is choking us to death.

We must not be selfish and succumb to investing our entire lives into accumulating more stuff (affluence) so that with it we can do our own thing no matter how it affects those around us, including our children and grandchildren (personal peace). Furthermore, the mindset of selflessness and a long-term vision must start in the Church and in Christian homes. We are already developing a vision for the next generation in our home. We eat rice and beans now, so that my wife can stay home and Homeschool our children (of which I teach as well). We seek to exhaust all means of grace to see our little ones come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and may they do likewise when they have families.

Ultimately, we charge all men to forsake their sin as He commands us, and we rest in His Sovereign decree over all things. May we be bold by the power of the Holy Spirit, and may He grant revival to our lands. And even if He doesn’t grant revival and convict our people of their selfish ways, we will never bow the knee to the world’s idols of personal peace and affluence no matter if they cast us into the fire or feed us to the lions!

This is the type of intergenerational vision that we must have day in and day out.

For more insights into applying Biblically sound financial principles that you can instill today and into the next generation, check out, Take ‘Em Out & Stay Out: The Foundation and Finances of Homeschool by Jeramy and Meggan Anderson.

Thrift Stores

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When there’s a purchase that has to be made, one of the greatest local places to do it is the thrift store!  You can usually find what you’re looking for if you’re willing to search for it and wait patiently to find it.  Goodwill and The Salvation Army are probably the most popular, nationwide thrift stores.  In the metro Atlanta area there is also St. Vincent de Paul and Park Ave Thrift.  If you have a keen eye, you will find thrift stores that are privately owned by individuals, churches and other charitable groups.  Just keep your eyes open.

On Lawrenceville Hwy 29, there is the Park Ave Outlet.  This is the first place to shop for clothing, shoes, and purses.  They also have bed linens, blankets, and drapes.  This thrift store has set daily prices that can’t be beat except maybe by bargaining at a yard sale.  On Thursdays, every item is $1.75!  Any pair of shoes, a dress, a pair of men’s khakis, or a sleeping bag, is only $1.75!  Each day, the price drops by a quarter.  So on Fridays, every item is $1.50.  On Saturdays, every item is $1.25 and so on until Wednesday, when everything is only $0.25!  However, you can imagine the crowd that may gather during the lunch hour on weekdays.

The quality of the clothing is the same as what you would find at a garage sale.  Some clothing makers build their products for quality and others don’t.  You should look carefully over the items of interest before you purchase and always wash before wear.  Many pieces are like new and still have the original store tags attached.  Some items may have a slight defect: like a broken zipper, a ripped seam, or a missing button.  These minor defects can be fixed quickly and cheaply if you have a few sewing skills and the basic necessities at home.

Shopping at the thrift store saves us a ton of money especially on children’s clothing.  I cannot, with a clear conscience, buy a $20 dress for any one of my children when I know that in 6 months, she won’t fit into it anymore.  Sure, I can hand it down, but I could have spent less than 1/5 that amount buying the SAME DRESS or one similar at the thrift store.  I can still hand it down and make the dollar stretch even farther.  Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Carter’s, Osh Kosh, Chico’s, Ann Taylor, NY & Co, Faded Glory, Old Navy, etc. are all there.  Give it a try: you never know what you might find.

Managing Money

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The Scripture speaks about money more than almost anything, and, in an era of high credit card debt and instant gratification, we need to chew on God’s Word regarding financial responsibilities. The Scripture does not prohibit loans, yet we are commanded to pay off our debts, and it’s better to have little or no debt. It’s one thing to take out a modest and manageable home loan, but it’s another to just waste money and run up credit card debt on frivolous impulse shopping.

No matter where a Christian lives, basic fiscal principles still apply whether one is poor, average, or wealthy. The way in which one spends, saves, and/or borrows money reflects the secrets of the heart, and our credit card receipts have reflected ill upon us as individual Christians and as a Church corporately. The borrower is a slave to the lender, and the American Church has become a slave to creditors just as bad as individual Christians. Casting off this gorilla takes discipline and a willingness to delay gratification, which is not easy. However, it bears much fruit when put in to practice both fiscally and evangelistically.

When Christians learn to manage their finances, outsiders start to take notice, and this has happened in my own life as well as others. Over time, as more Christians live within their means, the louder the gospel will cry out to a lost and debt ridden generation because, as we practice sound financial stewardship, our resources will be better used to glorify God and not ourselves.

Therefore, let us encourage fiscal responsibility, and live out what we preach with our own dollars and cents.