DH = Dear Husband
Our attack on Debt #2 has begun in earnest. This week, we received our reimbursement cheque from the insurance company. (See post “Debt and Uncertainty . . .”) That’s $2,589.15. And then there’s the amount of money we set aside in October. It was impressive, partly because we sold two musical instruments and an office desk that had been collecting dust in our house for years. So another $2,872. This month, we are setting aside $2,600 for our November debt repayment.
But that’s not the end of it. I get paid every two weeks, so twice a year I have a three-paycheque month. This year, November is one of them. Furthermore, DH, who works out of our home, is preparing his annual expenses claim this month. It is possible that we will have Debt #2 completely paid off by November 30. It is almost certain that we will have it paid off by the New Year. Unbelievable!
When I first listened to the CD version of The Total Money Makeover, I was struck by Dave Ramsey’s assertion that personality traits become more pronounced as debt is discarded and wealth is gained. In particular, I remember him saying that if you often feel guilty, you’re going to feel even more guilt as your wealth accumulates. I thought to myself at the time, I’m going to have to watch out for that one. Well here it is! I feel a distinct discomfort about our good fortune this month. Even DH said one morning this week, completely out of the blue, “I don’t know if I’m going to be comfortable not having any debt.” What’s with that?
In talking about this bizarre discomfort, DH and I both admitted to having thoughts that served to give a twisted reassurance:
– Things are good now, but it will all balance out; we’ll probably have a really bad couple of months ahead. Might as well make the most of it now.
– This is an impressive month, but we still have years of debt repayment ahead of us.
– We’re on track to pay off our debt in five years, but we’ll be so close to retirement by then that we won’t have a chance to build up our equity.
– My union is starting to take action. There’s a possibility that we’ll lose some income for a while.
I have tried to figure out the root of my reluctance to embrace financial success. In the end,
I would have to say that my comfort with financial struggle originates from faulty interpretations of the Bible. Even faulty interpretations that I shed years ago, at least on an intellectual level, are apparently still at work in me:
Faulty interpretation #1: All rich people are bad. Look at the rich young ruler. (Mark 10:17-27) He refused to sell all his worldly possessions as Jesus asked him to do. That’s when Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Revisiting interpretation #1: Clearly, Jesus didn’t believe that all rich people were bad. In his parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31), the father is wealthy enough to have servants, jewelry, fine clothes, and a fattened calf. And he is a good guy. In the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35), the hero is wealthy enough to transport a severely injured man to safety and to pay for his medical care and lodging. Joanna, one of the women who supported Jesus financially (Luke 8:3), was clearly wealthy. The centurion who implored Jesus to heal his servant acknowledged his own wealth and power. And of him, Jesus said, “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” (Matthew 8: 5-10) As for the rich young ruler, if we continue reading Jesus’ commentary, we see that it is in this very context – that of the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom of God – that Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)
Faulty interpretation #2: The Bible says that money is the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10)
Revisiting interpretation #2: Look up 1 Timothy 6:10. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Money is not the root of evil; love of money is what brings the piercing of grief. As for the management of money, there is a great deal of advice in the Bible on that topic, so clearly, it’s important. Don’t borrow money because you’ll end up being enslaved to the lender; your character is of more worth than your money; don’t give your heart to money; before you take on an investment, make sure that you can pay for it; don’t be lazy or you’ll end up poor; work hard so that you won’t be in need; give to the poor; be generous . . . Biblical monetary advice urges calculated wisdom combined with a guarding of the heart. It warns against the foolishness that can lead to financial ruin just as it warns against the worship of money. In his parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-9) Jesus tells of a woman who, after losing money, decides to “light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it,” and then calls her friends and neighbours and says, “Rejoice with me.” He doesn’t say, “She realized that it was only money, so it wasn’t worthy of her notice.” It was worthy of her notice – and her time and her effort and her celebration. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that money is evil.
I’m going to stare down the guilt that is making me less that absolutely thrilled with our fantastic progress this month. It’s a joy-killer – a life-muzzler. It stems from a theology that is oppressive and inaccurate. The woman in the parable lit a lamp, just as we have shone a light on our financial mess; she swept the house, just as we have tidied up our accounts; she searched carefully, just as we have searched for ways to manage better. And when she succeeded, she rejoiced!