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Real Answers™
Copyright: © 2008 Gary Hardaway
690 words


By:  Gary Hardaway


This winter afternoon in January, Congress is seriously talking about spending over one trillion dollars we don’t have. “We” will have to borrow it.  For the rest of our lives we’ll have to shell out huge amounts of interest to service all this debt.

Our children and grandchildren will someday have to try to pay it all back. “We” – meaning Congress – are hanging a concrete collar around their neck that will drag them down to the bottom of a sea of red ink. Chances are they will someday hate us for bankrupting them and ruining the country before they ever cast a single vote concerning their own destiny.

But Congress isn’t entirely at fault. Today, at the gas station, I filled up my 1994 Mazda for twenty bucks. At the adjoining pump a young man about age thirty filled up his brand new $40,000 BMW. Possibly this was a very financially successful young man.

Another possibility, however, exists. Like many today, he may have scraped up a couple of thousand, plopped it down, and signed a contract to pay off the rest later – at a whopping double digit interest rate. If so, he is not the prosperous young man he appears to be. He is a debtor/slave to a finance company, a victim of our consumer culture that demands we overspend.

Four years ago I bought my Mazda, with 73,000 miles on it, for $3,200 cash. So far it has cost me only $800 per year to get into a reliable, economical car that gets me where I need to go. If I keep driving it for four more years – a very feasible goal – the cost will have shrunk to an investment of $400 per year. With zero interest.

Have you ever heard these enslaving words? “For everything else there’s Master Card.” No, there isn’t. Nobody, not even Bill Gates, can have everything else. If you believe you can buy “everything else” you’re headed for debt slavery and bankruptcy. We’ve got to control our impulses to spend money we don’t have.

 I am a terrible American because I don’t spend much money on stuff that I don’t need or can’t afford. I don’t stimulate the economy. I avoid debt if I possibly can. I am not a rich man, but, by careful, disciplined financial management all my adult life, I’ve managed to avoid dire poverty.

About twenty-five years ago I got screamed at by a used car salesman for being such a traitor to the American lifestyle. I was buying a nice used Buick for $6,900. We signed the deal, and I began counting out the cash. When he saw the money he exploded, “You’re crazy! You should put that money down on a much nicer, newer car for your family.” I was not only a disgraceful American but a cruel, tightwad, skinflint dad and husband.

Instead of buying stuff, my wife and I believe in investing in lives. We’ve been helping a young friend get through college. She’ll graduate this year. Because we try to apply biblical teachings we regularly help folks in financial distress. We tithe to our church and give extra to various Christian organizations.

These biblical principles deserve some serious thought. For example, “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy . . . .” Earthly treasures are pretty flimsy. Market crashes, crooked investment managers, catastrophic medical costs, a few bad financial choices, rapid inflation, bank failures and similar events can cause our precious treasure trove to dwindle or disappear.

Better to put the money to good use than simply hoard it. If we wait until we have “enough” before we give charitably, we’ll never let go of a dime. We’ll lose out on a special kind of joy.

Consider this: “Whoever sows [gives] generously will reap [receive] generously.” This is not a magic formula for getting rich. The promised payoff comes by investing in lives and projects that have eternal value. It’s fun, and it’s deeply satisfying to see lasting good accomplished through one’s gifts.

 Instead of consuming so much, contribute much. Try it; you’ll like it.

Gary Hardaway, a regular contributor to the Amy Internet Syndicate, directs Summit School of Ministry in Bellingham, WA.

"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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