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March 7, 2012 / martinparks

Slavery: where do I sign up?

Universally, people think slavery is bad. The word itself – slavery – conjures up distasteful images that range from pre-civil war America, to prostitution, to human trafficking.

But when it comes to our personal finances, we actually ask to be slaves. “Can I try on those shackles for size,” we ask? “Can I please get those chains in red,” we plead? The slavery I speak of is debt – and sadly, I am still a slave.

I first asked for my first set of shackles in college, when I got my pre-approved Citibank Visa with a credit limit of $600. After quickly reached my limit, my master graciously increased my limit to $1,200.  So began a life of borrowing money and making minimum monthly payments.

Slavery first started getting uncomfortable when we bought our dream home. Shortly after that, I left a high-paying job that I hated for a lower-paying job that was tolerable. The weight of the chains increased.

Looking back, I can’t believe that I made the decision to cancel health insurance for my wife and children so that we could afford to pay Citibank, Discover and our mortgage. I mean, we were pretty healthy – so that made sense, right? Thank you, God, for protecting my family’s health in those dark years.

My wife and I both remember the conversation where my shackles, chains and locks were more than I could carry. “I think we’re going to have to sell our home,” I said. It was the house that we loved, in the neighborhood that we loved, and we simply couldn’t afford it. We sold our home at a loss, borrowed money to close, and moved to a new city to take a job that I love.

Ultimately, it was my greed and envy that enslaved us. Whether it was the new car, the new computer, or a new gadget, I wanted it NOW – and thought I could pay it off soon.

We’re still trying to pay off soon. At our worst, we carried $225,000 in debt – $180,000 in mortgage, $45,000 in credit cards. Today, we are down to about $17,000 in total debt.

We are now entering our fourth year of cutting off the chains. Cutting metal with a hacksaw is not a fast process. It is slow, hard work, and every once in a while the blade breaks. I am so thankful for the lesson this journey has taught me.

What’s that lesson? The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7. When you borrow money, you ask to be a slave. The bible doesn’t differentiate that there is good debt (mortgages, student loans) or bad debt (credit cards). You are either a slave or free.

I choose freedom.