This post was originally posted on ChristianStewardshipCoaching.com May 20, 2015.
So I was having an interesting conversation with a friend the other day.
And by interesting I mean frustrating, I'm just trying to be nice in case he reads it.
Ok, it wasn't really a conversation.
More of a shocked gaping stare from me....
Then a... "What?"
Then a long conversation that likely did no good, but I pray it did.
So what was it about?
This gentleman, we'll call him Fred, was introduced to someone, we'll call him Bob, as the person who had given "his" land to be the location of a church near where I live.
Fred immediately corrected the statement to be that it wasn't his land. It was God's.
I agreed. I also mentioned that it was so much easier to give to others when you realized that fundamentally it wasn't yours in the first place.
From there Fred turned to me and asked, "Hey aren't you debt free?" I, of course, said yes.
Fred and Bob both said that was really cool, but Fred said he didn't have the income to live that way.
But it's not about Income.
That was my immediate reply. He disagreed and said no sometimes you don't have enough money to live.
Now I do know there are situations of true, real poverty. But I pointed out that the debt is not a solution, at best it is a deferral of reality.
The solution there was truly more income in some way shape or form. There are really only two sides to the money equation.
Income > Expenses = ok. Income < Expenses = debt.
He agreed but said this isn't what he was talking about. He was talking about this type of situation.
He mentioned that as a middle-class rancher who was making money and definitely not poor his refrigerator broke. He didn't have the money on hand to replace it.
This was "obviously" an emergency so they went and bought a brand new refrigerator on credit and paid that back over the next year.
My reply, that wasn't an income problem either. It was a choice.
It was a choice.
My reply was that there were other choices. The best was to have planned ahead and realized that it isn't IF an emergency will happen.
It is when.
So then you would have had some emergency money tucked aside.
But let's assume that you didn't.
It's still a choice because there were cheaper refrigerators.
You could buy from the scratch and dent store. Or a garage sale. Or borrow one from a friend if they have an extra (believe it or not I know several folks that have extras).
Heck if you could get the money fast (can anyone say massive garage sale, Craiglist listings, or trip to the resale shop tomorrow?) you could probably make do with storing the food in coolers for a day or two and buy that cheap one fast.
This is when the truth came out.
Pride. That was the real issue.
Why? Because his reply was well I've done that before. But it was when I was poor.
Now we deserve better stuff than the old refrigerator.
Do you deserve it?
If you can't pay for it?
So it was really a choice. A choice to go into debt to solve the "emergency" in one way.
But it wasn't a lack of income that brought on this choice.
It was a combination of poor planning (no emergency fund) and pride.
It wasn't being unable to avoid debt. It was choosing to.
Now I'll be honest in the grand scheme of things financing a refrigerator didn't set this family back very far. They paid it off in 6 months and didn't tie up much of their income very long.
But they still live without an emergency fund. Because they see short-term debt as their emergency fund.
This remains a choice they've unconsciously made.
It's not even the choice they made that I really feel bad about.
It's the fact that they made it by default.
Because it's the only choice they see.
Even when given exposure to other choices they don't see them.
Because our culture has made avoiding debt a choice the is seen as impossible and weird. But debt is inevitable and normal.
That is a sad state of affairs.