Mike Ruffin

Mike Ruffin

Mistakes come at a high cost

By Mike Ruffin
Religion Columnist

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“It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it” (Ecclesiastes 5:3).

January is not my favorite month. I lost my mother 55 years ago on Jan. 9. I was only 7 years old. My dad passed 39 years ago on Jan. 18.

The truth is January is not a great month for a lot of other Americans, either. Ultimately, the excesses of Christmas catch up with all of us, especially those of us who charged our way into the hearts of others by using credit cards instead of paying cash for those gifts. It’s payback time.

According to statista.com, the average American spent $830 on Christmas 2015. I don’t know about you, but I finally finished above average in something, although I probably shouldn’t be proud of it.

The problem is many of did not have the money to spend on Christmas that we spent. We just pulled out the plastic and figured we’d worry about it later. That’s mistake No. 1.

Credit card debt is destroying a lot of American families. It’s no wonder. Every major credit card solicits the average American seven times a year through the mail. The average household has between four to 10 credit cards, and the average balance on those cards is $15,355, according to nerdwallet.com. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Americans all together owe $712 billion in credit card debt.

Such debt is one of the worst deals out there. Typically, you effectively pay an average of 15 percent interest when you pay your minimum monthly payment of 2 percent of the principal.

Did you know that if your credit card balance is $8,000, and you make the minimum monthly payment at 15 percent interest, it will take you 30 years to pay the debt off? You will pay $12,434 in interest.

But if you invested that monthly payment in a savings account at 2 percent interest, you’d have over $78,000 in the bank in just 30 years.

Well, that’s enough math for one day. But what likely will happen across this country when the full weight of Christmas spending comes down on many Americans, is many of them – including some Christians – will consider bankruptcy. That begs the question, “What does the Bible say about bankruptcy?”

It might sound a little strange, but many of today’s banking practices and laws are based on biblical principles. Even bankruptcy itself carries a seven-year judgment before it is forgiven, which comes from the book of Deuteronomy: “At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts” (Deuteronomy 15:1).

Today, many of us choose bankruptcy over honor, yet we might not realize that’s the choice we are making. When we signed that promissory note, we made a vow to pay back that which we had borrowed. So, while the law of bankruptcy might remove man’s obligation of debt, God’s law does not. That’s why our credit record is stained for at least seven years. It’s the world’s way of acknowledging that God’s law prevails over man’s law.

If you are considering bankruptcy, there are other options you first should examine, including ones that will protect other major areas of your life such as finding a job, buying or renting a home or car, acquiring insurance and getting a security clearance.

Unfortunately, the one option many Americans choose is to do nothing. Ironically, that choice is made to avoid humiliation and embarrassment that comes from reaching out. The Bible offers great advice here, too: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Seek counseling from someone you trust. Call your local banker, and you’ll be surprised at the reception you receive. But don’t wait until it’s too late. Remember what the Bible says: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge” (Matthew 5:25).

Write to Mike Ruffin at mike.ruffin@devotions.com.