It got me.
Yep. My own sermon got me!
On July 26th I preached a sermon on money by looking at Zacchaeus in Luke 19. In preparation for the message I started to think deeply about how secretive most people are with the details of their finances, including me.
This wasn’t the case with Zacchaeus however.
What happened as Jesus came into his life?
Money went public.
In response to being seen, called by name and recognized as worthy of attention by Jesus— Zacchaeus opens the vault of his heart, his mouth, and even his check book (per se).
That’s right. When Jesus arrives money goes public.
While I certainly have room to grow in being transparent about finances with others, I’m posting this blog today with two hopes:
- That it will allow you to celebrate with my family as we experience the first days of freedom from debt.
- That you would be encouraged to be more authentic with others about your finances.
Here are seven reasons why I’m out of debt at 31.
1. Being debt free honors God.
Proverbs 22:7 doesn’t mince words — ‘The borrower is slave to the lender.’
Debt has a companion called pressure. I’m convinced that God has designed us to live with breathing room financially. We should all heed a warning from this proverb and pursue financial freedom.
2. My family has a financial strategy that drives our giving, saving and spending.
If one is truly convinced that being debt free honors God, then you’ll have to commit to an action plan for getting out of debt. We followed some (but not all) of the principles from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
3. Our families were VERY generous to us.
One of the main reasons we’re out of debt in our 30’s is because of our families.
- We both received small inheritances that allowed us to get into our first home (Kim) and first car (Joel).
- We received help from our families to get through college. Between the two of us, we left college with $27,000 in debt.
- Kim’s parents watch our son for 6-8 hours every week. This means we don’t have to pay for daycare beyond our dates.
4. Other families housed me for extended periods of time.
Illinois, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Arizona. I lived with families in each of these states so I didn’t have to rent an apartment during part of my time in college and seminary or during an internship and residency with churches.
As a bonus, I witnessed four different marriages and parenting styles over the two plus years I lived with the Dillon’s, Therrien’s, Shield’s and Sessions’ families.
Thank you for making the words of Romans 12:13—practice hospitality—come to life.
5. We have a healthy income between both of our jobs.
Before Micah was born we both worked full time and utilized the extra income to make a great amount of headway into our debt. Now that we’re out of debt Kim has cut back to nearly half of what she was working before Micah was born.
6. We are learning how to cook!
Notice that word learning. Over the past two years we have both worked at improving our cooking skills to the point where we enjoy eating in. We’re not about to stop going out to eat, but it’s not a staple for us like it was when we were both single.
7. Going without, hand-me-downs and planned spending
We’re frugal. That’s what #7 should be titled. In short, we’ve been creative in finding ways to save money. Here’s a sampling:
- Waiting to decorate our house until it is paid off.
- Shopping for clothes during the holiday sales (Veteran’s day, President’s day etc.)
- Driving old cars for much longer than we’d like and paying cash when we get an upgrade
- Using cloth diapers and hand-me-down clothes on Micah
After making our last mortgage payment on January 4th, I can tell you that being debt free has paid immediate dividends. There’s less anxiety surrounding finances in our home than there used to be. We’re creatively praying about how we can be more generous and we’re even allowing ourselves to be less frugal in select areas. It’s also meant that Kim can cut down on work one more day so she can enjoy extra time with our son.
While we all find ourselves in different places in our financial journey, it’s worth asking some questions.
- Do you believe that being out of debt honors God?
- If so, do you have a plan for how to get there?
- How can you be family to someone as you work towards being debt free?
- What can you learn to do yourself to save money?
I’ll leave you with this quote from Richard Foster in his book The Challenge of the Disciplined Life.
Let’s create an atmosphere in which confession is possible. Much of our preaching on money has been either to condemn it or praise it but not to help each other relate to it. Many of us feel isolated and alone, as if we were the only ones who count our gold in the night. How much better it would be to create a climate of acceptance in which we can talk about our mutual problems and frustrations, confess our fears and temptations. If we can listen with empathy to the confession of someone who has been seduced by sex; let us also do the same with money.