Slavery has been in the news more than you might expect in recent years. My first vivid memory of slavery was as a small child, when the mini-series Roots was the most popular thing on TV and I remember people talking about it. I was only about 7 year’s old. In my education, the evils of slavery, especially as it related to the American Civil War, were taught in the classroom. Later, I read about examples of slavery around the world throughout history. Slavery is an evil that has been inflicted on many different people throughout history, but many people today choose to become slaves and it seems like more people are choosing it every day.
I’m not talking about the same kind of slavery, but a different kind that was identified by the king who was known as the wisest man of his time. King Solomon composed most of the wise sayings that are found in the Bible in the book of Proverbs. The proverb I’m talking about is this one:
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”Proverbs 22:7 ESV
Solomon was of course, very rich. He was perhaps the most wealthy man in the world for that period of history. As the head of an incredibly rich state, it is certain that he saw the relationship between wealth and poverty, lending and debt first hand. In the culture of Israel, it was actually possible for someone to become a slave because of their debt. Regardless of whether a debtor considers themselves a slave, when we borrow money and owe someone, we enter into a type of slavehood.
A slave loses control of their freedom. They are no longer able to determine their own path, but must look to the one who controls them. This is what it is like to be in debt. Debt has a power over our present and our future. It impacts things like:
- Our ability to be generous
- Our freedom to respond to opportunities when they come
- Our capability of dealing with a crisis
- Our ability to help others in their times of need
- Our flexibility to be involved in ministry
- Our priorities for life and family
The lenders tend to accumulate wealth, while the borrowers end up trapped in a never-ending cycle of payments. Those who own assets that increase in value, such as property, stocks and investments grow in power and wealth, often at the expense of the masses. In America, it is estimated that the top 0.1% own more than the bottom 80% combined.
The world wants you to be a slave to those in power and wealth. Some might feel they have no choice but to give in, but the truth is the majority of the population volunteers to be a slave to those in power. Here is how you do it:
- You get used to spending more than you earn – The greatest principle that contributes to this situation is also the simplest, if you spend less than you earn, you won’t have to use debt, but if you make it a habit to spend more than each paycheck, then you have no choice, but to become a slave.
- See monthly payments for everything as essential – It used to be the norm that you would buy things and own things, but the preference now is to sell us access to things and services. Every month, the rich and powerful want us paying them a monthly fee, whether it is for entertainment, material possessions or access to things we consider essential. They want us paying for all of these things, just like we pay for water and electricity. Reducing our monthly payments is one way to make sure we never become a slave.
- Get you to take out loans for things that depreciate – As stated above, those in power buy assets that make money. The debtors stay in slavery making monthly payments on things like expensive new cars, boats or cell phones that lose a significant part of their value as soon as they aren’t new. Taking out a loan for an asset that loses value like this is a special kind of slavery.
- Borrow from the future for the present, which becomes the past. Marketing makes future payments seem like they will be painless, but it often leaves people enslaved to pay for things that they don’t even want and sometimes, don’t even have anymore. A quick way to slavery is to accumulate debt to be paid off “some day” for a passing pleasure of the moment.
- Pay more for the same thing because of a brand – Speaking of marketing. Much of it is geared around getting us to pay more for certain products, simply because of the name on the label. We can become a slave to our pride and desire to own or be seen in certain brands. We give ourselves over to the whims of the marketing departments, allowing them to determine our happiness.
- Accumulate credit card debt – Credit cards are the easiest way to accumulate debt for consumables and other things that will be long gone way before the debt is paid off. This category or “consumer debt” is one of the greatest slave masters in the world today.
These are some of the examples of what it means to be a slave through debt. It starts very simply for most people. They might get a credit card during University and build up a few bills that they will pay off, someday soon. When you get a new job that pays better, you might add a big new car payment right away, now that you can afford it, rather than saving for a good used car. Some get buried under a mountain of student loan debt, going to a University they can’t afford to earn a degree that will never allow them to get a job that pays enough to get out of their enslavement. Many 20 and 30 somethings are definitely feeling what it is like to be enslaved to debt these days because of these loans.
Most of us won’t ever earn enough to become what we would think of as being rich, but it is possible for everyone to find freedom from the slavery of debt. The best thing we can do is to never get into it. Do this by:
- Living within your means (i.e. don’t spend more than you earn)
- Live more simply
- Invest time in more people, not money in more things
- Save for big ticket items instead of borrowing money for them.
If you are already swimming in debt, you know what it is like to be under this bond of slavery. Don’t give up hope. There are a variety of services that exist in order to help people who are committed to being free from debt. I recommend Consumer Credit Counseling and Dave Ramsey’s free materials.
No one should desire to live in slavery. I challenge you to make a commitment to break the bonds of slavery today.