Debt vs. Savings: A Shopping Cart Dilemma

Imagine trying to grocery shop with ten children. They are all different ages with all different needs. Now these are not the nice orderly children that you sometimes see in large families, these kids are whiny, and wild. They are not there for you, they are there for themselves. And it is just you, trying to get something done… and trying to keep them happy. The little ones start to cry, the older ones are complaining, everyone wants something for themselves (that is not on your list!). At the end of the grocery shopping trip you are exhausted, frustrated, and you look in your cart and though you somehow managed to keep all of your children happy, you have nothing that you needed. In your distracted state, you spent the whole trip catering to the urgent and were never able to focus on the important… the things you actually needed, the reasons you came to the grocery store in the first place.

Spending your life attending to only your debts is a lot like this analogy. Some of you are in tremendous debt, and you may have been thinking to yourself, “How can I afford to save money when I have so much debt?” This is really a very important question, because it is my contention that you cannot afford not to. If all you do is spend the next few years paying off your debts, you will be no better off than the person in my analogy… you will have nothing to show for your efforts except contented creditors, but you will have made no progress towards your true purpose. Now if you are in debt, I am absolutely excited about you coming out of that debt and I am going to be talking a lot about a plan of how to do just that. However, I also believe that no matter what your debt, it is so important to pay yourself first. You are more than just the sum of your debts. God has more for you than just paying off debt. How wonderful would it be in five years (or however long it takes), when all of your debt has been paid off, to also have a very nice savings account and to be in a completely different place financially. If you don’t strategically save while you are in debt (right now, today!) there is a very good chance that you will never start, and your cycle of debt will just continue.

One of the most obvious problems with having nothing in savings is that you are on course to just accumulate more debt. What if you air conditioning goes out? Or your car needs repair? What if you have a sick child and have to make a trip to the emergency room? Or you have a hailstorm and you have to pay a huge deductible for a whole new roof? With nothing in savings, any form of emergency will just be added onto your pile of debt and you will have to pay those horrible interest rates on that debt as well. You may pay a little more in interest by not putting all of your available money towards your debt, but it will actually cost you more in the long run to not have a savings account. At the very least, it is important to have an emergency savings account, because chances are… not having one is how you got into that debt in the first place.

However, my heart for you is that through this blog, you would get more purpose in your heart for your money than just being prepared for the worst. As I pointed out in my blog about “The Storehouse Blessing”, Joseph was prepared for the famine in Egypt and it was the salvation of his entire family, as well as all of Egypt. It is God’s heart to prosper you, not just so that you can have, but so that you can be a blessing to all of the families of the earth. My Dad preaches a wonderful sermon on this, but the heart of what I want to share with you today is… how can you be a blessing to all the families of the earth when you are constantly in desperate need yourself? When we are being constantly affronted with debt, we get so distracted from what our true purpose is and what God has called us to do. That is why it is so important to come out of that debt, but it is also why it is so important to keep our purpose in front of us in spite of that debt. Joseph didn’t only just survive during the famine in Egypt… he actually prospered during the famine. At the end of the famine, Joseph owned all of the land in Egypt (in Pharaoh’s name of course), he had all of the money, and he had given all of the people seed to plant harvests with the promise of a 20% return from any crop that they grew. (Genesis 47:13-26) He didn’t just use the storehouse to survive, he put the storehouse to work for him and thrived.

I don’t just want you to be free from the debt that has plagued you, I want to you to thrive on the other side. So that is why it is important to save even when you are facing a mountain of debt. There is a way over that mountain and we are going to be talking about that very soon, but if all you face on the other side of the mountain is poverty with nothing to show for all of your hard work, then it is time to rethink your approach to the mountain. Just like my shopping trip analogy, there will always be something pulling at your money and your financial attention. Distractions from your purpose are a guaranteed fact of life, but it’s what you do in the face of those distractions that will determine whether your shopping cart ends up full of what you need for your family and for you to be a blessing, or full of junk that you were distracted into buying along the way and empty of anything of substance. Don’t be distracted from your purpose. Start a savings account while you are paying off your debt, because it is possible for you to do more than just survive in the land of famine. It is even possible for you to do what Joseph did and come out from the famine of debt in your life with money in the bank, land that you own, and investments for your future. Now that sounds like a dream worth keeping your shopping cart on course for.