By: Jason K. Allen– Five years ago, I had a heart problem and did not know it. My blood pressure was normal, I felt fine, and I was moving quickly through the activities of my life, unaware that my heart was poised to experience a massive, “widow-maker” heart attack. I was a ticking time bomb.
After I had a few palpitations and some shortness of breath, I visited the cardiologist. When he did a procedure to look at my heart, he scheduled me for open-heart surgery . . . the next day. Four bypasses and a very long recovery period later, I was a new man. I had not known that my energy level was low until my heart was free to work like it did decades ago. I felt so much better!
My minor symptoms were indicators of a much deeper problem. Debt, even when it’s the nagging “low hum” variety, is symptomatic of deeper issues. We’ve said before that money issues are heart issues. Debt is a money issue telling us that something in our heart is resulting in a problem in our wallet.
So, while you could easily Google “get out of debt” and have any number of debt reduction strategies, blogs, budget trackers, or apps appear, ready to walk you through legitimate debt elimination plans, I want to ask you to first consider that debt is a symptom of something else and look a little deeper at its root cause in your life.
A debt problem is like driving a car at full speed with a funny noise in the engine. If we keep driving, ignoring the rattle, we are poised for a major crash. The wise idea is to slow down, stop the car, examine the rattle, and find the problem. We can’t fix our financial mess or the heart issue behind it if we don’t first stop to diagnose it and then deal with it. It’s worth a bit of delay to fix what is really the problem—for our wallets and our hearts. Solving the root cause of our financial problem prevents the cycle of slowing down just long enough to quiet the rattle only to hear it again when we get back up to the speed of life, leaving us in a similar situation down the road.
I’ll bet that if you stop to think about it, you could articulate some of the heart issues that are behind the debt in your life. Over my career, I’ve interacted with people at every income level in every level of debt imaginable. Sometimes debt indicates a prevailing lack of contentment. Often it reveals a lack of self-discipline or pride. Other times it is motivated by a desire to be accepted. Debt can reveal someone’s need to control a certain situation or be a symptom of short-term thinking over long-term planning. What could be the “heart” behind your debt?
Whatever your “rattle,” there is grace in Christ to face it head on and to overcome it. Once you have identified the root of your debt problem you can effectively put into practice one of many debt-reduction strategies. Having a good understanding of debt—principles about it, dangers in it, and reasons to use it—will guide your decision-making and will help you guard your heart as you tackle your debt.
Dr. Jason K. Allen serves as the fifth president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Kansas City, Mo., and is one of the youngest presidents in all of American higher education. Since coming to Midwestern Seminary, he has led the institution to become one of the largest and fastest growing seminaries in North America. In addition to his role as President, Dr. Allen serves the institution in the classroom, as an associate professor for preaching and pastoral ministry. More broadly, he serves the church through his preaching and writing ministries as well. He is the author of two recently-released books, The SBC & the 21st Century (B&H Publishing) and Discerning Your Call to Ministry (Moody Publishing). Dr. Allen regularly posts essays on his website, jasonkallen.com, and hosts a weekly podcast, “Preaching & Preachers,” which can also be found at jasonkallen.com. Before coming to Midwestern Seminary, Dr. Allen served as a pastor, and as a senior administrator at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He and his wife, Karen, are both from Mobile, Ala., and have five children: Anne-Marie, Caroline, William, Alden, and Elizabeth.