Living Below Sea Level

Most of us can vividly remember August 2005 when Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast. While the eye of the storm actually came into Mississippi, in the days that followed the major media attention was on New Orleans. While the city certainly received winds and water, the great destruction came when the levies broke and Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River waters and the Gulf all filled up the basin of the city. The sights, sounds and the tragedy of those days continue to be riveting, breathtaking and heartbreaking even until now. Many of the deaths and much of the destruction that came to the river city was not because of Katrina and her fury, but because the city sits below sea level.

In spite of its location, through the years efforts had been made to make sure that the people would be protected and the city would not face that kind of crisis. Canals, pumps, levies and dams had given a sense of security year after year as storms came in or passed close by, but Katrina was a uniquely perfect storm to be destructive. She was enormous, powerful and her timing was just right to push the waters in at maximum heights to overwhelm the levies. We all saw the results and watched and wept. While we all saw what took place in that city, I want to ask you to look at where you live and recognize the dangers that may be around and ahead of you.

Now before you think that you live hundreds of feet above sea level, allow me to point out clearly and unmistakably I am talking about your financial location. Most Americans are living deep in debt and on the edge of being swamped by economic storms. As individuals, we are simply following other families, communities, cities, states and our entire country.

I do not even know how to begin to talk about the national debt of 17 trillion dollars. But this I do know, individually Americans are digging a deeper and deeper hole of debt. No doubt, you have read some of the information that has been released recently. This is not only the dilemma of young people but also of senior adults. During the year 2013, a change took place. The debt on our credit cards was exceeded by the debt that young people owed on student loans. It is incredible that over a trillion dollars is owed by young people. Many of these cannot get a job and most of them cannot figure out a way to pay back the money they borrowed to get an education.

Add to that many of them also have debt related to credit cards which means that they have double debt to deal with along with trying to get started in life. Many of them think that if they can just keep paying their monthly bill that everything will be okay, and they will figure out other ways to get out of debt. The problem is that they live so close to the edge that when a storm comes they are soon overwhelmed and see no way at all to get out of the disaster.

At the other end of the debt spectrum is something that has changed in the last several years about senior adults who are approaching their retirement years. It used to be that most folks when they got to that place in life were living in a home that was mortgage free, their debt load was paid off nd they could live on considerably less. No longer is that true. The average senior adult now supposedly comes to that moment with a mortgage payment that is sizeable and other debt that is over 50,000 dollars. One critical stay in the hospital and they can be on the edge of being homeless and hopeless. An individual can only live below sea level for so long until potentially they will be living in a flood. So what should we do?

The first step is that if you are ever going to stop getting into a deeper and deeper hole you have got to stop digging the hole. Paying off debt is never easy or fun, but it is essential if you are ever going to find yourself in a good spiritual stewardship position with the resources that God has given you. The answer to the dilemma is to stop borrowing and pay off more. Debt is an insidious thief that will come into your life and your home. Not only will it ruin you financially, but it will wreck relationships all around you. Eventually, it will decimate your future. No nation, but more importantly no person, can go on like that indefinitely without it costing beyond what you can even imagine.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome and said, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another” (Rom. 13:8). There may be times and places where you need to owe something in order to be able to accomplish what you are doing whether it is buying a car or a home, but you do not have to owe everybody everything. God will help you and you can be prepared to be a blessing and to withstand many of the storms that come in life.

Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer