I was always coveting the latest trends. I would justify my spending habits, but every month, I was living in anxiety about how to repay my debts.
Editor's Note: Names have been changed for anonymity.
Growing up, my parents always emphasized on being presentable and well-behaved in front of others in order to leave a good impression.
I grew up in a Christian family and went to church every week. I was taught on the importance of tithing, and not to love money. At the same time, my family was financially comfortable, and it was evident in the way my parents spent their money.
My dad enjoyed luxury goods, and taught me to appreciate the finer things in life.
When I was 12, my mom started entrusting me with a weekly allowance.
But I blew the entire amount at the school bookshop. I’d always be broke before I got my next allowance, and this went on well into adulthood.
I was always coveting the latest trends; clothes, luxury bags and shoes. I didn’t think that it was a problem, and I would justify my spending habits by thinking to myself, “It’s not much, I’ll be able to pay it off easily”.
When I had pretty stuff and wore new clothes, people would look at me enviously, and my friends would pay me compliments. This made me feel good about myself, yet I was blind to the fact that I had become a slave to material possessions. It had become the thing that I loved, trusted and obeyed. When I was 16, my family plunged into debt because of several failed business ventures.
My family’s spending habits also contributed to this debt. It was a painful experience for my family, and I remember telling myself that I would never go into debt like they did. But I desperately wanted to keep up the illusion of coming from a rich family.
So from the moment I started working, I started spending excessively to boost my appearance. Things got worse when I applied for a credit card. Year after year, I chalked up credit card debts. Whenever I got into debt, I’d tell myself that it would be the last time.
But while I tried to change my spending habits, my beliefs didn’t change, so the cycle continued. It came to a point where I had a debt of $16,000. In embarrassment, I approached my lifegroup leader then for help. Without a word, she took out $6,000 from her own savings and went with me to ask another lifegroup friend to loan me $10,000. I was on a monthly repayment plan to them. Even then, I did not change.
Every month, I would live in anxiety about how to repay my debts.
But the moment my pay came in, I would immediately start surfing the net for new clothes. I felt this rush of excitement when I purchased something new. But after receiving the items, I would actually feel a sense of dread. I even had to hide my purchases so that my mom wouldn’t find out. I had lost all control when it came to this addiction of buying things! In total, I owed more than $20,000.
Because I had racked up new credit card debts, I stopped repaying my lifegroup leader and friend. I was planning to use my bonus that year to pay off some of the debt, but it was cut by 60% from the previous year.
I became desperate. My eyes were finally opened to the true condition that I was in.
I knew that I could no longer live this way. But it seemed like a hopeless situation. I thought, “How can I ever repay these debts? Has God finally forsaken me?”
It was at this time when Pastor Daniel preached the “When God Seems Silent” series.
In his sermon, Pastor shared on James 1: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” When I heard this verse, I had the assurance that God was not done with me. He could use the situation I was in to change me to become more like Him. Indeed, God was gracious, and sent people to help me.
When my grandma heard about my debts, she offered to lend me money to pay off the credit card bills so that I did not have to worry about the interest fees. My lifegroup member, Hannah, helped me work out a budget and we would meet up to review my expenses every month. I surrendered my credit cards for safe-keeping so that I could not use them anymore. At the same time, I restarted the monthly repayment to my lifegroup leader and friend. In the months that I came up short, my boyfriend would also help by lending me money to tide through. I began to see the gravity of my sin, and how it affected the people around me.
I also began to see that I could not help myself out of this situation. The more I experienced the grace of God, the more I was humbled. I needed God to change my heart! It was at rock bottom that I learnt to trust and rely on God alone. God started to change the false beliefs that I had held on to for so long.
The opinions of others had defined me my whole life, and now I was starting to discover that only God’s opinion matters.
If I live according to what other people think, I’ll always be like a reed, swaying according to their whims and fancies. But God’s opinion of me defines my worth and sets the best path for my life! Slowly I found that I stopped feeling uncomfortable or inferior without a branded bag by my side. Now I don’t actually notice how people look at me anymore!
God had also given me a dream to help the poor and desolate. But God revealed to me that if I did not deal with the root issue of greed in my heart, I will never be able to live out His purposes for my life.
God spoke to me through the parable of the steward in Luke 16:10.
He reminded me that if I was not faithful with the earthly wealth that he has given to me, how then can I be responsible for people, who are the true riches of heaven? The Holy Spirit convicted me that God created me to be a good steward of His resources so that I can reflect His love in this world.
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” Luke 16:9-10
By the grace of God, I finally cleared off all my debts in March this year!
Besides sticking to my monthly budget, I had an insurance payout and a good bonus that allowed me to accelerate the repayment of my debts. I even managed to contribute ⅓ of the remaining money towards the church building fund! I was also able to give a small sum of money for the recent Project: Love Your Neighbour. It is wonderful to be investing my money in God’s kingdom, because I know that I’m living out God’s original design for my life.
I had lived my whole life creating a facade just so I could be impressive in the eyes of men, but God had better plans for me.
He wants me to live in the security of his love! Although this battle with materialism is ongoing, I know that God will never leave me nor forsake me in this journey. My encouragement to you is to lay up treasures in heaven where moth and rust will not destroy.