Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
Hamlet - Act 1, Scene 3
I was musing on the old days when I used to have a bloated credit card or two as I remembered the above quote from Shakespeare. I was very good at ‘dulling the edge of husbandry’ back then, and can still be counted on to behave as such when I’m not mindful about avoiding those situations. Buy now; pay later – the sad mantra of our post-modern American society. Maybe you know what I’m talking about, but if you don’t, then in the words of Lynyrd Skynyrd, “You’ll get your chance to hit it one day.”
As subtle as the serpent in the Garden of Eden, a line of credit can slowly and methodically tie you up, and in the end can cause you to lose a lot of the things in life that are most important to you. The bad thing is you usually do not realize what you are doing to yourself until you have done it. I remember slumbering through a six-month period and maxing out a credit card with no idea where I had spent the ‘money’ as I had nothing to show for the tremendous balance incurred. If I remember correctly, it was mostly small items, you know, dinners and small purchases in the mall, with no real clue as to what was happening with the account balance until I received a very snooty letter from the credit card company notifying me that I was beyond my limit. Beyond my limit – now there is a phrase worth remembering. There are few phrases in the financial realm that are more ominous, I tell ya.
On reviewing that mind-numbing invoice, I scanned my billing summary and found I had made a purchase on E-bay for a chintzy item I no longer had any use for. But it was cheap, and in the grand scale of purchase versus available credit line it had seemed insignificant at the time. Yet it added to the tally, along with a six hundred dollar vacation expense at what can only rightfully be called a tourist trap. Sandwiched in between those charges were receipts for school clothes, dinner-dates with my wife, and yes, even Pizza Hut. Though some expenses were small and others not so, the sum of each incorporated a beyond my limit call and an ensuing penalty had been applied to my account by my well-paid benefactors at the credit card conglomerate.
I managed to eventually pay the card off and there are few greater joys than getting a statement in the mail that provides you with a zero-balance and the special ceremony I started that involves destroying the card. I have a shredder here at work that really chokes them down; replete with a satisfying gr-r-r-r noise as it does so. That’s good stuff. And barring a government financial bailout for me that will never come, it’s simply the way I roll.
Meanwhile I have another debt account that is constantly mounting and whether I think about or acknowledge it every day or not makes no difference to its tally. I’m talking about a sin debt that is being recorded in the Books of Heaven right now. The size of the sins I commit makes no difference, the debt accumulates regardless, and I have no way to pay it on my own. A dirty joke either told or listened to by me? A selfish thought or desire? A failure to do the things that He would have me do? They mount. And furthermore, they must be paid for.
I used to think that maybe I could work those debts off in some way or manner, you know, an x amount of good deeds might offset a single bad deed or vice-versa. But the problem for me was being able to comprehend the cost of a single sin in the first place. What penalty do you pay for a white lie in comparison to when you tell a real gully-whopper? What if some sort of emotional duress played into telling either lie, does that change the penalty? The answer is, of course, that it does not. Sin will cost me eternity. Sin costs everything.
At other times in my life I believed that my sins were comparable. If I committed a sin it was no big deal because basically I was a good guy and others have committed sins far worse than mine. Compared to Hitler we all look good, right? But my record in the Books of Heaven is not going to be compared with someone else’s record - instead I will be compared to His record while He was on earth. And in a seriously profound way, I will always pale in comparison.
G_d’s Word tells me there is only one way to clear my sin debt and wipe those books clean: “But G_d commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” There came a point in my life when I finally realized an acceptance on my part of the grace he provided through His death, burial, and resurrection is the only way I can ever be right with G_d. It’s simple, and it turns out that it is all I need, even on those days when I find myself beyond my limit.