Help me get this number out of my head

Over the last few days, I’ve been obsessed with a number. It keeps popping in my head, disturbing my sleep and interrupting my thought patterns. Don’t worry, it’s not mental illness, it’s just a side effect of being a CPA. When I had my practice, this was a frequent occurrence; my dreams were filled with sheep whose wool was made up of curly little 9’s and 8’s and 3s. If you were to ask me, at any given waking moment, what client X deducted in 2003, I could tell you in a flash.

When I decided to sell the practice and devote myself to ministry full time, I thought the numbers would go away. I thought that my time would be spent studying scripture in a stuffy office, or giving out sage advice whilst puffing on my pipe. I was wrong. Those pesky numbers are still there and, unlike deductions and incomes, these numbers are spiritually disturbing. Let me share the ones in my head and see if you can help me exorcise them.

Bear with me: there are 311,591,917 people in the United States. Of those 311,591,917, 43% profess to be Christians. That gives us 124,636,767 people who, in theory, live in the glow of God’s grace. Now, the total revolving debt (98% of which is credit card debt) stood at $801 billion as of December 2011. The average interest rate is 14.03%, so if we take the total interest paid per year and divide it by the U.S. population, it means, on average, every American has $361 in credit card interest. (source)

This means that the U.S. has $112,484,682,037 in credit card interest debt. Unfortunately, statistics (and firsthand evidence) show that Christians are no better in the debt category than non-Christians, so let’s see how much we are paying in credit card interest – $112,484,682,037 times 43% equals a whopping $48,368,413,275. 


There it is. The number that’s been keeping me up at night. Romans 13:8 says, “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another”, so there’s no way way we could be giving $48 billion in interest to credit card companies, right? I mean, they don’t even send us a thank you card. 

The number becomes even more disturbing when we consider that, according to the U.N. Human Development Report, the amount needed to provide basic health and nutrition to the ENTIRE world is $13 billion. Basic education for the everyone on the planet? $9 billion. (source) Percent of the world that doesn’t know Christ? 70%.

Can you imagine what the world would think of us as American Christians if we poured another $48 billion into evangelism or helping the homeless or ending hunger instead of paying the credit card companies for that blouse or power tool we had to have?

Dream with me for a moment. What is your passion? If you had the resources, what cause would you love to help? Think about having $48 billion to spend on ending child slavery or whatever touches you. How satisfying would it be? 

I would love to hear your answer. Leave a comment below with what you’d do. It’ll help me sleep…



9 thoughts on “Help me get this number out of my head

  1. Wow. This is eye opening. I work at a homeless shelter (Camillus House) and I’m thinking what we could do with just 1% of the 48 billion. Next time I go to pay the minimum payment, I’m going to thinkn about this.

  2. I work with a lot of very poor Roma (Gypsies) in Europe that could use help. Although giving it directly might not be the greatest way to use the money, using even a small percentage of 48 billion dollars as seed money for educational initiatives and job skills training would have great results and be a tremendous witness for Christ! This has convicted me and I will have to make some changes…

  3. WOW!! 1. I would gather with brothers and sisters in Christ and Pray for the Spirits leading, fasting as led. 2. I would give back to the Lord what is His by giving to missionary training and support. 3. Once revival has sprung and we All realize we are each missionaries called to proclaim His Majesty and Glory, we can live out our lives touching the spiritual, physical and mental needs of those puts in our path. The money will come in handy to meet these fundamental needs. p.s Al and I choose to live debt free and God has blessed that. We believe all comes from Him, we get the privilege of “recyling” it! Joy! Jo

  4. What a waste. I’m ashamed that I’ve contributed to lining the pockets of credit card companies when God has called me to do greater things. Of course, I’ve known this, but seeing the figures really hit home. I would use the money to stop child sex trafficing around the world.

  5. Kevin, I love this post! I would support ministries like House of Hope, Teen Challenge, and Sheridan House. Places where families can get real help during stressful situations with thier kids and have no where to turn. Anything to help care for the youth and change the next generation. In fact, what a reminder to start with the little I have now. Keep up the good work!

  6. I get and agree with the main idea, here but many of the numbers listed are so pie in the sky as to be meaningless. 13 billion to provide health and basic nutrition for the entire world? Not really. Even if we had 200 billion it would not change the fact that much of the reason aid does not get to those who need it are the governments and situations they live under. Second, money is not the answer. Giving is great, but what if instead of those 43% (which is a WAY over estimation as to how many actual, genuine, seeking after Christ Christans there are in America) giving more money (or JUST giving money) they banded to together to get out there and physically and in person tried to reach those in need? Still pie in the sky, but more to the point of what Christ has asked us to do.

    • Mark,

      Thanks for your reply. Your points are well taken and I appreciate your thoughts.

      It is true that the U.N. figure of $13 billion assumes a perfect situation where political and social corruption are not an impediment to change (this is pointed out in the Report on Human Development). Perhaps I should have delved into that, but I felt that most people would understand the distinction and see the spirit of the article (that, as a group we aren’t being faithful stewards when we are sending this money to credit card companies).

      The 43% figure is certainly not correct, but it is the “accepted” figure for “Christians” in the U.S. and is based on respondent’s answers to whether or not they were “born again”. This is why I used the word “profess” and not “are”. In reality, coming up with a tangible number would be impossible.

      Money isn’t the only answer, but giving money certainly doesn’t preclude us as Christians from physically getting involved and I would disagree with discouraging Christians to help financially. Giving, as we see time and again in the Bible, is not just for the recipient. It serves to change the heart of the giver just as much as the receiver, so, in this capacity, it is one of the most important aspects of our spiritual life.

      Thanks again for the comment and I hope you stayed tuned. Coram Deo

      • I hear you and that’s why I said I get your main point and agree with it. Where our heart is there is our treasure right? Most of our treasure (me included!) is spent on ourselves and our pleasures.

        I have just become very wary of numbers/stats because they are so easily misunderstood and misapplied. Like the number running around Evangelicism lately to guilt us into giving is that so many people live on less than $2.00 a day as if the standard of living in each country/region is the same.

        I don’t mind bring numbers to bear as long as they are deeply researched and explained.

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