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…