On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 87: Debt II: Personal Debt

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” (Romans 13:8 RSV)

Personal debt seems to be a greater problem for the present generation than for the previous one. The whole credit card industry has exploded on us and now even children are provided credit cards for much more than just “emergency” expenses at college or when away from home.

St. Paul tells us, “Owe no one anything.” Nowadays, someone who doesn’t owe anything to anyone is a rare bird indeed. We are all in debt: mortgage, auto loan, credit card balance, even a few dollars borrowed from a friend.

Some point to how children are raised as the source of the problem of personal debt. Parenting may be one cause for the problem as, often, the lifestyle of the parents is followed by their children, and on into the generations to follow. Consider this example from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Mr. and Mrs. Salt have a daughter who is an obnoxious little girl. She has been spoiled rotten by her rich parents. She gains entry to Willy Wonka's fabulous factory by winning one of the coveted golden tickets - but only thanks to her doting father, who has bought half a million Wonka chocolate bars inside of which one could find that golden ticket.

Some parenting experts call this indulgent parenting. Indulgent parents are responsive to their children but undemanding and permissive. They are warm and loving but lax, setting few clear boundaries. They often respond to their children's wishes, even when these are unreasonable or inappropriate.

Authoritative parents, on the other hand, love their children unconditionally and accept them for who they are. They keep a close eye on their children, provide them with plenty of support, set firm boundaries, and grant considerable freedom within those boundaries. And this includes understanding financial responsibilities. Children are taught that what they want they must earn, and that self-denial is a true Christian virtue. Most importantly, authoritative parents teach their children to love God and His Holy Church as a primary virtue and responsibility. Further, they teach the children, by clear example, that others, especially those in need of the basic things of life, are more important than they are.

The first lesson is self-denial: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34 RSV).  (to be continued)

This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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