Tom Pittman's WebLog

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2004 December 25 -- Debt Free

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another -- Rom.13:8
Two events this week reminded me of the issue of debt.

My first full-time job was at a government research lab, and the Government Employees Insurance COmpany offered rates somewhat below their competitors. I stayed with them long after they broadened their market to all comers. But a couple years ago it became public knowledge that their principle stockholder promoted politics and a corporate morality which I prefer not to support voluntarily with my purchase money, so I found another carrier. Unfortunately, it turns out they are not licensed to do business in the state where my car is registered. Finding yet another carrier became more difficult than I was prepared to spend the effort on, so I went back to Geico -- mostly as a stop-gap while I keep looking. As part of the sign-up process, Geico did a credit check. Why this is necessary, I cannot imagine: there is no credit involved, they get the premium in full up front, and in 35 years they never paid out a single claim on me. As a consequence of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, they notified me of an adverse report, because "we may have been able to offer you a lower rate had the report been more favorable."

I fired off a letter to the credit agency to find out why. The report came back this week, with page after page of "Balance $0...paid or paying as agreed...never late." All except one mortgage company, 5 years ago, with three late payments. When I bought that house 16 years ago, I went to the local bank and explicitly asked for a mortgage that would not be sold out of state. Against my better judgment they gave me a variable rate, because the credit buyers "don't like them." They also set it up to deduct the payments directly from my checking account. Little did I know that the bank management would be involved in the subsequent national savings & loan scandal, and they had to sell off their assets, my bank accounts to some other bank and my mortgage out of state. That was the end of the automatic deductions and the beginning of my troubles. The mortgage holder sent monthly bills, which I paid on time, but eventually they sold the mortgage to a third slimy company in yet another distant state. This went on three or four times. Sometimes I sent the payments to the old address because I really had no proof that my debt had been transferred. One of these transient out-of-state asset buyers stopped sending the monthly statements, which made it hard for me to remember to make the payments. I really did miss a payment a couple of times. More often, I started making three payments at once, when I paid the home-owners dues as a reminder. The office screwed up the accounts, charged interest not due, and generally made a mess of things. NEVER do business with Regions Mortgage in Montgomery Alabama if you have the choice. I called the Alabama attorney general office for help (they were already in deep trouble with the state). I almost had to go to Montgomery in person to straighten things out. That's why I asked not to have the loan sold out of state in the first place. Fortunately they sold to another asset investor, and my mortgage problems went mostly away. Until now. sigh What can I say? I did owe them money, and I was late those two times. The borrower is servant to the lender. So now I have a financial (not merely moral) reason for finding an alternative to Geico. And no mortgage.

Also this week a friend sent me a book Total Forgiveness by R.T.Kendall. Forgiveness is a difficult subject for us to grasp, because we have in one word two different concepts. Both are good things to do, both are taught in the Bible (using separate words for the two ideas), but the conditions for doing them are quite different. Today I might have something to forgive, which I am eager to do as God commands me, and I also need to renounce all bitterness that might rise up within me.

The bitterness I can do something about: My God is bigger than theirs, and my God tells me ALL things work together for good to the Called. My God is in total control of events; theirs is not, so they may feel the need from time to time to do unethical things to make things work out. I don't have that problem, and however unpleasant the situation may have seemed at the time, it was GOOD (for me). It got me out of a temporary situation and back into the work God has called me to, with my skills updated and ready to do it. I'm having a ball. I'm even ahead of the optimistic schedule I set for this year.

But -- and here is where the two ideas come together -- if they owed me a debt (and from their website Mission Statement, you'd think at least they owed me the respect of "a Christ-centered, caring academic community" but that is untrue), I sold the mortgage to God. God paid me off. They may still owe God something, but that's between them and God, not involving me. Christmas is about God's Gift, and God's gift to me is greater than any puny debt owed by people who perhaps don't appreciate Who God is. No debts, no regrets, no bitterness.

Living debt-free is really wonderful, you should try it sometime. But I really must remember not to hang on so tightly to what God gives me today, so He doesn't have to break my knuckles prying my hand off so I can receive tomorrow's gift tomorrow.