Do you want to be radical in your devotion to Christ? Do you want your life to count and not be a waste? Do you want to see the nations come to Christ and the world changed for the better?

Well, here’s one practical thing you can do right now on your way to those lofty ambitions: pay down your debt.

There are 610,000,000 credit cards in the United States, and every household with at least one carries an average debt of $16,000. Total U.S. consumer debt is more than $2.5 trillion. Think of all the money Christians have tied up in late fees and financial commitments that can’t be spent on the work of the gospel in the world.

How will you ever give sacrificially to your church if you are swamped in credit card debt? How can you even consider doing missions overseas if you’re swallowed up in student loans? What sort of flexibility will you have to go anywhere and do anything if your house is worth half of what you owe on your mortgage? What will you have to give to support a new church plant in your city or the crisis pregnancy center down the street or the seminary overseas if you have two car payments, two mortgages, and twenty thousand dollars in consumer debt?

I love the emphasis in our day on doing hard things. I love the passion for a big God and big causes. I love the gospel-centered enthusiasm and idealism. But more often than not new dreams don’t come true without old-fashioned virtues like temperance, frugality, and hard work. Heartfelt passion won’t change the world. But passion plus prudence plus perseverance just might.

So if you are serious about carrying your cross and giving your all to Jesus, you should take more seriously paying down all that you owe. I don’t think all debt is wrong. We have a mortgage. We’ve had student loans and car payments too. But for the sake of the gospel we have to keep whacking away at all we owe. If you want to be a radical Christian, try making a budget and living within your means. Think of all the missions money tied up in credit card debt? Think of the workers not being trained, not being hired, and not being sent out because we’ve squandered our American inheritance on easy credit. Think of the risks we haven’t taken because we took all our risks out with interest years ago. He is no fool who works hard to repay what he’s already lost so that he might serve the One he cannot out-give.

Make sure you are giving at least ten percent to your church. Don’t scrimp on that. But after that, introduce austerity until your obligations are under control. The Father and the Son may not expect you to pay them back, but Master Card and Visa do.