Moments Of Fame

Would you sacrifice your reputation to be in the news?

I was wondering that when I saw an article on how Chase, an American bank, is winding up Canadian operations. They have forgiven all outstanding credit card debt. (Sorry to my American friends, this offer is good only in Canada.)

From a business perspective, this makes sense. The cards were canceled more than a year ago. People have been making payments on purchases they made a long tine ago – at 19.9% interest. Quite profitable for the bank, even without new purchases being made.

This is a major corporation writing off what could be a considerable amount of debt. When you think about it, it is embarrassing for them to have to admit failure in the Canadian market. Other people make a profit in Canada, apparently Chase can’t.

What surprises me (and at the same time doesn’t surprise me) is the credit card holders willing to give media interviews for this story. They were naturally elated to have their debt forgiven. For all of them it had been dragging on for years.

So now they have their 15 minutes of fame. They have been on the national news. They will be remembered forever.

There is a cost though. They won’t be remembered for finding a cure for cancer or winning the local marathon. They will be remembered for not being able to manage their money well. Would you want that?

Employers routinely check for mentions of prospective employees online. They are looking for behaviour that could be of concern to the company, behaviour that is risky or embarrassing. Things that speak to the nature of the potential employee. I would think credit card debt might be seen as a warning signal.

Maybe that is unfair of me. I don’t know any of the circumstances of the people involved. There may have been good reasons behind these debts. Perhaps it isn’t just poor money management. The reporter wasn’t focused on them, the bank is the story.

However, if I were a hiring manager, I would be just as concerned, maybe more so, that these people were quite happy to speak with a national news outlet about their credit card debt. I appreciate they are happy to have been given a second chance here, to have their debt eliminated, but why broadcast that to the world?

Then again, maybe there is a parallel here with another debt, a spiritual one. Looking at it that way, I can understand and sympathize with those who no longer have to make those credit card payments, who want to tell the world their debt has been forgiven.

You may or may not have huge credit card payments hanging over your head, but all of us, by virtue of being human, have a debt we cannot pay. We were created to have relationship with God and the relationship got broken. It’s a long story – you can read about it in The Bible.

With that broken relationship comes a huge pile of debt, more than we can ever pay on our own. It mounts up, and the interest payments are crippling. But if we don’t do something about it, the debt crushes us, and we lose all hope of fixing that relationship with God. It goes downhill from there. When the bill finally comes due it is our lives that are expected as payment.

When Jesus Christ allowed himself to be crucified, he, to borrow from our news story, took on that credit card debt we all owed. He made the payment; our accounts were wiped clean. No more debt. Freedom once more. No wonder Christians call that the “good news” and want to tell others about it. Their debts have been forgiven, even though they didn’t deserve that forgiveness. They want to share their joy.

Those forgiven by Chase Bank feel similarly. Their debts are forgiven, they have a new start on life. You could say they have been financially reborn. Hopefully they have learned their lesson and won’t get into the same financial trouble.

How about you? What debts are hanging over your head? Have you thought about bringing them to Jesus and getting them wiped out?

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