After paying off more than $127,000 through a combination of faith and sound financial decisions, Cherie Lowe became known among her community as the “Queen of Free.” Now she’s released a new book, Slaying the Debt Dragon, to teach others her secrets. Here, we discuss her ideas and why she believes debt is not just bad for your checking account but also destructive for your soul.

RNS: You racked up $127,482.30 of debt without buying a yacht or splurging or purchasing a beach house. How the heck does this happen?

CL: The short answer is that it happens by not paying attention. I so wish we actually had something to show for so much debt; however, there remains no physical evidence of its existence. The bulk was student loan debt, followed by credit card debt, a car, a gap loan from when we were unemployed, and then an assortment medical debt and furniture bought on a payment plan.

RNS: You say you paid your debt off “through hard work and with God’s help.” Some would say you just worked your butt off. What does God have to do with it?

CL: When we first began the process of paying off debt, I used to dream that we would receive an anonymous check in the mail for the exact amount that we owed. I would concoct stories in my head that we could tell others of God’s perfect provision, giving Him all of the glory. That check never arrived but God still showed up and provided repeatedly. He provided extra jobs and blessed us with community who cheered us along. He pointed the way toward skills to help us manage money and maintained our health and well-being. He sustained our souls when we wanted to give up and reminded us of all we already had when we were jealous. I won’t deny that we worked our butts off but that wouldn’t have been possible without God.

RNS: Talk about the connection between debt and faith. How does the way we spend our money affect our spiritual lives?

CL: Debt is spiritual. The concept is woven through God’s gracious story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet in a way, there is a strong pull to divorce the spiritual nature from our day-to-day lives. Even though I had gone to Christian college, spent all of my life in church, and even worked on a couple of church staffs, until we began paying off debt, I hadn’t paused to really contemplate how my everyday purchases and financial decisions were a reflection of the state of my soul. When I grasped for something that I couldn’t afford, I was saying, “God what you’ve given me isn’t enough. I need more.”

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Written by Jonathan