Nine years. That is how long my recent bout with debt lasted. It started after I quit my first full-time job to start my own business. I spent money on all the things I thought I needed to be successful. After the business failed, I took a job that paid well but I lived beyond my means. Then I moved to Texas and started seminary. In February 2009, ten months from graduation, I lost my job. By that summer, I was out of money but finally committed to living without using debt again. As of the first of October of this year, I made my last payment and I am now debt free.

I’m a goal oriented person. When I run, I shoot for a particular distance or time. With projects at work I have steps to achieve my goal. Once I committed to becoming debt-free, I simplified my life. I cut out expenses wherever I could. I went through my closets and sold things I didn’t need or didn’t use anymore.

So I have reached a goal that felt unattainable for so long. I’m now looking for the next goal. This question of “what’s next?” weighs on me now. I spend about 50% of my monthly income on expenses and entertainment. I’m blessed to have a great living arrangement where I spend less than I would sharing an apartment with someone. I want to be wise and put this “surplus” to use and glorify God in the process.

My view of work is changing in light of my new circumstances. In Christian circles, we talk about being missionaries at work. That is a ministry. I know people who impact their coworkers in mighty ways and see some of them come to faith in Christ. My line of work allows me time to spend with my coworkers but the vast part of my time is spent in the solitary pursuit of programming.

I’m understanding my other ministry is stewardship. God appointed me as a steward of these resources. Human trafficking is something that has been weighing on me recently. There are charities that bring women and children out of slavery and get them shelter, counseling and education. I’m in a place where I can contribute and literally set people free from slavery.

I also keep coming back to the idea of going into business for myself again. I have learned about social businesses since my first try at being an entrepreneur. I think that is a great way to merge working for a wage with impacting society for good. However, I don’t have to wait to start a business. I can adopt this philosophy to my current job.

Whether I stay where I’m at or I start my own business, my focus should be not on making money for me. It should be on making money so I can feed the hungry, free the slaves and care for the sick. This is not just taking a few bucks at the end of the month and giving it to charity. This is seeing the long hours of programming as providing food for Rwandan orphans. As I sit in long meetings I am working to buy medicine for the sick.

My purpose right now is to work hard and take this surplus and use it to glorify God. I don’t want to take this lightly again. And this new outlook gives me a little more motivation when I go to work each morning.

What do you think? Is this a good idea or just pie-in-the-sky?