THE BIBLE AGAINST DEBT
"God gives you
power to get
wealth." (Deuteronomy 8:18)
(Investigator 133, 2010
The Bible condemns debt because the Bible promotes "liberty" (James
1:25) whereas debt enslaves: "The
over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." (Proverbs
families, damages health, and tempts people into crime,
gambling and alcohol.
The Bible is rich in financial guidance with principles to minimize
WICKED BORROW, AND DO NOT PAY BACK" (Psalm 37:21)
Bagnall (2000) reported: "In the past financial year, 23,298
Australians filed for bankruptcy, compared with 8,493 a decade earlier…
Excessive use of credit card is second only to unemployment as the most
frequently cited cause of personal bankruptcy…"
South Australia's Sunday Mail reported: "Australia is sitting
on a personal debt time bomb, with a likely explosion in bankruptcies.
Credit card debt has sky-rocketed more than 1300 per cent in the past
20 years and now stands at $34 billion." (March 12, 2006, p. 76)
Australia's total personal debt (mortgages, credit cards, and personal
loans) increased from $39billion in 1989 to $1000 billion in 2006.
Kearney (2005) reported: "More than a million Australians have been
referred to a debt collection agency in the past three years…"
In Australia the "wicked" who "do not pay back" include parents not
making their child-support payments. In 2006 225,000 non-paying parents
owed $900 million. (Haberfield & Wright 2006)
Borrowing to buy a major asset would not make the borrower "wicked" if
he meets agreed-on repayments. But he is still financially restricted,
a "slave of the lender". Quick repayment will increase his freedom.
It's also not the debtor's fault if a contract uses 1000 words of legal
jargon to state "After one year your monthly repayments will increase
by $4000" and this isn't explained. The salesman knew default is
inevitable but deceived the purchaser — the Bible condemns lying.
The Texas-based John Avanzini ministry claimed: "PEOPLE CAN BE
financially free if they have faith God will wipe their debts. FOR A
SUM EQUIVALENT to one-hundredth of any debts, Mr Avanzini will pray to
God for the bills to be paid." The ministry offered to burn people's
bills. Someone with a $100,000 mortgage would pay 1/100 i.e. $1,000!
The SA Consumer Affairs Commissioner advised: "A bill-burning ceremony
will not make bills and mortgages go away." (Sunday Mail, November 29,
Avanzini (b.1936) authored The Wealth of the World
Property (1989) and War on Debt (1990). He claims
Christians have authority to take wealth from unbelievers but must obey
God by donating "tithes and offerings".
However, the Old Testament tithe [10% of income] was paid by Israelites
to support the Levites — priests who forfeited land-ownership and
ordinary means of income.
Tithing, therefore, may not apply in the
Christian setting. The New Testament teaches "generosity" without
Principle 1—Plan ahead; stay informed
of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first
sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete
it? (Luke 14:28)
2—Possessions in moderation
enterprise is built
by wise planning, becomes strong through common
sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.
Ilyce Glink, author of 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Your
Personal Finances, says that buying stuff is the source of most
personal finance trouble. People upgrade their possessions — a bigger
TV, a second car — without considering "Is it necessary? Can I afford
Wealth sometimes disappears suddenly: "Do not wear yourself out to get
rich; be wise enough to desist. When your eyes light upon it, it is
gone; for suddenly it takes wings to itself..." (Proverbs 23:4-5)
Therefore buy what's necessary and luxuries only if you have money to
spare. Be "temperate…sensible". (I Timothy 3:2, 11) Extra possessions
may initially boost your ego; then crush it when your financial crunch
saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.
the protection of
wisdom is like the protection of money… (Ecclesiastes 6:11-12)
meets every need.
Principle 4—Control your desires, be content
the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from
the Father but from the world. (I John 2:15-16; James 1:14)
TV and glossy
catalogues saturate our lives with images of wealth and
stimulate the "Desire to Acquire". Don't dream about luxuries, instead
how to get along happily whether I have much or little… I have learned
the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full
stomach or hunger, plenty or want. (Philippians 4:11)
Australia 30% of Housing Trust tenants — 13,000 out of 45,000
— owed an average of $780. (Kemp 2005) If you're in debt but have spare
cash, reduce the debt instead of buying more goods:
repayment of your debts. Don't say ‘some other time,' if you can pay
now. (Proverbs 3:27-28)
6—Control bad habits
no one anything…
to all what is due
them. (Romans 13:7)
gambling, drugs and other costly bad habits:
winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and
the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe them with
rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21)
The basic way to
avoid debt is work:
hands that you may be dependent on no one. (I Thessalonians 4:11)
8—Don't turn to crime to solve debt
little sleep, a
slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come
upon you. (Proverbs 6:9-11)
sloth the roof
sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. (Ecclesiastes 10:18)
brings poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)
Don't be a robber
(I Corinthians 5:11), "greedy for money" (I Timothy
3:8), or "a thief." (I Peter 4:15)
If debt problems
result from ignoring the Bible, counsel can come from
Christians. If the problem concerns investment, inflation, value for
money, or taxation seek advice from qualified people.
counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs
counsellors there is victory. (Proverbs 24:6)
strategies only help if you apply them: "But be doers of the
word, not merely hearers…" (James 1:22)
above principles you will be financially secure and have spare money
give you increase, both you and your children. (Psalm 115:14)
finances and generosity will add to your good reputation: "A
good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better
than silver or gold." (Proverbs 22:1) First-century Christians raised
money for evangelism, famine-relief, and the destitute. (2 Corinthians
9; James 2:15-16; Proverbs 19:17)
who gives to the
will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
God will supply
need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
accumulate ever more money and stuff: "Keep your lives
free from the love of money, and be content with what you have…"
(Hebrews 13:5) Jesus told of a prosperous man who planned to pull down
his barns and build bigger barns — but who died that night! (Luke
Job was rich.
(Job 42:10-12) Being rich is not wrong. Trusting in money
to the exclusion of God and being tight-fisted, however, is:
who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to
set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God… They
are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share…
(II Timothy 6:17-18)
are those who
the LORD… Wealth and riches are in their house… They have distributed
freely, they have given to the poor… (Psalm 112)
ideal is to lend, not borrow: "When the LORD your God has
blessed you, as he promised you, you will lend to many nations, but you
will not borrow…" (Deuteronomy 15:6)
recently had substantial debt cancelled — borrowed
money had been misused and they couldn't repay. Rather than these
nations instituting better economic management there's "another round
of debt accumulation" with China now a leading creditor nation.
In 1982 Mother
Teresa's work was called "radically flawed" because:
"…the amelioration of human misery unaccompanied by revolutionary
practice merely makes an unjust situation more tolerable and delays the
day of revolutionary reckoning." (Gregg 1998) The Christian's
obligation, however, is to "love your neighbour" in the economic
situation he's in. If helping the poor "delays the day of reckoning"
that's the responsibility of those who create economic systems that
lead to "reckoning".
In 2008 American
banks and insurance companies began to crash and
worldwide economic collapse threatened. The catalyst was America's
"sub-prime tsunami" — home loans to millions of borrowers with poor
credit histories. Lenders bundled these loans into "collaterised debt
obligations" and sold them to international financial markets.
House-owners began to default, house values plummeted leaving banks
unable to recover debts and therefore unable to make further loans.
Lack of credit slowed America's economy.
The US Government
saved the situation with a $US700 billion plan to buy
toxic debt from distressed companies (which, however, increased
DEBT — AMERICA
Until the 1980s
the USA was the world's greatest creditor nation. But
President Bush sought popularity through tax cuts despite the expensive
"war on terrorism" and expansion of Medicare. Greater government
spending without higher taxes meant debt: "The growing external
deficits of the world's sole superpower have put the global economy on
a path that is…unsustainable… This year…the U.S. deficit…will absorb
close to a sixth of the world's gross savings." (Wolf 2004)
The US Federal
deficit for 2009 alone was $1.8trillion, 12% of GDP. In
absolute terms the US is now the greatest debtor nation. The Government
finances its debt by issuing bonds on which it pays interest. At some
stage increasing interest payments may leave the Government unable to
finance social security!
"catastrophe" because of its cumulative annual
deficit: "Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent lay-off notices to 20,000
public employees yesterday as the state teetered on the brink of
financial collapse… All public works are being cancelled…" (The
Australian, February 19, 2009, p. 8)
DEBT — BRITAIN
bail-outs of major banks doubled its government debt,
increasing it by ₤1.5 trillion. (The Weekend Australian, February
reports: "Government spending increased 54 per cent in
the Blair-Brown years. Spending on social security payments…and
government education and health budgets spiralled…financed by
borrowing. Interest charges alone already cost more than the entire
defence budget…each British household is burdened with an average of
£90,000 of government debt…"
DEBT — AUSTRALIA
Australia's Labor Government left a debt of $96billion. The
Liberal Government eliminated Commonwealth debt in 2006. This made
demographic sense since the "Intergenerational Report" projected the
number of working-age people would increase 17% by 2042 but retirees
250%. More dependents would, if debt kept growing, bankrupt Australia.
Labor returned in
2007 to a budget-surplus, but in 2008 gave away $10
billion to counteract recession. A $42 billion stimulus package
followed. The money is being borrowed by selling Treasury bonds backed
by new legislation extending Australia's credit limit to $200 billion.
OF GOVERNMENT DEBT
political parties make election promises often paid for
by borrowing and not by higher taxation (since that might lose the next
In Greece public
debt recently reached $480billion, due to annual
deficits of 13% of GDP, threatening "national bankruptcy". Walker
(2010) says the crisis is "rooted in graft":
per cent of Greek households paid a bribe, €1355 on average…
ordinary citizens hand out cash-filled envelopes to get driver's
licences, doctor's appointments and building permits, or to reduce
their tax bills… A quarter of all taxes owed in Greece are not paid… In
the months before the last election, the government added 27,000 people
to the public payroll…these traditions of corruption and cronyism have
produced…a crisis of confidence that is shaking all of Europe.
bankruptcy by introducing €30billion worth of austerity
measures in return for €110billion further loans from the IMF and
In China, Party
officials get easy access to bank loans even for
the Chinese financial system have reached a staggering $US911
billion…40 percent of gross domestic product...
party can no
longer secure the loyalty of its 70 million members through ideological
indoctrination; instead, it uses material perks and careers in
government and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) …in 2003, 5.3 million
party officials held executive positions in SOEs. (Pei 2006)
High public debt
hurts economies through currency depreciation,
inflation, and fear of default. This pushes up interest rates which
drags economic growth down.
In March 2010 the
US Government announced it would print $1.2 trillion.
But more money printed means inflation. Inflation in turn is thievery
because savings lose value — and thievery is condemned in the Bible.
The Roman Empire
collapsed in part because of debt. American power
seems similarly threatened — with debt reducing America's ability to
tackle political/economic crises and climate change. In Europe
sovereign debt is threatening European unity. The ecological damage
from climate change, ozone depletion, deforestation and overfishing
from 1967 to 2007 was estimated at $47 trillion! (New Scientist 26 Jan
2008, p. 7) What if on top of crippling debt, climate change really
prophesies future panic when all nations face destruction.
(Revelation 6:12-17) Money will then be worthless: "They shall fling
their silver into the streets..." (Ezekiel 7:19)
disgrace are for the one who ignores instruction." (Proverbs 13:18;
presented hundreds of points in which the Bible was correct and critics
wrong. These include big issues such as asteroid impacts and health
consequences of sexual immorality, and lesser issues such as the
historicity of Bible names.
Debt is another
big issue in which people
and nations ignore the Bible to their own detriment.
Bagnall, D. The
Bulletin, November 28, 2000, pp 28-32.
Beattle, A. The
Weekend Australian, December 9-10, 2006.
Greg. S. Herald Sun,
December 9, 1998.
Haberfield, I. &
Wright, L. Sunday Mail, August 6, 2006.
Kearney, S. Sunday
Mail, February 20, 2005, p.15.
Kemp, M. The
Advertiser, February 2, 2005.
Murdoch, S. The
Advertiser, September 30, 2006.
Pei, M. The
Australian, May 9, 2006.
Saunders, P. The
Australian, May 10, 2010.
Walker, M. The
Weekend Australian, April 17-18, 2010.
Wolf, M. The
Australian, December 9, 2004.
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