Debt. It’s a four-letter word. It came home to me a few weeks ago when I tried to have some obscenely high fees removed from a credit card account. It’s been a long time since I read the small-print notices the companies send out telling me what they’ll do if the account isn’t paid on time (read: 10 days before the due date — it takes them that long to “process” a payment. It does not, however, take them 10 days to process the addition of interest.) As someone said on a recent documentary, credit companies LIKE it when your due date is missed… that’s what they’re hoping for, and they will do whatever they can to help make it happen.
From the national debt which is robbing our children of their future, to the Enron scandal which robbed their employees of their future, to the people out west who are losing their homes in record numbers, to friends who have faced (and some been forced into) bankruptcy, it’s all about ravenous, uncontrolled, unchecked GREED, combined with corporate practices that result in the inhumane treatment of the individuals who pay their employees’ salaries.
I only have two questions: Where is God in all this? And where is the Church in all this?
To the second question first: I do hear solid strategies from Christian teachers about getting out of debt and staying out of debt, and this is good advice. But for those who through no fault of their own find themselves needing to go into debt to survive, where are the Christian voices reminding corporate executives and stockholders not to make profits on the misfortunes of others? When was the last time anyone heard a sermon preached against greed?
To the first question: God has a great deal to say about this. Here’s what He told Moses, and these words were made law in ancient Israel. I’d like to see something like this in today’s world too — what better way to put a check on greed?
“At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your brother owes you. However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today…
“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” – Deut. 15:1-11 (edited)